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  • Justin Long 11:00 pm on May 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Seen Today: Friday is for Futures, plus a few more 

    1. MIT’s Cheetah robot masters running jumps:

    2. “Divine Eagle, China’s enormous stealth hunting drone, takes shape.” Popular Science.

    3. “Some good news for developmental economists,” Economist, Bill Gates. “The next 20 years… hundreds of millions will be lifted out of abject poverty due to strong growth in Subsaharan Africa.”

    4. “US Special Forces experimenting with Bug Drones.”

    5. “US Air Force wants laser-firing jets by 2022.” Popular Mechanics.

    6. “Amazon’s drones might track you down by your phone.” Popular Mechanics.

    Other stuff seen:

    1. “Factors in the growth of Christianity in China,” notes on a book by Steve Addison.

  • Justin Long 9:00 am on May 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Of emergent systems and transformation 

    An old story makes the rounds in mission circles. A British soldier is asked, “if the Queen gave the army a message to deliver to the world, how long would it take?” The length of time given in reply varies according to the storyteller, but it’s usually a few months or a few years. Why, then, has it taken us so long to deliver the Gospel, which is the message of the King of Kings to the World? Zing!

    Zing back. This is the Communication Fallacy of Missions. It falsely reduces our task to simply sharing a message, which is an incomplete view of what we were commanded to do. Jesus said, “Make disciples.” (With additional things added in, like loving each other, loving neighbors, etc.) The more complete task is far more difficult than simple communication.

    A better version of the parable might be: A British soldier is asked, “If the Queen gave the army a command to recruit new British citizens from the nations around the world–who would keep Britain’s laws, promote the United Kingdom, participate in its economy, etc.–until all the world was finally part of the United Kingdom: how long would it take?”

    A rather different question, isn’t it?

    Sharing a message is straightforward (if sometimes expensive): (1) gather an audience and (2) deliver the message in a way that is (a) linguistically understandable and (b) ideally culturally acceptable and relatable. But this only spreads the Kingdom in an industrial, manufactured way: it is not organic, sustainable and reliable. If this is the only way the message is spread, when a problem is encountered that is beyond the scope of the original message, the message will likely be abandoned in favor of a new solution. The Gospel becomes a paradigm rather than a truth. When an unresolvable problem is encountered the paradigm will be shifted rather than an adaptive solution found within the Body.

    The goal is not communication. The goal is “making disciples,” and one of the methods is communication. The goal is to see the church planted, the Kingdom spread, the world transformed.

    “Okay, okay, we’ll focus on making disciples,” you say. But it’s not that simple.


    Who is to be discipled? The answer would seem obvious: people. Let’s ask the question in a different way. If the result of discipleship is lives transformed–we used to behave in that way, but now we behave in this–let’s ask: who is to be transformed?

    This may be the biggest challenge when talking about swarms and emergence: getting people to understand it’s not about the individual but the whole. Whether we are sharing or discipling, we are in the “mass” mindset. We look at a group and think in terms of the thousands of individual people who individually need to be transformed. In reality, the system, too, must be transformed. Simply changing the people will not change the system, and unless the system is changed, the people won’t.

    To understand why, we need to understand emergent systems.

    You know behavior is shaped partly by genetics (what we’re born with) and partly by environment (how people around us act). You’ve probably argued the “nature vs. nurture” debate; here, let’s just acknowledge that both are powerful influencers. On the nurture side, the social environment includes loved ones, extended family, friends, fellow worshippers, teachers, business partners, business clients, suppliers, governmental leaders, media influences, celebrity idols, and so on.

    Within this environment we are influenced. It’s a simple process to describe in the quaint proverb, “monkey see, monkey do.” We see behavior and we, for whatever reason, decide to emulate it. Others see us, and for whatever reason, decide to emulate our behavior. There’s many reasons why: sibling influence, advertising, business dynamics, desire for coolness, seeking a vote, wanting our patronage. Everyone both aligns with others and tries to influence others. Alignments happen in small and large ways. Most influence is through tens of thousands of tiny alignments which combine in a complex mess.

    Out of it a system emerges.

    An emergent system is any relatively large population–from, say, a village on up to a people group, an urban agglomeration, a fad, a social network, whatever–which:

    • is new and unique, with features not found elsewhere: student protesters in Egypt connected by Facebook.
    • endures. It has “coherence”: not a fad that falls apart in a season (like the toy-of-the-month purchasers).
    • has a greater wholeness in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and influences individual choices.
    • changes and adapts, responding to the environment (both threats and opportunities) around it
    • can be seen. Not attitudes: networks of people who interact and do things in a certain way.

    An emergent system begins as the sum of actions who are trying to create something new–a new social network, a new platform, a new business, whatever–but if it survives long enough it becomes a standard, a platform. It becomes The Way. When that happens, rather than creative decisions about what The Way Is, people make creative decisions about other things based on The Way. They stop optimizing the system and start optimizing themselves to the way the system is.

    When that happens, if you don’t change the system, you won’t change the people. But transforming an emergent system is hard.


    Emergent systems are complex. You can’t just “tweak one thing” and change it. Facebook helped the rise of the Arab Spring, but eliminating Facebook might not prevented it. Poverty is an emergent system: simply giving people jobs or money won’t necessarily break the culture. When “to be Fulani is to be Muslim,” a Christian Fulani is a paradox: it demands that the whole idea of what being a Fulani is, must change.

    What’s more, many societies are made up of multiple emergent systems which interrelate with each other, compete with each other, and feed off each other. Try to count up how many emergent societies are in Cairo alone, in the midst of the Arab Spring. The military council, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafists, the secularists, the Coptic Christians, the underground church, the typical business owner on the street, the families of the martyrs… and more, of course, that we can’t see at arms length!

    You can’t just change a single emergent system bit by bit. That would be rather like trying to change a blue carpet into a purple one, pulling out one strand at a time and replacing it–but the carpet is alive, can sense what you are doing, and will react angrily. No: you have to convince the individual strands to change their color on their own, in place. It sounds impossible, but it’s not: just 10% can change the default opinion of an emergent system about a topic.

    You have to create tiny, new emergent systems within the existing ones, support them with an environment, and grow them to a size large enough to compete in the marketplace of ideas. Conflict within emergent systems is less about the battle of weapons and more about the battle of ideas and economics. Consider:

    • The miraculous healing of a deathly ill child can open the door to a quiet belief on the part of a woman.
    • Her quiet belief can lead to a quiet change in her attitudes and behavior toward her husband.
    • The change in her behavior can lead to uncertainty and questioning on the part of the man, who comes to belief as well.
    • But he may not be willing to become public with a faith that he is more open to–because to do so would cut him off from business relationships he needs for his family to survive.

    How can you support the growth of an emergent system of believers within an oppressive area? It’s less about standing up for their rights and more about establishing a quiet, unremarked-upon space for faith to thrive and spread from person to person, through social and business networks.

    Part of the genius of the early Strategy Coordinator and NRM strategies was in this area: they envisioned a multichannel distribution of the Gospel that gets the ideas of the Kingdom into every facet of life: media, business, politics, friendships, books, education, health, etc. In “The Rise of Christianity,” Rodney Stark illustrates how this happened to the early church. It’s a lesson well worth looking to see how it can be repeated in modern cultures. (Don’t want to buy the book just yet? Check this review, which contains a great overview.)


    My goal is not to tell you what’s happened in the world–you can get to Google News for that. My goal is to place events within larger narratives, particularly at the regional level (e.g. East Africa, North Africa, East Asia, etc).

    By doing this, I will show you what the events mean and what we can expect. More than that, by placing events in the context of narratives, I am hoping we will learn how to better do this together. I want you to use the same processes to identify the events-in-narratives within the emergent systems (people groups, cities, etc.) you are focused on. I can’t follow everything, but if I can’t follow the place you’re interested in, you can–and you can contribute to the greater community.

    Together, we can then learn how to influence emergent systems by building narratives and environments for new systems-within-systems: Gospel systems, the salt-and-yeast inside, the redemptive light, the city-on-a-hill. That’s the ultimate goal: to unleash redemptive processes led by the redeemed, that in turn don’t just transform individuals but societies.

    I hope it’s clear by now: Societal transformation is key. You cannot easily sustain the church without it; indeed, based on Genesis 12 you can argue a church that does not transform the society around it is not a Biblical church and will not be blessed by God. Even simple demographics, though, can illustrate the reason. Eventually the church will grow to 90% or more of a society. At that point there is only one way for the church to be sustained–through new babies! (Because there is no one left to convert.) If an emergent system is incapable of helping believers marry believers and raise believing children, then the church will again enter a period of decline.

    Already, in a sense, you can see this in recent articles about Wikipedia. This crowdsourced encyclopedia is threatened with decline, because “old” editors are falling off–no longer interested, busy in other things, or even dying. But “new” editors are not being brought in. The editors are not reproducing themselves. As a result the emergent system of Wikipedia is decaying, atrophying. And as less and less is done, fewer and fewer want to participate: it’s a downward spiral.

    I could argue that in the West, one of the primary issues is that we shifted into information transmission–into sharing a message, rather than making disciples–and thus we got to a point where a huge number of people have been redeemed, but the emergent system in which we live no longer is. And that is bad news for the long-term future.

  • Justin Long 11:00 pm on May 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Seen Today: Immigrants in USA, narcissists, cartoon-drawing bikers, cyberspace hell, Somalis, Kurds, and shrinking cities. 

    1. “I want to go where the reds are,” David Joannes. Mapping the unreached.

    2. “Holidaymakers’ misery as asylum seekers turn Kos into hellhole.” UK Daily Mail. Culture shock.

    3. “What we know about Cuba’s economy,” Pew Research. Business as Mission may benefit from this resource.

    4. “Immigrants, Latinos helped drive business creation last year,” WSJ. In the USA.

    5. “You are not special,” Economist. How to get from narcissism to thoughtfulness. Data on Millennials who want to be famous.

    6. “Armed bikers plan to draw cartoons of Mohammed outside a mosque in Arizona,” Foreign Policy. So many ways this could go wrong.

    7. “How to stop Facebook from stalking you,” Washington Post. It geotags you when you use your phone to send a message via Messenger.

    8. “Immortal, but damned to hell on hearth,” the Atlantic. Implications of uploading yourself into a computer. (Particularly for punishment for crimes.)

    9. “How the world’s largest refugee camp remade a generation of Somalis,” NPR.

    10. “How to shrink a city,” Economist. When small cities lose populations to larger ones.

    11. “Can the Kurds stop Erdogan’s bid for total power?” Foreign Policy.

  • Justin Long 1:00 pm on May 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    The ongoing struggle for teacher retention,” Paul Barnwell, The Atlantic, 27 May 2015.

    This is an extremely important piece with implications not just for teachers in poor schools. It’s thinking about a subject that impacts churches, missions, charitable work, business development, and more. How do you get people to stay and be effective in a situation that’s so terrible that it leads to high employee attrition and turnover – people who leave before they have a chance to get good? This impacts my own industry (mission) because many missionaries leave at the end of their first 2 years. Few become effective before about their 6th to 10th year. It takes a long time to adjust to culture, develop relationships, and “hit their stride.” In fact many can become the “old hands on the field” simply by lasting longer than 4 years. Note some of the conclusions of the article.

  • Justin Long 9:00 am on May 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Focusing in on a specific problem 

    Part of the challenge of making a difference in the world is finding the right problem to solve.

    The world is full of problems. You can’t solve them all. You have to find something that is (a) a problem (b) that you are equipped to solve (skills, knowledge, resources), (c) that you are passionate about solving, and (d) that you can motivate others to help solve.

    The alternatives:

    (1) not identifying any problems at all (head in the sand)

    (2) being unable to do anything about any problem (ill-equipped, ill-informed, ill-educated)

    (3) being unwilling to do anything about any problem (lazy, apathetic, unpassionate)

    (4) being unconnected to enough resources to make a difference (you can’t do it on your own).

    Picking any problem at all is the first step; but picking the problem that is the match for your abilities is crucial if you are to succeed.

    (Of course, abilities can change, if you are truly passionate.)

  • Justin Long 1:50 pm on May 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Person of Peace, defined 

    At ActBeyond’s recent Global Strategy Group meeting, *SP* made this point: the Person of Peace is often mis-defined as someone who is open to talking about Jesus (spiritually open).

    That’s where a Person of Peace begins, but not where the definition ends (at least, our definition).

    A Person of Peace is:

    1) open to the message of Jesus

    2) receptive to the messenger (will invite him/her into their circle of friends/family) (“Can I come to your home” is an important filter. Are they welcoming the Gospel in, or are they just willing to tolerate me in the street?)

    3) influential in their social network, and bringing others to the message.

    These three factors converging in a single individual can be a catalytic hub for the Gospel.

  • Justin Long 1:47 pm on May 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Field Lessons Learned: Max Group Size, Max Movement Size, Leaving Soon 

    At ActBeyond’s recent Global Strategy Group, a few key lessons learned and reshared:

    1. The maximum size of the group is the size in which every group member can participate, answering all of the Bible Study questions.

    2. The maximum size of the movement is governed by the maximum number of individuals who will start/lead study groups (e.g. churches).

    3. Every story needs the full picture. Don’t start with verse 1 of the chapter if it fits in the middle of a story that began in the previous chapter.

    4. The biggest persecutor of new churches in an emerging movement is often pre-existing churches that aren’t growing and crave their growth.

    5. Thousands of workers in a field, paid minimally, desperate for any fruit (because more fruit = more money) (vanity metrics) will do whatever they can to grab the fruit of others.

    6. Leaving Soon is a key element. Leave soon, leave them Scripture, disciple from afar. Groups where leaders don’t lead, don’t multiply.

    (Thanks, *S* for sharing these lessons.)

  • Justin Long 9:00 am on May 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Not every disciple will make disciples 

    We’d like every disciple to make disciples. The result, in the words of David Platt, is multiplying churches–every time.

    The reality is, not every disciple will.

    And the fact is, not every disciple must make disciples in order for the church to multiply.

    If disciples who make disciples only double (e.g. each disciple makes 1 disciple) – then we have a problem, especially if only a small number do. This is akin to the challenge a nation faces when a father & a mother only have one child: it’s below “replacement value.”

    On the other hand, if disciples-who-make-disciples make groups, then even if only a small number do, we’ll see growth.

    Assume out of a group of 100 believers, just 5% start new groups of disciples – but each group has 5 people. 5% of 100 is 5 disciple-makers; if each has a group of 5 new believers, that’s 25 new believers. The church just went from 100 to 125.

    If this is duplicated the next year, 5% of 125 means 6 disciple makers, 30 new believers, and we’ve grown to 155.

    By year 10, at 5% disciple makers each year, the church went from 100 to 875. By year 20, it’s at 10,000.

    I’ll grant you this isn’t huge, but if you did this in a population segment of 100,000, it means you reached 10% of the population in 20 years.

    What about smaller numbers?

    2% planting groups of 5 gets you to 565 by year 20.
    3% planting groups of 5 gets you to 1,420 by year 20.
    4% planting groups of 5 gets you to 3,425 by year 20 (3% of 100,000–I know some places that would be thrilled with that).

    What if 5% each planted groups of 10? By year 20, you’d be at 316,000 – you would have easily spilled “over” the 100,000 population segment and swamped the adjoining districts.

    Don’t think you have to have everyone. Yet small improvements – from the % of disciple makers or the group size – can have incredible results over 10 or 20 years (a career). We’d like to have everyone doing it, but don’t think you can’t make a big difference with a Gideon-sized group.

  • Justin Long 9:00 am on May 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    If I tweet with the tongues of men or of angels 

    If I tweet with the skill of great men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

    If I have tweet prophetically, with great nuggets of wisdom, or with faith that can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.

    If my tweets raise tons of money, and I give all of it–and even myself over to hardship, that I may instagram it–but do not have love, I gain nothing.

    Are my tweets patient, as love is?

    Are my tweets kind, as love is?

    Are my tweets full of envy for the followers, or RTs, or even possessions of others?

    Are my tweets boastful?

    Are my tweets proud?

    Do my tweets dishonor others?

    Are my tweets seeking more things, more followers, more money for myself?

    Am I easily provoked to tweet angrily about others?

    Are my tweets maintaining a history of wrongs, of scandals, of past responses?

    Do my tweets delight in evil, or rejoice in the truth?

    Do I protect others by my tweets (or refusal to tweet?)

    Are my tweets always trusting, and asking/waiting for the other to clarify?

    Are my tweets always hopeful that something better will happen?

    Do my tweets endure and persevere?

    Love never fails.

    Facebook will cease, Twitter will be stilled, Google will pass away.

    For we know in part, and we prophesy in part… but when completeness comes, the part disappears.

    When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    Now, these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

  • Justin Long 10:37 am on May 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    When we disagree about church (or anything) 

    The kind of church that reaches unbelievers is not always (or often) the kind of church that reaches believers.

    So what happens, when one person wants to start a group, effort or church that reaches unbelievers, and those from an existing church challenge him (or her)?

    “Who gave you the right to do that? Why are you doing it that way? That’s the wrong way! You shouldn’t do that.”

    There are many potential responses, but this may be the best one:

    “Why don’t we study what the Bible has to say about it, together?”

    Can everyone make disciples? What Scriptures would you study?

    Can everyone baptize new believers? What Scriptures would you study?

    Can everyone give/take communion? What Scriptures would you study?

    Often we make knee-jerk, reflexive statements (“You shouldn’t do that” or “Of course I can do that”) without going to the Scriptures and studying it out.

    (Going to the Scriptures and studying it out does not equate to reading someone else’s one page devotional, or their commentary on the Scriptures. It means actually reading the Scriptures themselves, praying together, and discussing what they mean and how they can be applied.)

    Not everyone will agree with everyone’s interpretation of Scripture. For example, consider 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Do these Scriptures suggest that an elder in the church must be married and have children? Does this automatically disqualify anyone who is not married, or does not have children? What then does this say about those who choose to live unmarried (as Paul urged, 1 Corinthians 7), or those who are childless or barren? What about the widowed?

    If the best way is to study Scriptures together, how do you handle disagreement? What would you do?

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