hack the ministry

peers . mentors . sages . redeeming the "M” word

(206) 383-9078

There's ministry, and there's The Ministry. We always knew that. 

Now we're learning it again....

October 12, 2017—a Thursday—a network of peers, mentors and sages gather to tell stories, ask questions, and connect with others who are redeeming, reclaiming, and reframing the M word.

Breaking Up :: Lovers in a Dangerous Time

Dr. Matthew A Sutton, with his old pal, John Birch (photo by Daniel Silliman)

Dr. Matthew A Sutton, with his old pal, John Birch (photo by Daniel Silliman)

UPDATE: This event is now free, thanks to the kindness of visionary sponsors!

I don't need to tell you these are dangerous times. Our Union may not face physical peril — we all hope — but as a nation, we are in a profound relational crisis.

Americans have entered into a trial separation. Could we be heading for divorce?

We've had break ups before… every generation’s got it’s own disease, and I guess the 60s is mine — civil rights, Viet Nam, Watergate, Richard Nixon’s resignation and unconditional pardon… none of that ever completely healed… I mean, we haven’t completely healed from the Great Breakup of the 1860s have we…. The nation moved back in together, but we never really patched up our differences. These things leave a mark.


Now, once again, we're in danger. Something  has died at a fundamentally personal level. Where, once, we sent our ideological champions to fight it out in the newspapers and legislatures, now we’re screaming directly at each other on social media and actively otherizing fellow citizens and neighbors.

We can hardly remember being close enough to lean on each other, as we did for about a minute following the 9/11 attacks. What was that just 17 years ago?

Now, like rabid sports fans we proudly flaunt our stereotypes – wear them like flags — Red State / Blue State; Pro Choice / Pro Life; Gay / Straight;  Black Lives Matter / All Lives Matter…. 

These days, all we have to do is identify our home team, and the conversation is essentially over — we bellow our own fight songs at top volume and pretend the other side doesn’t even belong on the field.

The satirical magazine The Onion summed it up: “Stereotypes are a real time-saver.” 

What does this have to do with Hack the Ministry?
There came a moment when my old friend Todd Hunter and I chose very different paths. I stopped attending church and Todd became an Anglican Bishop. End of story, right?

Not right. Regardless of our differences, we've continued crossing lines and working with people both inside and outside traditional church settings and, perhaps more importantly, we're both passionate about helping young followers of Jesus avoid some of the mistakes we made — what we playfully refer to as, "saving them 10 years of stupidity."

This is why Todd and I organized a Hack The Ministry Pop-Up event for the end of the week after Easter. 

Recently, we became aware of a young history professor at Washington State University, Dr. Matthew Avery Sutton — Todd found him through a book called American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism. 

Matthew has spent years researching and writing about the outsized role evangelical/apocalyptic teaching has played in our national politics for the past 150 years. You read that right - not just the 50 years since the rise of the Moral Majority but the past 150 years.

Todd and I think Matthew's insight into how this history of political engagement contributes to where we are in this moment is very important — important for old-timers like us, and for helping young leaders get clarity on what kind of followers-of-Jesus they want to be, what kind of leaders they want to be in the kingdom of God, and what kind of Americans they want to be as they live all that out. So we asked Matthew to come to Seattle to think together for a couple of days.

That’s why  I hope you'll make time to be part of of this event, and bring some of the young people who trust you for direction, guidance and mentoring.


Jim Henderson

p.s.  I borrowed the phrase, "lovers in a dangerous time" from the songwriter, Bruce Cockburn. He ends "Lovers" with this:

     When you're lovers in a dangerous time
     Sometimes you're made to feel as if your love's a crime
     Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight
     Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight

That's what hacking the ministry is about … loving God and our neighbors enough to keep kicking the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight. People who show up in Hack the Ministry conversations and gatherings are inventing the future by hacking the best of what was with the best of what is — and we aren’t waiting for permission. 

If that sounds inviting, include yourself in.


A Hack the Ministry Pop-Up Event Feat. Dr. Matthew Avery Sutton + Bishop Todd Hunter

April 6/7, 2018 at Ballard Homestead . Seattle

Like Mike, you're a talent scout

I started teaching in 1993.  I'll pretend you're Henderson and hate math - that means I'm in my 25th year.  Pick me up and drop me in a classroom and I can tell you (within about 3 minutes) if the teacher knows what heck she's doing.

How?  Because I know what teaching talent looks like.  You could say I can smell it.  My boss here at Spring Street, Louis, is a wine-expert - he can tell what's good, what's not.  How? 25 - 30 years of tasting, experimenting and trying it.

When it comes to understanding football, I turn to Ian Boyd.  I found him on Twitter.  Like Louis with wine, and me with teaching, Ian knows football.  So when he started talking about creative solutions at Oklahoma State, I paid attention.  He shows how Mike Gundy (OK State's coach) solves the scarcity problem.

What's the scarcity problem?  Simply put, it's limited resources.  As a hacker (or football coach) you have so many holes and not enough people to plug them.  Gundy's planning for the future, because he knows that his current offensive coordinator will become a head coach.  So he looks, he's a talent scout.

So are you.  John Armstrong is a talent scout.  How do I know?  He scouted me - this fall at HTM.  He got me a scholarship to Acton Institute.  Why?  Because like every other hacker, he cares and he hopes to solve the scarcity problem - for me, for himself and for Jesus.

It doesn't matter what you're trying to do - you need more (talented) people to do it.  Jesus saw talent (potential, whatever) in Samaritans, up in trees, in the open hands of widows - basically places nobody else was ever looking.

Henderson often says, "Everything you need is right in front of you."  Often true, we're still often blind.  The beautiful thing is that same Jesus widow-guy in the tree eyesight is available to us.  The question for you is: Are you putting on those magic glasses?

Coarser is better

“Is this going to be on the test?”

Even if you're done with school, you ask this question.

  • Do I have to go to that meeting?
  • How important is this?

All of these are variations of “Is this going to be on the test?”

It’s a damned important question. Because if this is going to be

  • on the test, I better pay attention.
  • if not, no biggie.

Let’s take a different tack,

what if the test is only pass/fail?

It changes the question doesn’t it. You already know it (whatever it is) will be on the test, but the test itself is pass/fail. So, you only need to know enough to pass. No A+ or C-, just pass/fail.

Turns out the coarser the grade, the more information it provides. It's counter-intuitive. How can a 77% give me less information than a P or a F? Turns out the 77% implies specificity – it sounds like I know all I need to know - when I don't.

What about the P/F?

  • Pass? I get curious. How close was I to failing? 
  • Fail? obviously I want to know how to pass.

Many moons ago I was in a math-teacher workshop (I know Nerd-ville). Our homework one evening was to take a single student’s exam and grade it. 10 problems, you (the teacher) decide how to allot the points, 100 points total.

Guess what the scores were? Same test.

  • Highest score given was a 92,
  • lowest was a 63.
  • Same test, same answers from him.
  • 30 point difference – and we were all math teachers.

Grading's a myth. Accept it and interesting possibilities open up. When people ask you how they’re doing do you give them the 77% answer or something coarser?

It’s coarser if they ask for more – what did you mean? What do you see? Etc.

Hacking the ministry involves people and excellence.

  • Just excellent and nobody following, game over.
  • Have a group but the work isn’t excellent or improving, game over (eventually).

Are you communicating with people in a coarse enough way? Do your grading conversations lead to further refinement, curiosity, depth? Or are they in the 77% variety?

I Can Give You 1000 Words.

I Can Give You 1000 Words.

That was my offer to Pastor Bruce Logue when I invited him to present at Hack The Ministry in Seattle.

When you're accustomed to speaking every week for 40 years that offer could sound like an insult.

Which is exactly why I invited Bruce to take on the 1000 Word Challenge - He's not a Diva, He's not into himself, He's not high maintenance. He loves Jesus for real.

Up until 15 years ago Bruce and Bev followed a very traditional church career path.

He had a solid congregation, He was well paid. His church didn't want him to leave but leave he did. Bruce decided that following Jesus was more interesting and ultimately more important than taking the safe path, so at the age of 58 he and his wife packed up and head for Central California to plant a new church. 

I'll leave the rest of the story for Bruce to tell but suffice it to say it has some fascinating twists and turns.

I am so honored to have Bruce and Bev as friends. They make me look good when they stand next to me

Bruce has the unique distinction of pastoring a small church that has nevertheless established an big footprint in their city of Merced

Check out what Bruce managed to communicate in just 1000 words 

He knows how to make a big deal out of very little. 

— Jim Henderson

Hack the Ministry No. 1




Gathering with this particular (some might say peculiar) group of people, in this particular place, in the context of this particular American moment … was genuinely remarkable.

The mix of peers, mentors and sages in the room generated profound, fun, deep thinking, plenty of lively questions, and refreshingly frank - reliably gracious - responses.

We’ll have more to say as folks respond in the coming days. We’ll do our best to make meaning of the experience, and communicate what we learn, where we have new questions, and what we think it all means for people who have been, and are, and hope to redeem the “M” word. 

Meanwhile, very special thanks to the passionate innovators and practitioners around The Shoe that GrowsDinner Church Collective, Ballard Homestead, and Alexa’s Cafe & Catering They pitched in to make this happen. We hope you'll seek them out — they may be able to serve you — you may be able to serve with them.