Saturday, December 5, 2009

Our Three Part Mission

We have a 3 part mission: we're called to cultivate creativity, follow Jesus, and grow community. We're called to bring these three things together, to live out that mission in real life and encourage/release others who are also called to those three things. We do this through gatherings and projects: weekend gatherings, phone calls, conferences, collaborative projects, training weeks, internships, emergent/missional microchurch plants, etc, etc.

We are not a replacement for church (except when, like with the Charlottesville Project, where we are clearly planting a local church). And in those situations, we are replacing other churches, but bringing another expression of church to the table.

We're not an alternative to college (although we do some training and are interested in alternative learning models).

We're not bingo night, small group or the local bar (although people do find community at the gatherings).

Dandelion Seed people need to be connected to other institutions that will challenge them and take them farther/deeper in each of these areas (creativity, Jesus, community). Some people and institutions need the Dandelion Seed Co to expand their perspective and resource them in ways that they are not equipped to.

It's been a journey to embrace this 3 part mission -- at various times we've talked about dropping one or two parts of it so we could go deeper and be more effective at one thing. Over time, however, we've begun to see the value in establishing a group that embodies this tri-call (creativity, Jesus, community), even if it means the group can't go as deep into any one area. Here's some reasons:

- For some people who are committed to Christ/mission/church but who feel the lack of understanding/prioritization of the arts, it has been very helpful to interact with a community committed to Jesus and creativity. In some cases people connected with the DSC have started to fruitfully use their creative gifts and relationship-building skills in their churches and/or communities. Interaction with the DSC helped them recognize the call: somehow their art got connected with Jesus in a deeper way, and the community provided encouragement to move ahead which then later bore fruit in other contexts -- churches, galleries, bars, classrooms, businesses, etc.

- It could be helpful to people in the arts world who need to connect with a community who values what they value, but also emphasizes community and is focused on Jesus.

- It could be good for people who have friends but wish for more of a sense of purpose/direction to connect with a group that finds that following Jesus, cultivating creative gifts and building deep relationships.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Why we share, how we share

Here's my take on the Why we Share, How we share questions:

Why we share:
1. To learn to be vulnerable (with people and God -- they are connected).
2. To get to know each other better, to build deeper relationships/community.
3. To learn to listen. To be heard. Encouragement.
4. To invite God into the situation and/or recognize His work in it in new ways.
5. To get outside perspective and see things we can't see alone.
(The picture of the "body of Christ" in Ephesians is a great image for a number of these ideas -- life and health comes from connection in the body and with Jesus individually and corporately).

How we share:
1. We try to listen and accept people without judging them. This doesn't mean we agree with all their choices or ideas or pretend that nothing is wrong when it is, but we are called to love first (and often this means being slow to speak and quick to listen).
2. We pray for each other. We believe (and have seen) that inviting God into situations and peoples' lives can make a difference, and is one way of loving each other and following Jesus.
3. Emotion is ok.
4. We will brainstorm and problem-solve with people if they want, but don't assume that can or should always follow sharing. We can't fix everything but we want to bring our resources to the table for growth, healing and mission.

What do you think? What other benefits or dangers do you see from having this as such a big emphasis?

Saturday, November 14, 2009


In our network we spend a lot of time sharing -- hearing peoples' stories, thoughts, struggles, dreams, etc. For example, in Goshen a couple weeks ago we ended up ditching 2/3rds of our agenda to make space for relationships to grow with new people (translate: sharing).

As I connect with other groups I'm realizing that we emphasize sharing more than most, and we do it in a certain way. While we overdo it sometimes, I think it's a very important aspect of who we are and are called to be as a network.

While we practice sharing pretty consistently, we don't always know why we do it. So, while we will grow from practice and repetition, it would help us to periodically step back and think about what we are doing and why.

So what do you think:

Why do you share?

How do you share? What are your "sharing values?" What assumptions do you have about how to treat people and God during sharing?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What do we really want?

In a recent post I said we're working at getting honest about where we're at and challenging people at all levels bring their perspective to bear on the challenges at hand.

So what are these challenges?

Well, there's always the felt needs and the deeper, hidden ones. Here's my take on both:

Felt needs:
1. To be more successful in our art.
2. To make a living doing our art.
3. To find new and better ways of developing community among people who follow Jesus.
4. To change culture.
5. To find new ideas.
6. To connect with famous and powerful people.

Underlying motivations:
1. To feel valuable, validated, important because we've accomplished something of significance.
2. To create something beautiful, meaningful, challenging and impacting.
3. To feel accepted, appreciated, challenged and part of something worth being a part of.

Let's be honest with God and each other about what we're really wanting -- about these underlying motivations. Let's be willing to live in the tension of the reality. Instead of focusing on success and money and the great and powerful, can we live today before God with the ache for significance, beauty and acceptance that we feel? If we will, I believe God will meet us in our need and transform us, our art, our relationships, and our culture in the process. But we can't skip out of the pain of longing by thinking that money, success or comfort will satisfy us. That is an illusion that Christ shattered with his words, his actions and his death.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Leadership Defended

I had a good talk with Bryan* recently and he challenged me about the Top Down Leadership post. He said something like "It's easy to set up a straw man that everyone hates and tear it down, but there's just as many problems with avoiding leadership as there are with bad leadership."

I think he's right.

Another friend recently told me that authority and responsibility are connected. This guy spent some time in the military. He said that while people are respected and honored for the their rank and titles, the people with real authority and those who have direct responsibility to lead you (translate: serve, direct, inspire).

I think part of what I was trying to get at with the Top Down Leadership post, is that often as leaders we forget or get confused about what our responsibility is (to raise vision, challenge people to become who they were made to be, serve, humble ourselves, be transparent and willing to be changed). And as followers we make similar mistakes regarding leadership -- we expect leaders to make our lives work, or we just want them out of our hair, when they are really there to help us become what we are called to be and want to be, but are just a little too afraid, discouraged, lazy or trapped to become by ourselves. The leader should bring a context to grow into those things in, and the challenge to grow.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Are you Dandelion Seed Company?

Well, have you been practicing creativity? Are you following Jesus? Are you growing meaningful, transparent relationships? If so, then you're living like the company.

The Dandelion Seed Company is a network of relationships. It's organic and grassroots (translate: things happen when people get ideas and act on them). As a Dandelion Seed Co leader, I get really excited when I hear about people in our network pushing out the very things we're called to be and do as a group. These projects and events don't need to be "officially" DSC events for the Dandelion Seeds to be spreading and taking root.

Here are some examples of grassroots DSC activities that have been happening:
- a while back the DAM group (Dandelion Artists of Michiana) were asking each other questions each week about how they were living out their mission (Questions like "Have you done something creative this week?" or "How have you practically followed Jesus this week?").
- Members of the Charlottesville Project have supported each other's concerts, even collaborating a bit with songs and art (a recent concert included art by Christa and Carrie, music by Annie, Kimberly, Jonathan and Carrie). We've also had discussions about the message of Jesus, and what God is doing in our lives.
- Grant Beachy recently put together an amazing project to raise money for the Window in Goshen, the Live at the Brew series. This had nothing officially to do with the DSC, but it's the sort of thing we're about, and it incorporated music, design, community building and desire to help those in need.
- At the beginning of the month people from the Magi Tribe in Asheville, Goshen, MI, and VA went to a U2 concert together. The discussions are still going on from that experience -- discussions about calling, spirituality, creativity, scale, mission.

There's a lot more examples, and maybe you are more of a Dandelion Seed than you thought -- or you may be realizing you've got seeds (of creative projects or gatherings) that it's time to throw into the wind or plant. Do it!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Top Down Leadership and this blog

I believe the future of the DSC is hidden in the "latent dna" of the people who are connected to it. In other words, if we're going to become a grassroots movement that changes people and culture, it will happen because the seeds that are in us are watered and grow, and take root in the ground of now.

In top down leadership mode, the leader controls communication, makes sure that everything that is seen or heard publicaly is spun in such a way that the "company" looks good.

In contrast, we're working at getting honest about where we're at and challenging people at all levels bring their perspective to bear on the challenges at hand.

One thing that needs to change is that the vision needs to become simple and clear, and we need to begin to recognize both how we're living that vision now, and how we're falling short of it (so we can grow and change). Follow Jesus. Practice Creativity. Develop Community.

The vision is in each of us, and will come out in a different way in each individual. We'll discover who we are as we bring our piece into the public sphere.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Top Down Leadership and Jesus

I've been reading about new models of leadership based on recent scientific theories about how the world works. I'll get more technical about it later. Read "Surfing the Edge of Chaos" if you're interested in the concepts.

Here's two different ways to think about how leadership functions:
1. The leader is at the top of the organization. They bring the vision which then filters down through the ranks. The leaders create buy in and motivate people to do the things that will move the vision forward. In this model the leader is responsible to bring the vision, the plan, the strategy and the motivation (positive and negative) to carry it out. People excel by doing what they're told and being loyal.
2. The organization is an organic unit, full of varied and untapped intelligence and potential. There is latent dna in each member which, given the right conditions, can bring incremental growth. The leader's job is to create a context in which peoples' creativity will come out, and this latent dna is discovered and embodied in real ways. This usually means moving closer to chaos which causes each person to creatively engage the issues at hand. The leader "holds the collective feet to the fire," meaning that they keep the people in the tension and discomfort of the real situation until creative solutions emerge from within (rather than from the top down).

As I've been reading this stuff I've recognized a lot of top down assumptions that I still carry and am working at allowing God to transform. I've also reflected on some times that I or other leaders I know have been willing to face the tension and call others to face it as well -- and have seen the creative fruit and effectiveness of activated people.

I believe the DSC is uniquely positioned to become more of an organic unit where grassroots change happens. I'm convinced our loose network of relationships can become part of a powerful, culture-changing movement if we don't run from the struggle but allow ourselves together to face the chaos and look deeper in side ourselves, each other and Jesus to discover our message, mission and creative approaches, solutions and projects.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Two Questions

What are your thoughts about/answers to these questions? Let's tap the "distributed intelligence" of this network:

1. What differences has following Jesus made to you (think specific, think story)?

2. What was/is the message of Jesus?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Report on U2 and the Cville gathering

The informal post-U2 mini gathering was good. We had Dandelion Seed people from In, MI and NC visiting Cville to hear U2 and hang out.

Some of us had great spots right next to the stage, others were way up high and had drunks falling on them. The view was actually pretty good either way. The set design made it work well in different ways depending on how close you were. Muse was good, but their set was short.

We had good conversations about art, Jesus and community, triggered by the show, a book (Forgotten Ways by Allan Hirsch) and a movie (It Might Get Loud). A couple of questions on the table:

1. Can you live a healthy, balanced life and play a key role in starting a movement? (Seems like it's rare).
2. Why have DSC members had small artistic successes? Is it because we choose relationships and quality of life? Is it either/or?
3. Does art have to come out of suffering and struggle? (Jack White makes trouble if he's not in any, so that he can create out of it.)
4. Movements usually have a simple core with a message that anyone can understand and pass on (not just some elite group of trained people) which is part of what allows it to act on and transform culture. If Jesus started a movement, what is the core message? If the DSC is to be a movement (organic, relational, viral) what is it's core message?

We spent time sharing about our lives, projects, challenges and struggles and praying for each other. This was simple and good. People's willingness to be vulnerable and real was evident, and it makes a difference. The DSC is a network of relationships first of all, so it makes sense that we spend time building them. The deeper people are willing to go, the faster we get to the stuff that changes us and others. As we discover our message we'll rediscover our mission, and when we do new energy, miracles, relationships, and projects will sprout up from the grassroots and spread quickly and effectively through relationship old and new.