I’m attending a conference at Jacob’s Well church here in town lead by Tim Keel. I’ve been taking a few notes and just wanted to post them here in case anyone is interested! Pretty thought provoking stuff so far. I’ve only been able to transcribe the first 2 of the 4 sessions so far. I’ll do more later:
SESSION ONE / A World in Flux: Location, Navigation, and the Dynamics of Being Lost
As a culture we are disoriented and lost. The task of our time is not forcing our new reality to fit old “maps,” but mapping the new reality. It is not reworking the environment to match our existing views of reality, but stretching our view of reality and being present where we are.
Hippocampus: When we are in a place of disorientation, when we are lost, there is a high emotional cost. You start to hurry up, you panic. The hippocampus section of the brain is for memory. It is where we make mental maps and store them. These mental maps locate you in your environment. The cells there are in a constant state of change, remapping and updating existing maps, creating new or more accurate maps of our environment. Thus memory is always in a constant state of flux. The function of the hippocampus drops dramatically when we are in stress. Times of stress interfere with our ability to make mental maps, to know where we are. Stress interferes and make us unable to find our bearings.
Amygdala: regulates heartbeat and response to fear, especially adrenaline. When we are lost or in stress, the amygdala takes over. This part of the brain if full of motivation, fight or flight, reactions to fear are all part of this region.
When we are lost, the hippocampus shuts down and we lose the ability to make and access mental maps, while at the same time we have this huge shot of adrenalin rushing through our bodies and we are highly motivated to do something. At the precise moment when we lose the ability to accurately locate ourselves within our environment, we are highly energetic and motivated to act. The impetus to do something is often so strong we can’t resist.
There is an old 17th century word, “wilder,” which describes a person who takes someone else out into the wilderness and leaves them there. A wilder is one who causes someone else to lose their way. Tim is saying that he thinks our culture is bewildered right now.
STAGES OF BEING LOST:
1) deny that you are lost, deny the disorientation you are feeling… “this looks familiar, I think I’ve seen this tree before, I think I know where we are. Doesn’t this look like that one place…”
2) Slow realization that I am lost. Here is where the hippocampus shuts down and the amygdala floods our body with adrenalin, actions are frantic, unproductive and dangerous…usually we take off running.
3) Expense of Energy: and emotion trying to find some place that matches a mental map that we already have in our brains. Where am I? I’ve got to get to some place that I can recognize.
4) Deteriorization: we come down off the adrenalin, we are often now worse off then before and we’re worn out.
5) Resignation: we sit down, stop, slow down, cry, whatever…then we own the idea…I’m lost. It is at this point that our hippocampus is ready to begin to make mental maps again. Map the environment of where I am right now.
CONCLUSION: you begin to really live again when you give up on the old mental maps and this idea that you can run until you find a place that matches them. You survive when you stop and decide to map where you are, find yourself within the environment.
In the church, we don’t have to figure out how to be willow creek or emergent, we don’t even have to be “different,” we just need to be who we are. But we are in such a state of flux and disorientation that we cannot make mental maps. We don’t realize that we just have to be ourselves.
What is called for is imagination: the ability to discern external objects that do not presently exist to the senses. This is why some of the best preachers are songwriters, poets, and artists – they are used to seeing realities that no longer exist.
SESSION TWO / Entering Narrative: Engaging the Power of Story
THESIS: The church is facing a crisis of imagination – this is our real problem. Imagination as it pertains to worship and preaching has become domesticated. There are three primary ways he sees that our imagination has become domesticated in the church:
First – Modern Epistemology
Epistemology is how we know what we know, i.e., what is truth and knowledge? In the enlightenment and modernity we’ve been taught that truth and knowledge have to fit 3 criteria to be true:
- Universal: true for everybody at all times.
- Objective: that we can somehow access this truth without our own bias, we can know objectively, not subjectively. This assumes that we have the same access to the world that God does, that we can be “above the fray.”
- Certain: we can know without a doubt.
The result of this epistemology has been reductionism with removes from our ideas of truth “contextual considerations.” We make all truths abstractions or concepts that fit these three criteria.
Second – Ministry Titillation
This is the idea that we have a ministry bag of tricks and all we need to do is become very skilled technicians and the result will be pastoral leadership and ministry.
Third – Isolation
This is the reality that as different traditions we’ve isolated from one another and as churches we’ve isolated from one another because we are in large part competing with one another for market share and buyer loyalty.
- Ecosystems: the species which are the most specialized are the most vulnerable. Those species with the greatest variety and variation are the least vulnerable. So routine, habitat, needs for their life cycle – the more particular these are the more vulnerable the species.
- We’ve isolated and specialized so much that we’ve become very vulnerable. If one big thing goes wrong, we could face extinction. When the one thing actually does go wrong we panic and set off the above process.
POINT: these three things limit our imagination and keep us from making new mental maps. So when things go wrong in our ministries, all we can do is think back to college and try to recreate the situation that was so great back then. Or we idealize how things were before we had kids when we were in this great small group with other young couples. The inability to map the new environment means we cannot find ourselves within it. We end up thinking the best days of our life, spiritually speaking, are behind us.The question for us is – where are you? How do you map your environment? What narrative are you living in and how do you live deeply out of that story?
This is not just church stuff but this stuff is deeply impacting the business world right now. We have to constantly remap because our world is in a constant state of flux.