Moving from the center toward the margins

When you (aka along with your social/ethnic/religious/political group) perceive that you are moving (being moved/”forced”) from the center of influence and power, it may feel like marginalization or discrimination simply because you/we/I experience a loss of privilege. When my privilege declines, whatever the reason, I am likely to experience grief and loss. This may translate into fear or anger.
Even when in the intellectual abstract I recognize that no one group should wield disproportionate influence, when my influence decreases I experience a disequilibrium. It may be this feeling is impossible to avoid, even if I chose and initiate the move away from the center.


As a Christian I need to be reminded that our faith is rooted in this move from the center toward the margins. This move is essential to God’s salvific work. The incarnation itself is God moving from power toward weakness (cf Col 1 & Phil 2). To begin his ministry Jesus moves from Jerusalem to Galilee. The penultimate act of God is submission to trial, conviction and crucifixion as a blasphemer and traitor (placed on the margin of society and culture).

Jesus is the embodiment of God moving from the center to the margin. Genesis 1-2, John 1 and Revelation 20-21 tell us that this is where God chooses and prefers to be – here with us.

What does this mean for the church today, in the West, in the US, here in Dallas? Will we follow God in this move toward the margin and release our hold on he centrality of our power and influence? What will such a move cost us? What will it gain us?

During this Lenten season, my desire is to move toward the margins together with the people of Central. One might argue that my arrival as the Senior Pastor of a church on the border of Highland Park is a move toward the center. This can’t be honestly argued against. And yet for me it is a dance – moving toward the center so that together we might move toward the margins. Clinging to past glory or privilege gains us nothing. Jesus never sought favor because of his royal or priestly lineage. Instead, what if we carry the benefit and privilege we have gained at the center, which may simply be our solid sense of self, and what is possible. What if we take this hope and expectation for the future and carry it with us to the margins, offering hope to others? 

Central Christian Church of Dallas, Texas is literally on the margins of multiple largely homogenous communities: #ParkCities, #NorthPark, #Oaklawn, #Uptown. We are in Dallas (and #DallasISD) but look across the street into #HighlandPark. What might it mean for Central to be literally that – to be the center toward which people from all of these communities move. In the process they would be moving from their own community toward the margins, and toward a meeting place with others.

My friend Matthew Russell and his colleagues at Project Curate are doing exactly this in the city of Houston. Matt is also on staff at St Paul’s UMC in Houston.

Missional church is another way to consider this move. Missional calls us to “go out – go deep – go together”. Missional is a move together into deep community for the sake of going out in to the world, toward the margins, where Christ may be found. When we look at the beatitudes of Luke 6 or Jesus call to serving him by serving others (Mt 25) we are being called to the margins.

How can you move toward the margins in your own life? How can you do it not as a visitor and vacationer, but as a pilgrim, a migrant, with all the inherent trust and vulnerability those suggest?

German Advent Welcome

This is the welcome that I wrote and delivered at St. Paul’s UCC. It was an interesting experience. I’d not attempted to speak German in public since High School, and it showed. My accent never was very good, but as several folks commented afterward, “You made the effort, and that matters.” I’ve always found this to be true – humbly and genuinely attempting to speak another person’s language so as to communicate and connect with them is greatly appreciated, even if the language is butchered in the process. It helps to keep a good sense of humor, because folks will undoubtedly laugh at the gaffs, even while smiling appreciatively. And the service itself was a delight. I find it interesting to worship in another language, listening for where I can understand what is being said by the context, and where I’m lost simply trusting the Pentecost Spirit to bridge the gap. Never fails. I also was glad to meet folks from The Goethe Center of Dallas, The German School of Dallas, and of course The Dallas Frohsinn Singing Society and The Alpenhorns who helped lead the service. Kudos to the choir and people of St. Paul’s for a wonderful event under the direction of Will Kanute, Choirmaster.

Welcome delivered at St. Paul’s German Advent Service Deutscher Weinachtsgottesdienst ~ Dez 7, 2014

Welcome to St. Paul’s Church. Willkommen bei der St. Paul’s Kirche !
Whether old friends or new, Ob alte Freunde oder Neue,
whether devout followers or curious seekers, you are welcome here. Ob fromme Folger oder neugierige Sucher, Alle sind hier willkommen.
The Christian Heritage of Germany has many gifts for the contemporary church and world.  Die christliche Erbschaft Deutschlands hat viel den zeitgenossenen Kirchen und der Welt zu Schenken.
This service is but one.  Dieser Gottesdienst ist nur ein Beispiel.
Some of our greatest theologians and composers hail from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.  Manche unserer grossartigsten Theologen und Komponisten stammen aus Deutschland, Oestereich und der Schweiz.
Tonight we gather to honor and celebrate that heritage as we prepare to welcome and celebrate once again God’s gift of the Christ child to the world. Heute Abend sind wir zusammen um diese Erbschaft zu ehren und feiern, waehrend wir uns vorbereiten Gottes Geschenk, “das Christuskind fuer die Welt”, wieder willkommen zu heissen.
May the spirit of Christ dwell in us and lead us into the world proclaiming Peace on Earth, Good News to all. Moege der Geist Christi in uns weilen, und uns in die Welt fuehren, um Friede auf Erden und gute Nachricht in Alle zu erklaeren.
Welcome. Herzlich Willkommen .

* Thanks to Baerbel W. for the translation.

Zeva Idioms

Ziiva DavidMy family loves to watch NCIS. All the characters in this ensemble cast are so carefully drawn. They are almost archtypes, and we can see bits of ourselves in each one. One of our favorite things about Ziva David, an emigre from Israel, is her struggle with American English idioms. Among other things, it is a helpful reminder that translation is about understanding another culture, not simply their vocabulary. Here are some examples.

Understanding your leadership culture through coaching

Bookstores have shelves filled with titles on leadership and organizational culture. Here is a sampling of popular titles on Amazon. We like to read these books, join discussion groups (which can be wonderfully helpful) and attend workshops and conferences (also great!). Unfortunately, many of us have done all these things, and then fallen short in implementing and executing the insights gained or renewed.

Coaching is a process of working one-on-one or with a group and a facilitator/coach to:

  • identify goals and tell a story of a preferred future
  • assess current strengths and growth opportunities
  • clarify the gaps between here/now and there/then
  • develop a plan to close that gap, to make the journey
  • MAKE THE JOURNEY!

That final step is the most difficult for many, though at any of these stages we can struggle. One major failure of leadership is to try and skip one of these stages all together.

Coaching also helps us understand our leadership culture in the organization – both our own style and that of the group. What is your leadership temperament? How does it fit with the followership styles of those in your organization? How does it fit in your context? Honest assessment of these issues is crucial to successful leadership of any organization.

You can begin by asking yourself some powerful and simple coaching questions:

  1. Where would you personally focus your energy and attention if you had every resource and no obstacle? – This is your dream.
  2. How do you convey this to those who follow you? – This is your message.
  3. How would your key followers answer question #1, about themselves and about you?
  4. How are you pursuing your dream and helping others do the same? – This is your mission.
  5. How many different directions are the people in your organization pulling?
  6. What is the greatest obstacle to pursuing your dream?
  7. What is the greatest strength, in you and in your team, for accomplishing your dream?

Once you begin to answer these questions, you will discover some things about the leadership culture in your organization. Is it active or passive, assertive or withdrawn? Is it unilateral or collaborative, solitary or cooperative? Who is really leading, and who is following?

Once you have some of these answers, you have some insight into what you can address to strengthen and fully integrate your leadership culture. Contact me if you want to explore this further.

Creating a coaching culture

Creating a Coaching Culture

What is a Coach: A vehicle you choose to help you get to your destination.

Coaching is about YOU. You are the expert on your own life and business, goals and dreams. You choose the destination.  The coach is an expert in helping you get where you want to go.

What is a Coaching Culture?

A coaching culture is one where everyone in the organization asks thoughtful questions.

We ask not only
“What should I do?”
and
“How should I do it?”
but first
“WHY AM I DOING THIS?”

A coaching culture helps us integrate our answers to these three questions so that our success in business is matched by satisfaction in other areas of life.

Learn to listen, ask reflective questions, and walk toward strong and creative answers. Develop these skills and build them into your team.

 Attend to receive a certificate for a free coaching session.
Use it yourself or share it with a coworker or client.

Sample Coaching Culture Conversation flyer