Virtual Networks & Engineering Social Culture

Last fall we launched a crowdfunding platform (like Kickstarter) for Ukraine, it’s live at (Links to an external site.). From my experience, it’s not helpful to think missionally through the lens of static social sectors such as business, religion, education etc. The same forces shaping the de-construction of Christendom are at work in all other spheres and creating a more complex and fluid global culture. 

As missional movement, our driving discovered vision among our core Slavic leadership is ‘to form culture’ under the reign of Jesus Christ, filling space with artifacts that point to the loving reign of Jesus. While we can focus on one particular sphere (e.g. medicine), as a crowdfunding platform, our missional leaders are entering all spheres, from training business leaders, funding Covid care supplies, helping orphans learn how to generate ideas-to-business-plan, to working alongside Ukrainian government to reform old Soviet banking regulations. 

Virtual networks place a premium on breaking down silos and connecting various audiences..” (Loc 111). Through the use of technology, we believe we can come alongside the Spirit in an agile, adaptive manner greeting the world that is emerging, instead of, as in the case of the old Presbyterian Church example, react and recover to unfortunate insulation from the world we are called to influence. “Collaborative technology drives innovation.. And change in government” (112) but also every sphere where collaboration is possible.  We’re at a crossroads I think that requires the use of technology not as an end, or means of doing church differently, but as the world uses it, as a tool for collaboration and social impact. 

Collaborative social ‘hubs’ are exciting. They are not only providing unity within typical religious spaces, but cross pollinating across traditional sectors, and as leaders we can stop considering one time ‘projects’ as the only way to do ministry, but “create a place where people are willing and able to innovate time and again (Hill 2014, Loc 312). This allows our platform for example to not only act as a conduit for emerging ministry and start-ups, but act itself as a space for Kingdom influence, through inclusion, learning, synergy and love. 

Whatever the sphere (whether singular or multiplicity) I believe Ignatian spirituality is a key to create with the culture of the leadership for maximum life and sustainability:

freedom to become the person you’re meant to be, to love and to accept love, to make good decisions, and to experience the beauty of creation and the mystery of God’s love” (Martin 2012, 1).

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Divested Leadership & Movement

We have named our various ministries “platforms” as we seek to embody Trinity’s model of divesting, mutual reciprocity. Our core leadership group understands that their unique role is not to perform on the platform, but to “set the stage – that is, to create a place where people are willing and able to innovate time and again” (Hill, et al. 2014, Loc 312). We often host creative weekends where our emerging leadership is provided space to “unleash thinking and attitudes” (Loc 1575). By focusing on the creative fringes, our crowdfunding platform is designed to foster “adaptive buffering” (Hickman 2010, 50) through experimentation as we provide them technical tools to create projects and fundraise to completion. We are collaborating not only with those directly within our sphere of influence, but all who share the vision to create shared cultural artifacts in Slavic culture as we together imagine “a world as it is and the world as it should or might ideally be” (Schuyler 2016, 169). 

As an emerging international missional community, we don’t consider believers as members who are ‘in or out’.  We, as well as our friends invite emerging leaders to our spiritual formation weekends who display the common interest in engaging culture outside of Christendom structures.

Divesting of my leadership role and influence has not been an easy process for me but now bearing fruit and inward joy as we see fresh vision and initiation among a leadership group which overseas a wider volunteer base. I function now as the person responsible to “create a context in which others can collectively do the work of innovation” (Hill, et al. 1389).

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Thoughts from the side of the road

Change. What is change? We experience change everyday, every moment in fact. Our bodies are changing, our world is changing, our relationships in continuous dynamic flux. The more we discover about our universe, the more change becomes the focus of research.

I had believed for a good portion of my life that most personal change occurs early on in life but over time, the rate of change decreased. Babies experience the most visible change in a short period of time. We’ve watch our 8 children rush through infancy, zip past the toddler state and eventually begin a more sustainable looking rate of change into young adult life.

So what about change? Is our physical nature parallel to our spiritual nature? Is our inner rate of change consistent with our outer? It seems to me that our Western world is fixated on slowing the death march. Our health industry at work using our tax dollars to decrease the rate of change. If the human race could snap its fingers and halt change all together, I think it would be done in an instant.

If the nature of the universe is constant motion, and the Creator of this reality a personal Being, perhaps we should consider change from another perspective. Change is potential. Change is movement towards a great many things, most of which are unpredictable and rarely isolated. We intend change and receive unintended consequences. We aim towards change continually in our world because some deep burden exists that the way things are, are not. We want to be part of change, movement towards something better. Will we ever truly get there? What is there?

Perhaps change is the end. Perhaps ‘there’ is change and movement itself.

Perhaps this is what Creator intended, not an arrival but a continuous, eternal motion in relatedness to Him and all that is made.

We are made from dust, and to dust we will return. Yet, we have been breathed into, containing something far beyond the measurements of science. Our mysterious frame is in motion, locked inside physical constructs for the time being, it longs to break out and into something more real, eternal, satisfying.

You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

For many of us, change can be either an uninvited guest or a unspoken longing. Early on in life, change seems to give way to a sense of rhythm, and even a slowing down as we become formed in culture, the rituals of meaning within our social constructs. We get up, go to work, watch a movie, go to church, without much thought after a while. We seem to seek change only when it’s guided by our thoughts, our motives and desires. We change jobs because it offers more pay an security, we divorce our spouses because we’ve tried everything we thought possible and believe better happiness lies at the other end.

If change however is a constant, and a healthy inner life more like rushing rapids than a still pond, perhaps we should approach change as a friend, an ally in our holistic development as a being. Perhaps instead of seeking stability and a winding down of change, we should be a continuous seeker of motion, new ideas, new ways of seeing the world and adapting as a sojourner, not a resident of this brief life.

I’m not suggesting everyone pull up stakes and wander the earth in seek of continuous change. But I am suggesting that the opposite is just as dangerous; to resist change and see it as a deficit or thing to be avoided. Every new situation we find ourselves in is an opportunity for adaptive growth, a letting go of past perceptions and bias and embracing of new. This is not easy, but necessary for the motion of growth movement as a person.

There is no such thing as a motionless universe, nor an unchanging soul.

We are either bearing fruit, or calcifying. Entropy is change too. We need to learn from history. The greatest movements, the most innovative cultures and organizations eventually gave way to structure, social aristocracy, bureaucracy and eventual death. Religion is a fine example of a resistance to change. Change resisted at the cost of growth. The opposite then takes place; the growth of decay.

Change will happen, it’s a matter of participating in the healthy movement of it; to come alongside healthy change is to position your life within the Giver of life.

We are approaching a great mountain. The longer we live, the closer we get to it. It doesn’t become smaller, but we see it more clearly for what is truly is. It’s magnificent, and I can only begin to imagine it’s peaks. To know God is to continue our approach, to experience change as we behold and are beheld by the Spirit, through the Son. Each day of my life that passes, I am becoming less enamored with this life and more with His. His life will pull me through into eternal change, what I have been designed for, to scale the mountain of God, the God who does not change, who’s character in perfection has arrived. Mine, has not, an eternal love project.

If I’m going to change, I want God’s formative inner change, and not change from the absence of His loving and perfect hands. We are the clay pot being molded, and this continuous process will not stop, simply when this physical life ends.

In conclusion, we are not becoming more certain, more knowing, more perfect in this life as to think we can simply calcify and cruise into the next life. That was not God’s intention. We are on approach to the mountain of God, being changed each day as we grow into His life. We were, as Irenaeus stated, designed for the middle:

“The Creator is always the same, but those who are created must pass from beginning and through a middle course, a growth, and progression. And it is for this increase and progress that God has formed them”

Our world is changing. This much is true. What are your thoughts from where you are standing? Western structures are dismantling revealing a post-Christian, postmodern approach to just about everything. Those clinging to vestiges of the past, their forms and practices not rooted in the Person of our Triune Creator will sadly be left behind, hunkered down in preservation as the Spirit continues the missio Dei on earth.

I want to greet the world that will reveal itself tomorrow. We need collaborative new models, spirit-led platforms that cross traditional westernized silo’d institutions. This is the new reality the most innovative in business already practice in emerging global contexts. The world is shrinking, fast, and yet the church of Jesus Christ is for the most part, stuck inside an old world model. The Kingdom is a force of love to be reckoned with, but we too must adapt and dismantle restricting forms. Believers can be innovators, shaping culture and creating space for emerging Christ following community.

We can unite around the Person of Jesus, His coming, His actions, teaching and mission. We can learn to hold loosely tradition that is rooted in culture, and not Jesus particularly. Jesus brought a powerful critique to the social and religious powers of His day, and so can we. The Gospel is for every culture, every age, not just the West. New voices, new reflections of emerging Kingdom culture are coming. This is good change, the kind you lean into and want to embrace!

I could see the hierarchical clientelistic structure calcifying on its own. I didn’t need to oppose it, nor even criticize it. There was no enemy to fight, only old self-reinforcing patterns slowly crumbling from entropy, ready to evolve, already giving birth to something new.

Schulyer – Creative Social Change
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Spring Update

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