Otherlyness the spirituality of serving others

No religion elevates serving others above its’ beliefs

That’s why we recite The Apostles Creed not The Apostles Deeds

When it comes to religion, practices are optional while beliefs are critical.

  • Propositions trump practice
  • Orthodoxy trumps orthopraxy
  • Certainty trumps curiosity

We consider it rude to ask others what they’re doing about their beliefs.

Instead we ask what they believe and then decide if we can fellowship with them.

“It is less important to ask a Christian what he or she believes about the Bible than it is to inquire what he or she does with it” Leslie Newbigen – Proper Confidence

I no longer think of God as a religious being – interested in rituals, bells, smells, hats and buildings.

I have come to believe that God has never paid the tiniest bit of attention to any religion ever, especially the ones (and there are many) that claim an exclusive relationship with God.

Many of us find ourselves defending a religion we don’t identify with. We feel trapped in a historical convergence. The only thing we know for sure is that we believe in Jesus, his story and we want others to experience him, as well. We feel no need to defend the “historic claims of Christianity,” but we do feel passionate about trying to live a life that attempts to imitate the values and practices of the founder of our movement. We want his story to be told through us.

The desire to tell this story in public has led us to form a new movement called Otherlyness – the spiritual practice of serving. This work resonates with us on the deepest level. It energizes us and pulls us into a future that will make the way of Jesus publicly known.

Otherlyness is revolutionary not evolutionary.

Otherlyness provides the common ground where religious and non-religious people can meet. Because is has no beliefs anyone can participate. It is designed to respond to the innate way humans learn “We do what we see not what you say”

Many Christians and non-Christians already participate in Otherlyness without calling it that. They serve in big as well as small ways. We simply want to encourage more of this behavior. We want followers of Jesus to be well known for practicing Otherlyness. We want them invite others to intentionally practice the spirituality of serving others

Providing a framework called Otherlyness, encourages people to do more of what they’re already doing. It makes serving others in small doable ways concrete and legitimate – not a side project

Following in the way of Jesus does not require belief in Jesus or God. You don’t need a higher power to practice Otherlyness. Many of us however have developed a confidence in and dependence upon the God who is Otherly. We attempt to live as if it’s true.

What do practitioners of Otherlyness do?

Three Practices

  1. Practice being unusually interested in others
  2. Practice staying in the room with difference
  3. Stop comparing your best with their worst



Leadership Training Programs Are A Waste of Time

Royalty, feudalism, dictatorships and democracy have all had their shot at defining and selling leadership. Each group claims that their way is best. At the top of each socio political pile is a small cadre of privileged and well paid people who pump out orders, threats, offers or seminars. They keep telling us “you can do it too”. They keep seducing us to sacrifice more money and intelligence. They essentially think the world needs more people like them. Then things would go well for everyone else.

I’m calling B.S.

We don’t need more leaders, especially more of the kinds of leaders who have shaped history thus far. For them leaders = power grubbers. They want us to lend them our power and trust them to use it properly. They have handed us a dangerous and divided world. They are politicians, entertainers, religionists, academics, scientists, economists – you name it, scratch a bit below the surface and for the most part you’ll find self serving leaders. Why should I listen to them? Is this the best we can do?

I’m calling B.S.

Leadership is a verb, a set of practices and behaviors. It’s not a person or a program.

Leadership inspires people to lean into their better angels

Leadership embraces power and gives it away. It shares power with others.

Leadership is what we need more of.

Leadership looks like more listening, more initiative and more adaptability.


Leaders are fine as long as they don’t get in the way of progress.

Leaders can help us by starting things and then getting out of the way.

Give me a leadership revolution

Too Many People Not Enough Time

Fifteen years ago I was asked to write a leadership development plan for a non profit organization. We had 110 employees, 25 directors and 400 volunteers serving 10,000-15,000 people each month.

In my institutional naiveté I suggested that instead of developing Leaders we should cultivate and foster leadership practices across the entire organization.

How? By focusing on what leaders do – the actual activities of leaders.

What are those?

Here’s my list: paying attention, initiative, responsibility, listening, action, curiosity, encouragement, follow through, wisdom and love.

Since the job of “Leaders” in my organization was ostensibly to deliver these actions to the 400 volunteers who in turn would deliver them to the 10,000 I had to figure out a way to do that without “using” people up while getting things done because leadership is also very much about getting your work done through other people.

As noble as our goals were, when it came to relational dysfunction, we were just as ruthless as any for profit organization. Our mission drove us to “use” people and then dispense with them. Consequently we suffered high turn over rates on staff and among volunteers.

That frustration sent me on a search to develop a system that enables organizations to consistently “deliver attention” using pre-existing relational networks and hierarchies which I will announce soon

It’s True! You really don’t have time for everyone, but everyone has time for someone.

Real Leaders see to it that everyone pays attention to someone.

 “Attention is the currency of leadership” Ron Heifetz







Silence As A Weapon

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Silence before God is admirable. Spiritual masters and mystics have turned it into an art form. Books that encourage silence such as Practicing the Presence of God have inspired millions of lives.

But silence is also a weapon spiritual leaders use to control people.

Their saying would go more like “Shut up and don’t ask any questions.”

Everyone knew Mark Driscoll was a bully- everyone that is except the people in his church who were afraid to call him out. Why? Have you ever bought a car, a house or entered into a relationship only to find out that what you’d actually bought was a lemon? How anxious were you to own your stupidity, to admit it to others let alone to yourself?

When it dawns on us that we’ve been spiritually manipulated, we’re humiliated, angry and confused. But wait there’s more! As a follower of Jesus it’s like double jeopardy – not only have I been played but now I’m also supposed to take the high ground and forgive the person who violated me.

The bully of course knows this angle and uses it to his/her advantage quite astutely. In fact they depend on you taking the high ground. They bet on it! Their unique case of emotional sickness includes the thrill of seeing how long they can avoid detection. It’s a game and they enjoy watching you spend enormous amounts of time working hard to forgive them.

Speaking of which, forgive my cynicism, I’ve earned it the hard way.

The bully knows full well that the issue isn’t about forgiveness but they aren’t going to tell you that. They’re going to let you waste as much time as possible chasing false leads. If you happen to get too close to exposing the truth they will do everything they can to discredit you or catch you on a “technicality” such as not expressing your criticism with kindness or sharing your frustration with a third party (just like they have done)

Jesus never “worked things out” with his religious opponents, he called them out, pointed them out and warned his followers to watch out for them. There’s an idealized notion of reconciliation that is leveraged by the violators. Victims are made to grovel and beg for an audience while the violators sits in a position of power and for the most part is afforded the benefit of the doubt. Why? Have you ever been a pastor? Have you ever spent years, decades with people trying to help them only to have people flip on you? I have and it sucks. No wonder we afford pastors special grace when there are misunderstandings – we ought to. They have a very difficult job. But when the person in power, pastor or not, uses silence as a weapon then they deserve to be called out in the same way Jesus called out the Pharisees.

I spent 10 years trying to get Driscoll removed from his position of influence in Seattle. I interviewed a number of former Mars Hill insiders for my book Question Mark which details our success and to a person they reported Driscolls’ unwillingness to meet with them face to face. He hid behind his position and used silence as a sacred weapon to punish people who dared to notice that the emperor had no clothes. He used silence to stall hoping people would give up and stop asking the obvious. He used silence to create an environment of fear and intimidation. He was the violator and they were the victims and he has never repented, apologized or owned his abuse with the people he actually harmed. Happily we got rid of him in Seattle but sadly Christian leaders in Phoenix have welcomed him as something of a wounded warrior who was misunderstood. Apparently Driscoll is the victim. Who knew?

The people in power are typically given the benefit of the doubt while the victims are interrogated as to their “real” motives. Why? Well it is quite the inconvenience to discover that you’ve been duped. We have all invested in communities so when the power brokers in the community begin burning our trust we don’t believe it. We don’t want to know. We blame the victim for trying to disrupt the community. We tell the victim that they are as much to blame as the violator as if there was no real power differential. We shun them using silence as a sacred weapon.

Recently I’ve been on the receiving end of silence as a weapon. I’ve experienced shunning for the first time in my life as a follower of Jesus. I have heard about it but never personally experienced it. It is disgusting to watch leaders who claim Jesus as their inspiration use silence to manipulate and control other followers.

I’ve decided that Jesus was right. The only thing you can do is point them out, call them out, and warn others to watch out.

Based on his behavior, whatever Jesus meant by “loving your enemies” did not include what they refer to in AA as “cosigning on their bullshit”. Apparently you can love your “enemy” while simultaneously working to remove your enemy.

If Mark Driscoll or my current ideological opponent ever decides to to actually repent (something violators rarely do), I’ll be the first to welcome them to the party.