Where do you get your energy?

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Creativity, writes,

“Each of us is born with two contradictory sets of instructions: a conservative tendency, made up of instincts for self-preservation, self-aggrandizement, and saving energy, and an expansive tendency made up of instincts for exploring, for enjoying novelty and risk–the curiosity that leads to creativity belongs to this set.”

I’m writing this short article in conjunction with IMN consultant Dale Swinburne’s piece on “Energy.” In his piece Dale asks:

Where does energy come from?
How much does energy cost to fill up on?
How can you use energy most efficiently?
When is energy wasted?

His piece is about an energy crisis of a personal nature, the human energy crisis.
My goal in this piece is to create a desire to cultivate the second in the set of contradictory instructions.

Let’s face it, not much has to be done to motivate us towards self-preservation. In our natural world, we all know that survival is both a primal mover and shaper of the human will. The second set of instructions, oddly enough, require some nurture. Like a mother bird pushing a baby bird out of the nest, where the hatchling was getting along just fine, we need a nudge to risk following our instincts to explore.

Our churches suffer from settling in on one side of this equation. They nest. They become inert. We can all complain about that. But, the truth is that even we leaders eventually, slowly, and surely, like the proverbial frog in the kettle of water that is being brought to a slow boil suddenly finds himself cooked, find ourselves content to finally settle in and get comfortable.

There are three forces at work in the world that make it impossible for us to nest happily.

  • The first is the world. The world is not right. This fact irritates us like an itch that simply cannot be ignored.
  • The second is the spirit of Christ. It motivates like a fire underneath a kettle. Eventually, the heat that has been building within the water must burst through the surface of the seemingly calm water in an eruption of energy.
  • The third is our own nature. We must explore and risk and create. As a species, Homo Sapiens cannot tolerate long periods of boredom.

We are not at our best when we are in a self-preservation mode. That’s why one of the major leadership tasks of our age is to nurture the human spirit of exploration and creativity. We need to help create momentum where there is inertia. Many of us are stuck in organizational structures that once helped us maximize our freedom to create and work together. But now these church structures are like old wineskins, unable to contain our creative capacities. In order to get our communities moving again, we’ll need to forget structure, policies and planning and go back to answer a primal and fundamental question: why did we come here to begin with? [Now read the text in the image above].

An eruption of energy waits for us at the end of that question.

Here is the thought for you leaders for ponder. The way you energize human community is what characterizes you as a leader. So, how do you maintain the high energy level required for this task?

What do you think?


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6 responses to “Where do you get your energy?”

  1. Alex Avatar

    John, wow. The energy of your comment was like a 5+ rapid. thanks for adding your voice to the conversation.

  2. Gnotek Avatar

    I think the answer is quite simple though this may seem a complex question, so let me complicate the answer in order to seem normal and justified.

    Within our “structures,” are we reaching out to the poor [in spirit] or preaching to the choir? Do the dead [in spirit] flock to our structural edifices to fill our pews? If so, good keep doing what you are doing. If not, why? Perhaps the answer does lie within the old wineskin—or within any wineskin—old or new! Creative energy is like water through your fingers, the only way to contain it is to freeze it. To truly utilize it is to release it, like freedom, like thought, like free will.

    And if energy is not to be contained, what do you do with it? Look at it? Listen to it? Smell it? Touch it? Taste it? Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. You experience it, THEN you ride it. You ride it like a wild river taking you to where it will take you. Through contemplative meadows of tranquility, through foreboding canyon towers, through rushing rapids of peril and danger, through wondrous beauty and occasionally over the edge of a fall. Sometime floating lazily looking up into the blue void, sometimes slumbered in a vessel with witness of time and history twinkling above, and sometimes swimming furiously for life and limb. Now you have experienced energy. You’ve ridden a force. You’ve lived. Now you have something to share.

    You cannot share something you don’t possess. And as a man or woman we really don’t possess anything, it tends to possess us. Same with this creative energy. We don’t possess a brush stroke or a note. We don’t possess an idea. Should we try to possess or contain a brush stroke, a note, an idea, or salvation we freeze it. Enshrining it in our mind or in our church. Spiritual masturbation at best.

    To let this energy have its way and serve its natural course it must flow and we then must be a conduit if we are to divert it to irrigate dry lands off the natural flow. You cannot call the desert to the mountaintop, but you can divert the mountain spring waters to the desert. Sure you can put spring water in little plastic bottles, but that’s simply a drop and just temporarily satisfies thirst. You must have a continuous supply to live.

    In short, how do you maintain the high energy level to energize human community? First, you yourself must free-flow experience. Then you must share your experience. Intimately. Testify to your experience! And, generally speaking, you must take your experiences and testimony of your experience TO parched ears; for they won’t hear your call through a frozen cube. It will LOOK obscured [and unnatural], and do I need to say what it will smell like?

    The first gen disciples personally rode that energy wave. They experienced Truth first hand. They let the Truth possess them and were supercharged. They had direct experiences and they shared those experiences. They didn’t create temples to contain Truth. They themselves plugged into Truth and became living temples, diverting Light into dark places.

    Not to say church gatherings are faulty or wrong. Not at all. A lot of good can come from churching in a man made edifice. It’s that bottle of water. That bottle that may sustain the dehydrated person until rescue. It may actual save a life. But it is still contained energy. For the energy, Truth, to really flow it can’t be an ice cube for a desert sojourner to strive for. A church must be a live wire conduit to truly serve purpose, to truly be alive and constantly maintain a high charge, otherwise like an exhausted battery, it’s short-lived, exhausted and soon dead. Useless.

  3. aaron Avatar

    can in no way keep my energy focused as long and precise as did Gnotek…but I’ll give it a stab.
    Energy self produced out of sure comfort, or self preservation without a bit of an uncertain bite…will be shortly lived.

    Energy must be produced from one foot in self preservation camp, and one foot in charge the world camp…both aligned with our King!

  4. Alex Avatar

    Scot Longyear coins a new phrase after reading Dale Swinburne’s article on Energy. Here it is: Energy Generating Mode (EMG).

  5. John D Avatar
    John D

    I had to check out this blog on energy sources, since I just read through the “Elijah Outta Gas” story in 1 Kings 19…highly recommended for further reflection on your question, “Where Does The Energy Come From?”

    Well, first off in the story, it came from sheer panic. That’s right. Survival instincts DO energize in a counter-productive sort of way. But then, when all the man wanted to do was die–or at least roll over and go to bed–there were grace guardians at his side, helping him go on.

    He sought energy at Mount Horeb, where epic events of the past might do an encore. But he heard God speak into His solitude. And that seems to be where and how God’s servant had his strength and sense of call restored. That’s where he was redirected… into a ministry of praparing other leaders at that.

  6. Alex Avatar

    John, Thanks. That’s right. Elijah hears God’s voice while in hiding and recovers his energy.

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