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May, 2012


Are you delegating responsibilities or jobs?


It’s easy to delegate jobs: a simple matter of discernment as to who has the best skillset for the task at hand, and sometimes a bit of chasing up. It’s harder to delegate responsibilities – to give others real ownership of what they are asked to do.

Picture of a cane and vine

Photo: VogliadiTerra, reused under CC license

When I’m delegating responsibilities:

  • there’s a time for training
  • there’s a time for feedback
  • but then, crucially, there’s a time for being happy with their work, and for being happy that it is their work.

That’s a part I can struggle with. Only a few days ago, I went back over someone else’s work to make tiny improvements; but if I keep on doing this, all I will have given them is a job to do – not a responsibility. And without delegating responsibilities, I’m not encouraging leaders to grow naturally from within my group: I’m stifling that growth.

Of course, there’s always excuses for stepping in: driving the standards up, “training”, achieving consistency over a wider project, etc. And if the mistakes are enormous, it’d be stupid not to. But sometimes, those are just excuses.

How do you make sure that you delegate responsibilities as well as jobs?

Christianity in the online world

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I was offered to give a talk last Thursday at Christian Focus, at Warwick Uni. As blogging is something I started to take more seriously over the past few months, and because it has become more important in my life, I felt that it would be a good opportunity to personally reflect on how this online-ness fitted in my life. I also thought that, as several initiatives such as try to work out ways to use the internet to evangelise, and as viral videos such as this one recently took my facebook wall by storm, it would be good to share these insights with my student friends.

I recorded the talk, most of which you can listen to here, but will outline some of the points below:

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In short, I think that being online changes our life, and in particular our Christian life, in three main ways:

1. Anonymity

The Internet brings the possibility of anonymity. This has its blessings, as it is a safe environment to go to, without the constant fear of losing face or standing: on the Internet, through anonymity, you can ask questions you wouldn’t necessarily dare to ask. Our prayer requests online can become more sincere and personal as the risk of losing face disappears, and as the need to look holy subsides.
It is also a safety net for experiments, such as, for me, this blog when I started it: I did not know where it would lead, but if I failed, I could always start something else and just forget about this blog. This is a luxury in many real-life cases.
Of course, it also is an open door for trolling and abuse, and ill-thought harsh words. And as there is no relationship involved, the receiving of the message is completely dissociated from its broadcasting.

2. Increased choice

This dissociation also happens in real life, when people choose books, or churches: choice happens in real life as well as online. But, online, the pool from which we choose is much wider. A better fit to what we resonate to, is available. The people whose blogs I chose to follow and regularly read tend to post content to which I would say “yes! that makes sense!” than those that would make me go away troubled. Maurillio Amorim recently posted about the illusion of knowing what we want and how, effectively, through giving us more choice, we are denied real influence.
I don’t only choose what I read. I also choose what I write. The capacity to edit is part of that choice.
What this means at the end of the day is that my Internet experience of Christianity is very much me-shaped. I take on what mirror images of me say and believe it to be influence, while I dismiss more easily the bits that I disagree with.

3. Constant fragmentation

This ability to switch off is present everywhere. We have browsers with many tabs (as I’m writing this, I have seven tabs open, and I got distracted by something and now have twelve) and compartmentalise the discrete bits of information into those very short-term placeholders. As such, this information is only affecting us at the surface level, for a very limited part of our identity. Moreover, online, we share information – and the exchange has a tendency to remain at the cognitive level.
Online, we get the illusion of being completely engaged, because we are reachable 24/7, and because we have access to stuff at our own convenience; and, worse, we get interrupted from real life experience by texts/emails/other online elements. That fragmentation is threatening to be pervasive into our own lives.

How have you seen your identity change when online?

Today’s nations

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I find it difficult to understand the word “nation”. The modern world seems to have turned to the individual, rather than the nation, as its cornerstone. It doesn’t help that the way nations are talked about in the Bible shift from a specific group of people, circumscribed geographically, to a much larger meaning, referring to all of God’s people.

Image credit: Suttonhoo reused under CC license

This makes it harder to find talk about nations relevant. It seems distant. When we talk of other nations, we translate it directly into “other countries”, other states, geographically distant, and therefore not tangible, not real to us. How we react to our own country depends heavily on which country we consider as ours.

So I have a tendency to overlook those bits. A tendency to not let those words sink in.

But the malleability of the word “nation” through the Bible makes me think that we should, perhaps, modernise our understanding of it, turning it towards, for once, the individual. Not to celebrate the individual, but to let that individual be transformed through and through.

So now, when I see the word nation, and when it makes sense to do so, I think of the different “nations” within me – of the different parts of my identity which may not all be yet under God, and I take the Great Commission also inwardly: to make disciples of all the nations in me. Re-reading the Psalms under that new light can be challenging (118 in particular).

The Great Commission

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“Winning the brother or sister isn’t – in the perspective of St Antony – a matter of getting them signed up to something, getting them on your side, but opening doors for them to God’s healing. If you open such doors, you ‘win’ God, because you become a place where God ‘happens’ for someone else, where God comes to life for someone in a new and life-giving way – not because you are good and wonderful but because you have allowed the wonder and goodness of God to appear (and you may have no idea how).”

Rowan Williams, Silence and Honey Cakes – The wisdom of the desert, pp. 104-105

The Eleven were sent off to make disciples of all nations. Not converts. Not “Christians”, not in the way the word is seen in today’s secular world.

Disciple-making is not about:

  • simply handing out leaflets or distributing bibles
  • hammering God into every conversation until you get a Yes or ruin a relationship
  • convincing others that our beliefs are true and simply going through a description of sin, penal substitution, grace and salvation.

And of course, that’s not what we do, not what we want to do. What we aspire to do is to build relationships with the people we talk to and, indeed, “open doors for them to God’s healing”. We want to restore that actual relationship with God, through us. And that has to be relational, so it’s not simply about getting more people to reach the same decision as you. But then…

  • why do we judge the success of an evangelistic event by the number of people who “became Christians” there and then?
  • why is the heart of visible evangelism event-based? (talks, debates, books, street evangelism, …)

And much, much more importantly… what are our motives when we pray for people to “become Christians”?