Who is John Mark?

This is one of the things I'm hoping to skip over and not get bogged down in during tomorrow night's Large Group talk.

John Mark is a shadowy figure. No one knows for sure if there is one Mark talked about in the New Testament or two or three or five.

Here's where the name shows up:

Acts 12:12 - people were gathered at John, also called Mark's house to pray for Peter's safe release from prison (it was actually Mary, John Mark's mother's house, but mom's house is always your house, right?)

Acts 12:25 - Barnabas and Saul take John, also called Mark, with them when they leave Jerusalem

Acts 13:5 - John serves as a helper for Barnabas and Saul in Cyprus at Salamis

Acts 13:13 - John leaves Paul and his companions as they head to Perga in Pamphylia (no one knows exactly why...was it exhaustion? fear? racism? disbelief?)

Acts 15:36-41 - Barnabas and Paul have a huge falling out over whether or not to take John, also called Mark, with them on their next missionary journey. Barnabas takes John with him to Cyprus and Paul strikes out with Silas.

Colossians 4:10 - Paul shares greetings from Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, and asks the church to welcome him if he comes by

Philemon 24 - Mark is listed as one of Paul's fellow-workers

2 Timothy 4:11 - Paul asks Timothy to bring Mark to him while he's imprisoned in Rome, since "he is helpful to me in my ministry"

1 Peter 5:13 - Peter's "son" Mark sends greetings in the closing of the book

If that wasn't enough, the Second Gospel is attributed to a dude named Mark, who was, according to the tradition laid down by Papias, Peter's scribe in Rome.

Following that tradition, some have suggested that Mark inserted an autobiographical reference into his gospel (Mk. 14:51-52, which provides the New Testament basis for streaking).

So, with all of this, I still think that all these Marks are the same Mark, John Mark, cousin of Barnabas, son of Mary (not that Mary), one-time failed missionary, scribe to Peter, author of my favorite Gospel and all around bad dude.

But if there are multiple Marks and the Mark Barnabas fought for never proved helpful to Paul or son/scribe to Peter, hmmm...it might detract from my point for tomorrow (Invest your life in other people), but not by much. I think Barnabas probably did the right thing to give Mark a second chance, even if he never turned out to be anything special in the history of the movement. People matter. They matter to us because they matter to God.

New song at Large Group

We sang a new song at Large Group this week (at least, it was new to us). I love the line (about 2/3 through the song) that says "He who lives to be my King once died to be my Savior." Check out the song and lyrics on this video:

Be honest about your commitment to God and God's people

I really struggle to be honest sometimes. I've unfortunately found that I can fake a deeper commitment to people and to God than I really have and that, most times, no one seems to notice. But I know that God desires better things for us.

Tonight's talk skipped around the Bible's introduction to Barnabas, a man who seems to be following me (in a sense) since the Beach Retreat during my Senior year at Duke. Barnabas' introduction comes as an illustration of what it would look like to live out the radical commitment to God and community talked about in Acts 4:32-35. Someone actually lived like this! His name was Joseph and he was re-named Barnabas.

Barnabas is contrasted with Ananias and Sapphira, who show up in Acts 5, a man and a woman who were not honest about their commitment to God and God's people. They, like me, hoped to benefit from the claim to commitment without experienceing the suffering and struggle and trial and hardship and sacrifice of actually living the committed Christian life in the midst of this wild community.

Check out tonight's Large Group talk and be honest about your commitment...
Barnabas (pt. 1)

The Five Dysfunctions of a GCF?

I think I spent most of last year trying to avoid conflict.

But Patrick Lencioni, in his The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, claims "all great relationships ... require productive conflict in order to grow" (p. 202).

What's going on here?

Lencioni uses an extended fable to describe the dynamics of high-functioning teams. In this fable, a struggling IT company hires Kathryn to be their new CEO and help them fix whatever mysterious thing it is that's keeping them from achieving what they set out to achieve. Kathryn focuses on their teamwork (or lack thereof) and challenges her company to move toward more trusting, honest, committed, accountable and results-aware teams.

The folks on Core Group found a lot in the book to help us grow as a community, but the one idea that really impacted for me is the need for productive, ideological conflict. What a challenge! If a team really has established trust and we know that we care about each other and want what's best for each other, then we should be able to passionately pull of the things we care about. That just doesn't happen around me.

I know that I try to stave off conflict, forge compromises, avoid disputes. What happens, then, is that, because people never have the freedom to voice their concerns, they never really commit to the things they were concerned about. According to Lencioni, you can't have full commitment, accountability and all that unless you're willing to engage in productive conflict.

Some of the changes Core Group is making this year are going to reflect this truth. We'll be trying to create more space for productive conflict, for honest sharing of concerns and dialogue.

We may end up doing the same things we would have done otherwise, but hopefully we'll be moving forward as a team, not just a collection of individuals.

As living members of the body of Christ, we need each other. We need teams.