Monday, August 30, 2010

Tear Up Your Notes

Back in 1993, I was leading a corporate communications team that decided to launch an email newsletter for employees. It sounds rather quaint today, but at the time, the only other company in the country that had one was AT&T. You could count on one hand the number of companies worldwide who had an employee email newsletter.

In spite of the best efforts of the IT department and my own peers to stop us, we launched a test newsletter in August with 100 people. Within four weeks, we had saturated the company’s email distribution system – and it was all by word of mouth. The newsletter was a hit for two reasons – it was new, and none had ever seen one like it before, and it had a personal voice. Because it started as a test, we didn’t seek HR or legal approval. We wrote stories that sounded like real people had written them. We didn’t censor letters to the editor unless a personal attack or profanity was involved.

It was plain text. No photos or graphics. A year later, the surveys showed it had the highest credibility of any communication vehicle in the company – and that included immediate supervisors and top management. Locations that didn’t have email would print it and post it on bulletin boards. Some locations translated it into the local language.

I had spent almost 20 years in organizational communications, and everything I had learned and been taught was suddenly outdated. I had to “tear up my notes.”

That’s the metaphor Michael Spencer uses in chapter 3 of Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality. Spencer reached a point in his faith where it was time to tear up his notes, when he realized that everything he had been taught about church just might have a lot more to do with American culture, or a version of culture, than with the God he believed in.

Here’s what Spencer concluded, and it’s incendiary.

“What I need is a personal transformation by the real Christ, not the one that is manufactured by organized Christianity. I need to be changed by the Jesus who never ceases to be quiet and cooperative. I also need a movement of culture-resisting, church-suspicious rebels and Jesus-followers who have taken the same view of religion that Jesus took in his scorching denouncements of religious phoniness.

“I’m swimming in a sea of mediocrity, worshiping in a church captivated by consumerism, and deeply affected by a skewed view of God that the Bible would call petty idolatry…”

I’ve read those words severalties. Each time I do, my ears burn. Is Spencer talking about me?

I think I have more notes to tear up.


Bend the Page, Chapter 3, by Nancy Rosback.


Maureen said...

Good story with an excellent metaphor to highlight the chapter's meaning:

When we're merely taking notes on what others say something is, we're not experiencing it ourselves.

SimplyDarlene said...

It's not just you, Glynn. My ears were red and my soul was bleeding. I reckon he was talking to all of us.

Thank you for this piece and the the heart that is evident.


Anonymous said...

there have been so many times, in the last few years, that i just wanted to be able to write a list of things that God wanted and be able to point at it and say "this is it!" to have a formula to go by, all nice neet and cleanly laid out.

well, i have torn-up notes upon notes...and i still do it.

now i keep trying to remind myself that the Lord does not give me advance instructions
and then leave me to carry it out on my own.
but, that i actually have to always be paying attention because He comes with me and tells me what He wants me to hear, when He's ready for me to hear it.

it is so much like raising a baby...the baby being the boss, of course. just when parents get a system down, the baby changes the program again.

but, at least, where i know where i am suppose to be looking, that is the simple idea that i can write down..."LOOK TO JESUS".
now, i'm not sayin' it's simple to do it. no, sir!

but, i could write that little note and never have to tear it up! i could make "look to Jesus" notes and tape them all over my house, and in the car. i could make a bunch of them and frame them, nice and pretty, for all my friends.

but, i think that, just to be safe, Jesus has a plan to super glue one on my heart.

JoTigger said...

There are indeed people who take notes while listening to their pastors preach. Even the translations of the Bible make me wonder. I have a Chinese English Bible and I like to read both. I find the Chinese version much more didactic and even Confucian. Of course, we are also taught to read the texts through a more Confucian lens. The cultural elements are almost inevitable. Problems arise, in my cultural setting, when we are not encouraged or even allowed to ask challenging questions, challenging to the ones who have authority in the church.

Fatha Frank said...

I think we need to be humble enough to always be willing to tear up our notes, leave behind what we know, and pursue the uncomfortable unknown with Jesus as our guide. I think the stale-ness we see in our churches is an unwillingness to do so. But it needs to start with each of us.

H. Gillham said...

"Tear up my notes" happens to me all the time -- I call it growth.

Good read.