Saturday, February 21, 2015

Here's To You - The New Disciplinary Matrix of Creative Church Leaders - Who are Crazy Enough to Change the World

I first learned about paradigm shifts from the Rev. Kevin Martin when I was a young priest. Deeper reading lead me to Thomas S. Kuhn's work. Recently, a friend talking with me over coffee reminded me of Kuhn and his landmark scientific essay entitled, "The Structure of Scientific Revolution". It is now over 50 years old. He is credited with popularizing the phrase "paradigm shift"and scientifically showing how they work within the scientific community. 

Kuhn offers that revelation, creativity, and solutions to dilemmas come from the edges. Solutions to crisis and paradigm shifts take shape outside the norm.  

Those who have the most to gain from a system staying the same will always sit in the choice seats. They have, after all, created the arena we must play in; they have supported and are invested in its sustainability. These are those Kuhn calls the disciplinary matrix. Within this matrix are those who have accepted a certain set of theories about the paradigm.  

What I have learned is that as the paradigm breaks down, those on the inside have the most to lose as the paradigm shifts. Their voice, power, and control will inevitably be lessened in the face of new revelations. As the arena, paradigm, or worldview shifts, these individuals begin to get louder. The matrix works well as long as both sides stay in conversation on those areas of common and shared understanding.

Kuhn offers that as the new paradigm emerges, and as a new disciplinary matrix emerges, it becomes difficult for the two groups to converse - the old keepers of the paradigm and the new emerging innovators. Discipline X and Discipline Y begin to move apart and separate. There is an "incommensurability" between them. They actually both need one another, but as the shift occurs and power begins to be lessened, the voices go up, as do the attacks. They often tend to focus and criticize those areas not commonly shared. Or they go after those areas where the creativity is most public.

In today's electronic age, those voices which would normally go unheard are now given more power and visibility via electronic and social media. This can create dark mobs of cynics who attempt to draw attention and focus away from the good work being undertaken by the new creatives.

Both the critics/cynics and the innovators can do terrible damage to one another. Typically what happens is that the cynics and critics launch attacks of snide remarks, make fun of, and denigrate those who are struggling against all odds, fighting their way in the arena, innovating in the face of crises and dilemmas. Cynics' and critics' most powerful tool is shame. And, they can whip up a shame storm quickly. This then causes the innovators to put up their shields - engaging (taking the eye off the goal of dealing with the real issues), retreating (leaving the arena altogether, taking their gifts and talents out of the mix needed to solve the issues, or pleasing (dropping their work of creativity in order to hopefully one day sit in the cynics,/critics' seats. So, until the creative buzz rises above the din of deprivation, an organization can continue to spiral downward.

None of this is very helpful. The innovators actually need that old disciplinary matrix to help them remember the narrative and understand the internal forces. The organization is always better off if they can stay together. And, the organization needs the emerging disciplinary matrix of the innovators to continue to try new things. It is never a good thing for the community if they become detached or if you only have one group. Sometimes, the isolation, criticism, and cynicism (despite sharing a desire to be loved, feel worthy of love, and connected to others) are so ugly they actually push the new emerging community away from themselves. 

I was an art student in college, and as a student received the gift of understanding the importance of helpful criticism from other artists who want me to succeed. I also learned to let the critic's voice fall to the side if they were not invested in my success.

As I look at our Church I see a "wonderful and sacred mystery." I love it. I want it to grow and flourish. Sometimes I am in the good seats and it is easy to be a critic and cynic. As a bishop I know that it is important to be quiet and let the innovators innovate. I can shut down creativity faster than anyone else. John Kotter of "Leading Change", at Harvard Business School, reminds leaders that one of the most important roles is giving cover to healthy voices of change. I also know that if I don't think it is great, the best idea ever, or I have concerns about it failing, then all I have to do is nix it. Good leaders know the importance of this power and use it sparingly. Why? Because if they are true leaders, they know that a half-thought out idea, a good idea, a risky idea never has the potential for success if they shut them all down. New paradigms, reformations, revolutions, life itself needs space and an opportunity to take root.

What is amazing in the current atmosphere in denominational Churches across the country is the way in which cynicism and criticism are being used by those in power to shut down the very creativity the church needs to grow and thrive in the future. When both sides spend time sabotaging one another, the work of the Gospel is not getting done.

We know that the paradigm, the disciplinary matrix, is in fact shifting because we see and hear the harsh words, mean spirited, snarky, and disparaging words which the cynics and critics offer those who are trying new worship, experimenting with things like Ashes to Go, launching a pub mass, coin operated laundry ministry, attempting to offer a vision for a new church structure, creating different forms of Christian community, attempting different ways of engaging people, bringing about a new evangelical spirit of hope, and all manner of creativity - the list is a long one. Over six years of ministry I have heard the voices. 

As the new paradigm is emerging, as innovation is taking root, as we are trying new things and old things are passing away - the voices are getting louder. In some corners they are getting VERY loud. And, I know for those who have tried hard, worked in the arena all day, and had very real spiritual experiences, those disparaging words from people who stand outside the arena and just throw rotten tomatoes into it - well - those words, emails, Facebook and Twitter posts sting.

I am powerless to take away that sting. The sting comes with creative work - especially good creative work. 

When this happens I like to read a few things which encourage me:

“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Apple
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." Roosevelt
Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Galatians 6:4
But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 
O, do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks! Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle. But you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God.
Phillips Brooks, "Going up to Jerusalem", Twenty Sermons (1886), p. 330.
I dream of a church where we might actually support one another - as we say we are supposed to do. A church in which we might engage in real conversations instead of firing shrapnel into the air hoping to hit something/someone. A church in which we might not feel "less than" for trying our best in the face of the critic. 

I dream of a church which is no longer afraid of the revolution that is coming, and one that understands we will need every possible kind of church, worship style, and creative evangelism to help us live into our future. I dream of a church which is filled with people less likely to criticize and more people willing to roll up their sleeves and find solutions to our mission imperatives.

So tonight... as I am mindful of all the critics' voices out there who are telling my brother and sister innovators that they are wrong, are weakening the church, are not serious/spiritual/theologically correct enough, aren't faithful enough... I raise a toast to you, your creativity, and your persistence for the hope of the future church, in the face of the critic.

For in what you are trying to do, I see that wonderful and sacred mystery we call church. I see in you and in your work the Holy Spirit which brought all things into being. I see in you partners worth entering the arena with, and I see partners who will stay in the arena with hands joined. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Welcome to Humanity - Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday sermon preached at Episcopal High School Houston, and Christ Church Cathedral 12:05 Service

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tenemos una Vida con Jesus

Sermon preached on the transfiguration in spanish at San Pedro Episcopal Church, 2015

Check out this episode!

We are not alone in the Arena

Sermon preached at Daring Greatly Conference: Show Up, Be Seen, Live Brave

Check out this episode!

We have a Try Harder Fever

Sermon preached at Christ the King Atascocita, Epiphany 5b, 2015, healing of Simon Peter's mother in law.

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Comfort Comfort My People

A few comfortable words spoken at Redeemer following the death of the Rev. Israel Ahimbisibwe and his family. 

Check out this episode!

All Access God

We live in an all access culture and we have an all access God. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. A sermon preached at St. Joseph's Salado on Mark 4, Epiphany 4.B. 

Check out this episode!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Clergy Death





Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is with a very heavy heart that I share with you the news that we believe
  Israel Ahimbisibwe, his wife Dorcus and their youngest son, Israel Junior (Jay), age 5, to have been the family were found dead at their home in west Houston earlier today.  Israel was vicar at Redeemer, Houston.  


The police have not officially released the names or cause of death and are still investigating, but we plan to have a prayer meeting at Redeemer this evening at 7 p.m.  Holy Spirit, where Israel served previously, will also hold a prayer meeting at 7 p.m. tonight.   


What I do know is that this morning, the apartment manager opened the family's door when concerned church members said Israel and Dorcus had not shown up at church on Sunday and failed to respond on Monday morning.  


This is a horrific and awful tragedy. We have had prayers with Israel's family here in Houston and we will help investigators in anyway that we can.  Please keep the Ahimbisibwe and Redeemer families in your prayers, as well as the broader Ugandan community in Houston.  


Israel Ahimbisibwe was ordained in the Church of Uganda and held masters degrees from both Princeton Theological Seminary and Harvard Divinity School. After completing graduate research at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he earned an additional masters and doctorate from Rice University.  


Andy's Signature  

IX Bishop of Texas 



  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball