Can you find community at a birthday party?

Picture Tom Sine“Frankly, your voice on your blogs is out of date” offered Clara the 14-year-old daughter of one of our team members. I asked for it. After a group of friends relished a lovely Greek feast that Christine prepared to celebrate my 76th birthday I asked for help with my writing. I said I really believed that old dogs could learn new tricks and I want your help in improving my writing.

I explained that I wanted to write material about imagination to enable followers of Jesus to create new ways to be a difference and make a difference in these very uncertain times. I not only received helpful input from Clara but from a number of other friends as well.

Mark, my oldest friend, remembered when he tried to lead a group in his church studying my first book, the Mustard Seed Conspiracy. He reported that at least two participants bogged down in the first three chapters because there was so much bad news about the future.

One of my chronic problems is being locked into the problem solution approach to persuasive communications. In almost all my books I start by trying to sketch how the context in society and church is likely to change in the next 10 years. Then towards the end of I describe ways that people of faith can reimagine their lives and churches to engage changing times.

For example, in my most recent book The New Conspirators almost all of my creative stuff was at the very end of the book when it would’ve made more sense to put it at the front. I spent too much time talking about globalization and new challenges facing the church at the beginning.

Recently I wrote my friend Jonny Baker about an innovative new training program he started for Ordained Pioneers in the Anglican church in the UK. In my e-mail I asked how he was helping students imagine and create new forms of missional church. He responded: “ I love the section on imagination in The New Conspirators and used it with students.” So thankfully some people actually make it to the end of my books.

Forrest and another friend suggested that I consider writing mini-books that don’t start with problems but focus directly on new forms of innovation such as creating more sustainable lifestyles. They suggested I could weave a bit of our changing times into these imaginative examples… which made sense to me.

James Rempt and  Jon McClay two twenty somethings that live in our community suggested having younger voices raise questions and make humorous comments in the margins of these mini-books. Everyone thought this was a great idea.

Last night I very much enjoyed the gift of community not only celebrating my birthday but also for their very helpful input on how to reinvent my writing. Since I consider you as a part of my larger community too… would you send me your candid and humorous suggestions about how to write more compellingly and about how to create community and serve God in times like these?