Posted on 7/19/2012 by Greg Ligon in the Learnings Blog
Continuing our series of "What's on Your Mind?", we visit with Jim Herrington. Jim is the Founding Director of Mission Houston and the Lead Coach with Faithwalking. In addition, he is an acclaimed author with an extensive pastoral history. Join me as I ask Jim, "What's on your mind?"
1. What big issues or concepts are you currently thinking about or working on?
Trisha Taylor and I are working on the idea of congregational revitalization that results in missional engagement. Can long existing congregations that are institutional and attractional and in decline be empowered with a missional vision that impacts the trajectory of the individuals, the congregation and the community?
As the co-author the two books I've done with Leadership Network and Jossey-Bass, I've seen for a long time the connection between personal and congregational transformation. That connection has grown more clear with time and experience. Trisha and I been experimenting in a variety of settings over the past decade (with pastors and congregations in Houston, with American Baptists USA, the Indianapolis Center for Congregations, and most recently with Western Theological Seminary) to see if we could design process that would sustain both personal and congregational transformation.
In every initiative, we kept looking for an effective process to guide pastors and congregational leaders through a sustainable personal transformation journey that paralleled and synchronized with an effective and sustainable process to help the congregation move from an attractional posture to a more missional and incarnational one.
In the most recent project at Western Seminary, we seem to have found a sweet spot. We did a pilot project with 15 congregations over 3 years. The initial project was so successful that we were asked to take these 15 congregations deeper while adding 15 new congregations to the process. So we did a second three year effort. We are about to complete the second three years and again have had stellar results. So much so that Western has gotten an $850,000 grant to introduce this process to all the Reformed Church (RCA) Synods in North America. As a part of this journey we have just begun the work on a new book that will lay out these processes (personal and congregational transformation) while telling the personal and congregational stories of those who are being so deeply changed in this journey.
2. What book are you reading right now and what are you learning from it?
I'm reading all of Brenee Brown's work on shame and compassion. I'm learning that the transformational journey is undermined in insidious ways unless leaders account for the shame that is inherently present and tackle it head on.
I'm reading the work of Marcus Borg, NT Wright, and Brian McLaren in an effort to continue re-capture who Jesus is. Frost and Hirsch got it right, in my view, in Re-Jesus, A Wild Messiah for the Missional Church when they said that we can't get mission right until we get Jesus right. In Western culture he's been dummied down to a nice moral guy who died to get me to heaven. We've lost who he was in his original context, and these writers are helping me recapture that.
And I'm reading Richard Rohr, Thomas Merton, and some folks like them to continue learning about spiritual formation. In the personal transformation journey, so much of what has been lost is in the Desert Fathers and Mothers and the ancient writers. I'm learning how to create sacred space that allows the Spirit to do the work of transformation.
3. Other than the Bible, what book has been the most foundational for your ministry?
Dallas Willard's, The Divine Conspiracy and Edwin Friedman's The Failure of Nerve.
4. Where do you go to explore new ideas? What kind of environments inspire you?
I'm a hands on learner. Conferences and speeches don't do it for me. I explore new ideas by creating learning environments where authenticity is the cardinal rule of engagement. Jesus says that the kingdom of God is within you. I find that the new ideas mostly emerge when a group of people will travel together over time, tell the truth about some result that they want to achieve that truly matters to them, and then in dialogue in which they are brutally authentic about what stops them. New ideas and profound learning always emerge in those settings. And these kinds of environments inspire me. I'm also inspired by days of silence and solitude, by opportunities to be in the presence of natural (nature) beauty, and by transcendent worship that combines the ancient with the contemporary in thoughtful ways.
5. Just for fun: what’s your favorite coffeehouse beverage?
A medium, one-splenda, extra hot, soy latte.