January 2024

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Identity Battles

When something is part of our identity, we are willing to fight to the death over it.

When something about our identity shifts, it can be a crushing, wrecking experience. This can unleash a grieving process for what was lost or changed.

How many things do I squawk over - not because it’s Biblical, but because it’s part of my religious identity? Something I don’t want to lose, don’t want to go through a grief process over, something in me that I don’t want to die?

When someone is ready to argue heatedly, to fight over something, it’s a good clue less about what they consider to be true and more about what they consider to be part of their personal identity.

(Social media posts have often been called ‘Rorschach tests’ for peoples’ perhaps subconscious perceptions of their identity—as revealed by how they react to the post.)

Rather than argue heatedly, the best question I’ve heard to respond is:

  • Don’t ask “what kind of person does that” or “believes that” or “says that”
  • Ask rather, “what happened to you, that brought you to the point of that decision?”

In other words, ask what formed a person’s identity such that there is something they are ready to fight over it? This response emphasizes a search for empathy and understanding in conversation - seeking to understand the experiences and events that shaped a person’s understanding of their identity. An empathetic approach to others’ identity formation will foster deeper connection and reduce conflict.


Crossing the chasm

“Crossing the Chasm” is a well known concept in technology circles:

The important finding is that what draws innovators and early adopters is not the same thing that draws late early adopters and early majority.

innovators - pursue tech aggressively, intrigued by any fundamental advance early adopters - not techies, but relate potential benefits to other concerns - buying a change agent early majority - buying a productivity improvement - practical, avoid fads, wait to see others late majority - uncomfortable with tech, wait until established standard, large companies laggards - don’t like new tech, won’t buy it until it is embedded and invisible. The “chasm” is the difficulty in presenting to the new group (e.g. early adopters) in the same way as the previous group (e.g. innovators) - what appeals to one will not appeal to the other.

Has anyone considered, talked about, or written about how this concept applies to the growth of the church, movements, and the saturation of a particular region?

Is there a “spiritual adoption lifecycle” or a “religion adoption lifecycle”?



We measure what matters.

We show what matters by what we measure.

A metric without a clear understanding of how to change it is useless.

Az dūr baṛī khūsh ast. (From afar, the mountains are smooth.) We sometimes measure what seems to matter, or what would feel good to matter, but on closer inspection and deeper thought, actually doesn’t matter at all. (#vanitymetrics - page views, social media followers, etc).

“If a metric won’t change how you behave, it’s a bad metric.”


Powered Encounters

In Western nations, a lot of Christianity and arguments about Christianity seem centered around proving it and what we believe.

When I talk with movements in Africa and Asia, I am struck by how much Christianity and follow Jesus is not centered around what they believe, but who they believe in. The miraculous, healings from diseases and power encounters that release people from demonic oppression, are the keys to rapid movement growth.

It’s worth remembering that in large swathes of the world, atheism and agnosticism aren’t driving factors or even all that common. People are religious more than they are non-religious.

It is true that there are secularized forms of Islam, Hinduism, etc. But there are also large swathes of folk religion, superstition, and a respect for God and spiritualism. If we go expecting agnosticism we will be surely shocked.

To examples from today:


Drought and Climate

Two articles in my scanning remind me that many people - especially in the unreached world - are facing significant climate-related issues, which are driving much of the migration and conflict.


Women as Global Leaders

A great new long read from Mary Ho on growing global women leaders. Link

This reminds me of two other resources:


Covid, again

There’s a major Covid surge on right now. It hasn’t made nearly the same kind of media splash that it did back in 2020 and 2021, of course—but it’s still having an impact.

A number of international conferences are being held, so it’s something to be mindful of. Covid will continue to disrupt travel and collaboration. When I head out in February, I’ll probably be masking up. I, for one, don’t really want to come home and spend two weeks of the month getting over Covid, yet again.


Cities over 10 million

What are the largest cities - the ones over 10 million? Or over 5 million? How are these important to the remaining task?

The exact count of cities in a certain population range depends in part on how those cities are defined and measured. Wikipedia on the largest cities (here) notes the UN’s use of three different definitions - the city proper, the extent of the urban area, and the metropolitan area.

By most definitions, Tokyo appears to be the largest city in the world, at least as measured in 2018 (the latest data readily to hand). It then had 37 million people in its metropolitan area (widest definition), and 13 million in the city proper. Over 100 countries - or half the world - have populations of less than 10 million, so the city of Tokyo is itself larger than the majority of the world’s countries.

In all, the Wikipedia article cited above (based on UN cities data) lists 22 cities that are more than 10 million in size at their narrowest definition (city proper) and 33 more than 10 million at widest definition. There are 48 larger than 5 million in size (city proper) and 81 at widest.

This accounted, in 2018, for over 854 million people - nearly 1 out of 8 people on our planet (12%) are in one of these 81 cities. While exact figures aren’t readily available, this would definitely translate to well over a billion people—perhaps as much as 1.6 billion?—in the metropolitan areas surrounding these cities.

Reaching the cities, then, means reaching as much as 10 to 20% of the population of our planet. Further, there’s an obvious strategic importance in that people in the cities will have ties to nearby, more rural areas—and people in some global cities will have ties back to places they originated from (like Bangladeshis in London, for example).

There is a challenge in reaching cities—the agglomerations are less amenable to the ‘people group’ approach that has dominated much of our missiological thinking and conversation. Nevertheless, the numbers involved suggest that we must balance city-based strategies with people group-based strategies in some way.


Numerators and Denominators

Don’t fixate on the numerator to the exclusion of the denominator.

A needle can be extraordinary - 10X, even 100X the size of a normal needle - and yet still be a very small part of the overall haystack it’s in.


My email solution

Searching my email doesn’t really work for me. This article explains why it’s hard.

If it’s hard for you too, here’s what I’ve done. It may or may not work for you.

First, I tried out hey.com. In the long run, hey.com didn’t work for me - it was expensive for what it offered. BUT, I picked up a couple of interesting things. I deleted a bunch of folders I had in Gmail, and reorganized around a small, select group:

Blogs - which is where essays, editorials, and blog-ish kinds of subscriptions go. News - (hey) - where pretty much all news articles go (I receive probably +150 to 200 daily). Notifications - I set up rules where any notification (e.g. “New subscription to Roundup!”) go. Paper Trail - (hey) - I set up rules so any receipts go here, … and I religiously move anything that falls through the cracks. Travel - anything to do with travel gets labeled here too (even if also in paper trail).

These folders help me increase the probability of finding really key things I’m looking for. The Atlantic article linked above explores why it’s hard to find my airplane ticket. Marketing them into paper trail, and then into travel, when they come in, helps me insure I’ll find them - or at least give me a much smaller haystack to search in.

Reducing the number of folders to these six means I have to “think less” about which folder something goes into. Generally, if it’s going into a folder, there should be a rule that gets automatically applied. I shouldn’t have to manually do it. (The only exception is the Travel folder—but even here, I have a number of rules I’m starting to apply for things like Expedia, etc.)

Second, I began numbering my outbound correspondence. You may have noticed, if you get an email from me, that there’s a number at the bottom (usually) - e.g. “2312.02.” It’s a simple numbering scheme: YearMonth.EmailNumber. I manually index these in a Note file for each month. Now, you may think “I send way too many emails to do that.” I thought it too - but then I realized, I don’t actually send that many outbound emails that I’ll need to come back to later. I don’t number every outbound email - just the ones I think I might need to look up again. In November, I had 38 of those. August was my high month: 152.

Why do this? Because it’s a LOT easier to do a search for a specific email number (e.g. 2308.152—I just searched for it, and it returns the very specific email) than to try to find an email from a person or an email about a topic. Plus, I can go back and scan my email files, and see who I’ve talked to, and about what subjects, in any given month.

YMMV from these hacks, of course. If you’ve got other working hacks, I’d love to hear them. Send an email to justinlong@gmail.com.


All times are now

If God is outside time, such that “all times are now to him,” then there is no moment in time where He is not actively seeing, actively present, actively loving, actively drawing.

It’s not that He loves me before I was born, or that He will love me some time in the future, so much as it is that He is loving me right now, in this moment, eternally.

And you.