Finding Abundant Communities in Unexpected Places

Finding Abundant Communities in Unexpected Places
Conversation with Mike Mather ~ June 18, 2019

About every six weeks for the last five years, John and Peter have hosted online / dial-up conversations with community-building social innovators as their guests. For their June 18, 2019 dialog Pastor Mike Mather of Broadway UMC in Indianapolis shows why John says Mike is one of the few people who have implemented Asset-Based Community Development more courageously or completely. 

John McKnight has said that he knows of few people who have implemented Asset-Based Community Development more courageously or completely than Mike Mather. “The issues our organizations and people face cannot be cured by technique,” Mike says, “whether that technique is creating a new worship service, erecting a new building, storytelling, or establishing an economic and community development program.” Mike knows that we already have the tools we need. We just have to reclaim them and not be afraid to use them. He says, “I try to remember those words that appear in Scripture so often: ‘Fear not.'”

John and Peter talk with Indianapolis’s Broadway UMC Pastor Mike Mather about what he means when he says we already have the tools we need to reimagine community and work with our neighbors to tap into the abundance around us. “I began my ministry,” Mike says, “seeing scarcity, seeing only the need and the things that seemed to be missing in the neighborhoods in which I pastored….I used to do things for people that pelple can in fact do for themselves, No longer,” he says. “I expect more from people than I used to, and wonders pour forth.”



John McKnight: The thing that I have always noticed about you is that you have never had a common thought in your life. Somehow you come at things in a way that is different than almost everybody else. I thought it might be useful to be getting to ask you, how did you get that way? What happened to you that you ended up having such a wonderfully wise understanding of your life and various lives?

Mike Mather: I think I started out thinking fairly conventionally. When I first came to Broadway Church here in Indianapolis, I thought I was coming to work in the inner city and be helpful in low-income communities and help solve the problems. And I would help by teaching people, leading people because everybody needs is a 26-year-old with 19 years of education to solve their problems. Phil Amerson had asked me to come and work with him at Broadway to run the outreach programs in our low-income, low-wealth community here in Indianapolis. And so we ran all the traditional programs that lots of churches did; we were running a summer program, which was basketball for the boys and cheerleading for the girls. And very painfully, we changed.

  It took a couple years, but we built each week around a spiritual principle, and we started every day with devotions and we ended every day with devotions. We had 250 young people, nine to five, every day… This was all, John, me thinking very conventionally along these ways, and people were affirming me with that all the time. We got a lot of attention for it. People felt great about what we were doing, people in the church did. People in the community affirmed us. It all felt good. But the last nine months I was here in 1991, I did nine funerals for young men under 25 years old in the four-block radius around the church, and it kicked the heck out of me. And it kicked the conventional thinking I guess out of me in a way. People kept saying, “Oh, but if you wouldn’t have been doing this, it would’ve been worse.” I kept thinking, “Well, first of all, no, and second of all, even if you’re right, this isn’t enough.”

  So I left here with this question in my mind about what can I do better, how can I do this better, how can I actually do something that might be useful. I was sent up to the low-income community in South Bend, Indiana to a small church with about 40 people in it, and we had a food pantry. When people came to the food pantry, we asked people how poor they are. How much is your income and how much is your expenses? These were the type of questions we asked in Indianapolis. So people would tell us, “Well, my income’s $600 a month and my expenses are $1200 a month.” Well, there wasn’t anything we could do with that information at all.

  So we came to Pentecost in 1992, and we read that passage in scripture from Acts about the Pentecost. Later at lunch, this woman says to me, “You said up there that Peter reading from the prophet book of Joel said that God’s spirit fell down on all people, young and old, women and men.” I thought, “Man, I’m a great preacher. It’s a half an hour later, and she remembers what I said. I’m awesome.” And I said, “That’s right.” She said, “So how come you don’t treat people like that?” And I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “Well, when people come to the food pantry, you ask people how poor they are. If you believe God’s spirit pours down on all people, how come you aren’t asking that?” So we started asking her questions about that. We started asking people who came to the food pantry 10 pages of questions.

  Actually, John, it was something you had put together in Chicago I think from Lawndale neighborhood that they used for people in laundromats. So I asked people 10 pages of questions about, “Have you taken care of older folks? Have you taken care of children? Have you done it because you got a job, because they’re members of your family? Can you fix a toaster? Can you drive a car? Can you play a musical instrument? Do you sing? Have you cooked for more than 10 people? Have you cleaned up after more than 10 people?” And we asked three questions at the end, “What three things do you do well enough you could teach somebody else how to do it? What three things would you like to learn that you don’t already know? And how besides God and me is going with you along the way?”

  One of the first people who came was a little woman who lived half a block from the church named Adele, and she told us she’s a good cook. So we said, “Prove it.” She said, “What do you mean?” “Well, cook for the custodian, secretary, and pastor lunch on Friday.” So she cooked for us. It was great. So leadership of the neighbor organizations group, said, “Don’t eat somewhere else. Be here at the church and let Adele cook for you.” And she cooked for more and more and more things in the community. Studebaker Elementary at a PTA meeting, Health Center at an open house, at Memorial Hospital at a press conference all needed food.

  Well, then the Chamber of Commerce called. “We want to have an all-day meeting of our leadership program in your church building.” Well, we said, “That works. You can do that.” They said, “Since we’re going to be there all day, we need to use your kitchen.” We said, “Well, you can use our kitchen, but we would prefer you use our cater.” So we took $20 and bought her 1000 business cards. La Chaparrita Catering, spiced Mexican food, and she fed 70 business leaders in the community. And through that, she got connected to the Association. And a year and a half later, she opened Natalie Fajitas at the corner of Eighth and Harrison in Elkhart.

  Now if we had asked her when she showed up, “Tell us how poor you are,” we would have all ended up poorer for it, and we would’ve missed up on a lot of great food.

John McKnight: I wonder after you get done asking a person all these questions about what they can do, that information, but do you notice any effect on these people of that very process itself?

Mike Mather: Sure. When people come to us before, we’re always asking what people were missing and what people didn’t have. And they came in with their heads down, and they walked out with their heads down. At first, people didn’t believe we really wanted to know what people were gifted at. You start asking 10 pages of questions, and people start to believe, “Well, maybe you are serious.” And people then start lighting up and tell you what they love to do and what they care about. When somebody tells you they’re a good cook, you add followup questions, right? Like, “What do you cook well?” So they’ll tell you they either bake or they grill out well or they do this or that. So it changed the way we began to see them altogether.

Peter Block: Let me ask, did you shut down a summer program? 250 kids is a lot of kids. And what price did you pay for shutting down the summer program?

Mike Mather: We did. When I came back in 2003 to Indianapolis, we did shut it down actually, and there was… Yes. So the price to pay was twofold. One was there were parents in the neighborhood who were like, “Hey, we used to drop off our kids here. How come we can’t do that anymore?” And there were people in the church who really loved what we did, and so we’re like, “Hey, how come we’re not doing this anymore?” And what we would say to those people inside the walls and outside of the walls of the church is, “If you want to do this, do it. If you want me to do this, that’s a different question.” But we did a different thing. What we did was we hired young people who live in our neighborhood, and we paid them to meet their neighbors. So they do three things:  finding the gifts, talents, dreams, and passions they find in the lives of their neighbors. The second thing is they blessed them. They publicly celebrated their neighbors. And the third thing is they connect them to other people who care about the same thing.

  So if they find cooks, they get the cooks together. If they find people who love to fish, they put them together. If they find engineers, they put them together. They just put people together more and more and more just around the things people commonly love and care about. So we replaced what we did before, but it wasn’t easy. I had a friend who talks about the sermon by nausea. That’s what it felt like. We need to change this but this isn’t going to be fun. But people would say, “Why did you change it?” We said, “What we were doing wasn’t very helpful.” It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t hurting anybody, but it wasn’t doing anything particularly useful and helping people recognize and see the usefulness of each other.

  But, yes, people did push back against it.

  People say to me sometimes, “Well, wasn’t that hard?” And I say, “Yes, but I’m a pastor of a church. Everything’s hard.”

  Something hard or not hard, the question is do you want people pushing back against something that you believe in or just pushing back.

Peter Block: It also strikes me in your choice, you gave up scale. First thing you said describing the summer camp was how many people there were. And 250’s impressive, don’t you think? You chose something smaller scale, which you felt probably changed the life of the students, the kids as much as it did the people that they were bringing together.

Mike Mather: Oh, sure. Yeah. And they talk about that. Those young people, Jaylyn and Jadyn who are leading it this summer, they’re 20 year old twins. And they’ve been working in this doing this for seven years already by themselves. It’s just great talking to them about this.

John McKnight: You’re a pastor, Mike, and how do you think about what a church is these days? I heard all over the country there are people who are pastors who are trying all kinds of new ways because they don’t see the present system approach is attracting people. But how do you think about it?

Mike Mather: Well, the way we think about it around here is that it isn’t through the programs we do that things change. It’s by people paying attention to each other and loving each other. I think we think of what we do as a church is keep trying to find ways to get people to fall in love with each other. So in whatever ways we can do that. Usually that’s not through the programmatic effort, but it is through what people do in their lives in the world. So in the work that they do, whether it’s as a teacher or as a neighbor or as a parent or as a friend that it’s those ways that people effect things. When we pay attention to that giftedness around us, things get healthier, a little bit more mutual delight among each other. Another thing is money circulates more.

Peter Block: John asked a question, what is the church now, how do you see the church? Best response, a lot of pastors are in a parental spot. Maybe you choose the job because of that, but I hear a lot of struggle as you move into more communal way of being. What’s your experience of kind of how you handle some people’s expectation of you as being father?

Mike Mather: Several years ago one of the pillars of our church slammed her fist down on the table at a meeting and said, “We do less than we used to.” And I said, “Yes, isn’t that great?” I mean, what I try to do is try to just remind people in every way we can. So it affects what we do in worship. It affects what we do every time we have a meeting, and by that I mean yes, there’s pushback, but because in worship every Sunday we invite somebody who before we might’ve invited to share something about some need they have. And now we have the same person come but instead of talking about that, talk about something they love. So that people begin to see differently and fall in love with each other.

  The other thing is in meetings we have, we always take time to do that. In fact, at the governing counsel of our church, overwhelmingly what we do at the meeting is we invite people both from inside and outside the church to come and tell us about some gift that they have, something they care deeply about, something they love. And then we have people do something. So yes, again, there’s not a way to do something in the church where there’s not pushback, but then when people are busy talking to each other, sharing with each other about what they love, that ends up taking over the conversation. Not that the other conversation still doesn’t poke up its head.

  In fact, John, you were talking about how churches these days are struggling a lot and how do we go forward. With what’s happening with the church in the United States, a way to promote your church is not to say, “Hey, come help us not die.” You know? But instead of what we’re talking about is the giftedness all around us in the community, both inside and outside of our walls. Then we spend all of our time trying to keep up with the giftedness, and that’s a very different thing to spend our time with.

John McKnight: So what you’re saying is that you’re focusing on their relationship with each other in a positive way.

Mike Mather: Yes.

John McKnight: Helps raise more money.

Mike Mather: Yes.

John McKnight: Because some of the… We might associate wealth with a desire for strong leadership? And what you’re saying is you’re looking for that kind of leadership. You may not find it in me or reluctantly at times or accidentally at times.

Mike Mather: Yes.

John McKnight: But actually this has a positive impact on people’s generosity to the church.

Mike Mather: We think it not only has a positive reaction for that, yes. We had the Indiana State Department of Health call us the second year we had started doing this with the young people, and when the State Department of Health calls you, you don’t think it’s going to be a good thing. They called and they said, “Hey, we need to meet with you this afternoon.” And I said, “Why?” And they said, “We’ll tell you when we get there.” And then they showed up and they said, “We’ve been investigating you all for the past four months.” Again, this isn’t feeling great. But then they said, “Our job is to make the people of the state healthier, and we haven’t been doing a good job. Our investigation shows that what you all do actually makes communities healthier.”

  Now, Peter, to go back to your point before, all the funder ever asked us before was how many kids showed up, how many volunteers showed up, how many contact hours you had. Nobody ever asked us, “Are things actually better? Are people healthier? Is the economy in your neighborhood stronger?” But other people came and started investigating that unbeknownst to us and found out those things were true.

Peter Block: So you are also saying that getting people connected, gifts, sending kids out is improving the economy of your neighborhood.

Mike Mather: Absolutely. It puts money in the hands of people because if they find people who are doing hair, right? And they’re telling other people about the people who are doing hair, then there’s more money going to those people. If they find people doing meals out of their kitchen, they get more business directed their way. And if they bring the entrepreneurs together, then those entrepreneurs find ways to encourage and strengthen each other. Yes, helps the dollars circulate longer in our neighborhood before it exits.

Peter Block: Especially in the informal economy.

Mike Mather: Absolutely.

Peter Block: So any measure of average income in your neighborhood would not capture that.

Mike Mather: That’s right. But the actual economy would-

Peter Block: That’s very powerful.

John McKnight: Mike, something else that goes in my mind with the gift orientation that you are focused on is in a lot of places, what people do is they say, “We want to get people together so that they can simply enjoy each other or have an annual block party.” And there what they’re thinking of is the building of new relationships, sometimes called friendships and that’s a really good thing. But if you don’t focus on the gifts, you don’t get to the kinds of realities that you created. It is that you’re recognizing that everybody has this valuable, valuable thing called a gift. And it is as that gets manifested that all of the abundance begins to appear because I think there’s a big difference between being gift oriented and being interested in just people coming together.

Mike Mather: John is talking about the giftedness around us that once we start seeing it, it increases, and it’s less that it increases…. It’s just that we begin to see more of it there than we saw before. For example, when I was at Broadway in the ’80s, I didn’t think there were gardeners around here. So I did a thing that’s hot now, but I was doing it before it was hot. It was community gardens because I thought people around here weren’t doing that. But when we started paying attention to the giftedness around us, we found that there were over 30 gardeners in just the three block radius around us. It wasn’t that we created those gardeners. It’s that all of a sudden they became clear to us.

  Rachel who’s one of the pastors I worked with met with a group of young people who are blind, and she said, “How does the seeing world treat you?” And she said they said to her, “Well, that you’re using the wrong language. It’s not the seeing world, it’s the sighted world.” And she said, “I don’t understand what you mean.” And they said, “Just because you have sight doesn’t mean you can see.”

  That was true for us. I was not seeing that there were gardeners around here and entrepreneurs and cooks and people who love young people and musicians and poets and everything.

John McKnight: We always say about the asset based approach that it is at its heart making the invisible visible.

  The reverse of a magician. I wouldn’t want to get away from you without noting that you have recently published a book. It’s a sensational people. People have read it that I know over and over again. I love the title. Tell us the title, and then a few words about the book so we can get more buyers here.

Mike Mather: Sure. The title of the book is Having Nothing, Possessing Everything: Finding Abundant Communities In Unexpected Places. And it’s the stories much like I’ve just been telling you of my journey from being schooled in scarcity to trying to be schooled in abundance, to try to recognize the abundant life all around me. Since that woman said to me almost 30 years ago, “So how come you don’t treat people like that?” I’ve been trying to repent and make up for my looking at things for only what’s wrong. And so it’s a lot of the story about mistakes I’ve made, but it’s also a lot of the story about things I’ve learned from my neighbors and friends in this community.

John McKnight: I know you’ve learned things that you codified. I find very valuable. You made a list of six principles that emerged in this work. I wonder, I don’t know if we can go through all six. But one or two that you might illuminate for us.

Mike Mather: Sure. I’m happy to tell you those. Our first rule is always our neighbors are God’s people, act like it. One of the most important rules that we have is that money always flows into the hands of our neighbors. So as when we ran programs here in the years past, people would give us money to help people whose problem was that they didn’t have money. And so now what we do is that’s why we hire young people from our neighborhood. Any money that we get that comes in for neighborhood stuff always goes directly into the hands of our neighbors.

  So a few years ago after the State Department of Health came, they gave the young people during the summer like $250,000 to build on the work they were doing. And what did those young people do? They hired more of their neighbors to do this. They then paid 60 of their neighbors to come together for two days and talk about their giftedness together with one another. They paid one of their neighbors $5000 to be the keynote speaker for her neighbors. She was, by the way, 93 years old. So it’s really important to us that money flows into the hands of our neighbors. Especially again, I think of it as a sort of a repentance we make for the things we did in the past where we were taking money and using it among ourselves to help people whose problem was they didn’t have money.

Peter Block: It’s your form of reparation.

Peter Block: On the chat for those listening just to mention that Leslie has listed a link to the six principles.

John McKnight: Good, they’re very valuable.

Becky Robinson: We are going to invite Jane, so welcome to Jane.

Jane: You’ve asked if you can share my email, and that’s certainly fine. This conversation is really inspiring and enriching. I kind of feel like my email is in a little bit of a way tangential. What inspired it is in one of your invitations there was a sentence that Mike had had about all tools being already at our disposal or already in our hands but we may not be aware of it. Is that…

Peter Block: Jane, you don’t have to worry about the email. That’s history now. Is there a question or thought you have that you’d like to share with us? Thank you for letting us see you. You look great.

Jane: My thought kind of nits around the things that you’re saying. It was simply this, we have a situation with an adult son. He’s had a lifetime of health issues that has him not able to live independently. He lives in a lot of pain and very smart guy but a lot of suffering. What I mentioned in my email is if there is obtusely a silver lining in this it’s that we see the kindness of strangers in abundant ways that applies certainly to our neighbors that we know but also to strangers we’ve never met before. And I’m sure all of us have had situations of struggle or hardship where out of the blue a stranger appears with a gift that we were otherwise overlooking, not seeing.

  In the situation that we have, we see that repeatedly. And we’re blessed. We’re in a situation where we’re able to be with our son. I know there are a lot of people in his situation that don’t have that kind of support and may not see the kind of gifts. So I don’t know that there’s a question. But the observation that the gifts are readily there to share in the neighborhood, and I guess my question is how can we instill that more in people in a world that’s more connected than ever, we seem more disconnected? Mike talked a lot about a lot of great ways he’s connecting people. So the question is how can we do more?

Mike Mather: I really appreciate Jane telling a little bit of her story. I keep thinking about how in recovery movements we say that we don’t think our way into new ways of acting, but we act into new ways of thinking. When Jane’s asking that really poignant question about how we do that, I think we’ve got what we try to do here at Broadway is try to develop a set of new practices, try to act in different ways so that our brains can begin to look and see giftedness around us. So that we can see in the places where in our community people often only see need and what’s missing to try to see the other thing that’s there.

John McKnight: I think what we just heard is people who have not been invited who appear, and even though they’re strangers in an act of kindness. At least probably even more. So there’s a hidden invitation in that neighborhood. I think that a lot of the possibilities that we’re talking about may depend on significant amount of invitation going on. I wonder what you feel about that, Mike.

Mike Mather: Sure. One of the things we say around Broadway a lot is ask, ask, ask, invite, invite, invite. Invite people to share with one another. When we ask people to share their gifts, we don’t ask people to do it necessarily in and around the church. But with the circles they’re in and the people they know and love. And yes, we’ll have people do that here, but we invite people to share what they have in the circles that they exist in and live in as well.

Peter Block: Mike, there’s a question from the chat. “I would like to know from Mike how he seeks to encourage his fellow local ministers to take the courageous steps he’s taken.” Tell us the nature of your evangelism with your peers.

Mike Mather: What my peers often say is, “Man, I really love what you’re doing, but I would get killed if I did that in my church.” Well, what I often do in terms of encouraging my peers is if they ask something, I trail them to try and do it, find an easy place. So a local church was talking to me about a meal that they have every Sunday that they serve to people who come who wouldn’t get a meal someplace else. And I said, “Well…” So they said, “How could we do something different with this?” And I said, “Well, you have people in your congregation who are good listeners. Ask a couple of them to come to that meal every Sunday for a month and listen and talk with people along there. And then have them come talk with you and the leaders of the congregation about the giftedness that they heard in listening to people.” It’s an attempt to try to find one little place to doing something different, to paying attention in a little different way.

  When I encourage my colleagues, that’s the type of thing I try to do is find some small, easy way and place to begin to do it.

Peter Block: My granddaughter works at Broad Street in Philadelphia. At that church, and I don’t know if they still do it. But at one time you could make reservations and then you’re seated in a table clothed table and served as if it’s a restaurant. There’s no waiting in line. Because waiting in line is… You mentioned it, what you said sounds awesome too, the listening. Any other questions, Becky, you have because we’ve got about eight minutes.

Becky Robinson: Yeah. So Sarah is saying that she’d love to see you talk about falling in love with each other. So Mike, I think earlier in the conversation you were talking about one of the goals with your parishioners was to get them to fall in love with each other and what effect that has.

Mike Mather: So the thing about falling in love with each other is just if you’re paying attention to people, getting to know people, and you see them come alive talking about what they love, that causes you to fall in love with the person as you see how much they love and care about… Whether it’s music or a dear friend or a particular issue that they’re passionate about. When people are really talking out of their joy and passion, it does cause you to fall in love with them. And then that doesn’t mean that there won’t be hard times and hard things that people say to one another. But if you’re in love with each other, then you can find your ways through those difficult times I think.

  In a time when people often feel disconnected from one another to talk about this in these ways is our attempt to kind of push against the way things are in this society, the disconnectedness we often have from each other.

Becky Robinson: Mac had a comment that if we follow the iron rule of never do for others what they can do for themselves and the roving listeners job is find the gifts and talents for everybody in the life of the community, find a place for that gift and celebrate that gift in ways that build community, economy, and mutual delight. His question is, how has anyone structured formation to engage more church people in related small acts?

Mike Mather: I think this is back to the question of practices that Jane was talking about. We just try to figure out things and give it a shot. Like if somebody comes to us and we’re talking about some gift, one of the practices we’ve developed is, “Well, prove it.” So if you say you’re a good cook and you say that you make really good chocolate chip cookies, then we want you to prove it. Well, what do you mean? Well, make a dozen chocolate chip cookies and bring them. I’m happy to pay for them, but let me see what you can do. Let me see what your giftedness is. So that’s a practice we have.

  I think one of the favorite practices that the young people have when they go out and talk to their neighbors is this practice of saying to people, “So tell us the thing you’re most proud of.” I love that. People ask that question and then you get to hear these amazing stories. It’s often things that people don’t think of themselves, but it’s things that other people have said about the thing that you did that. And I really love that.

  I think trying to figure out what are the questions that or actions one could take that implement and build on the giftedness around you is a challenge. And try something. If it works, try it again. And if it doesn’t work, try something different.

Becky Robinson: Mike, there’s a question here from Ester. “The church doesn’t have a pastor at the moment. They’ve become deeply divided over those who want one and those who want the church to pause. The leadership are wonderful, open-minded listening people, and what do you think would be good for us without a pastor at this moment?”

Mike Mather: Well, John has had a lot of experience with Apostatical churches that haven’t had pastors. They’ve, in fact, built on his work in some interesting ways. So one of the things they’ve done, I think it’s called the Living Stones Movement. But what they did was they’d say, “Okay. Who in the church is really a good friend to people? Okay, that’s the person who will be sort of listening and counselor person. Who’s the person who’s a good speaker? Okay, we’ll have that person be the preacher. Who’s the person who’s the good…” And that’s how they did when they haven’t had pastors is they’ve kind of gone around and figured out where those gifts in our community and how can we use them for the strengthening of our life together.

Peter Block: Esther, let us know how it works out. That’s great.

Becky Robinson: So we also have a comment here from John a few minutes back. “Now you’re asking the question I’m seeking to answer. So how do we do Mike’s vision more broadly and churches share it?” John feels strongly that, Mike, your vision needs to be embraced across churches in North America. So it’s encouraging to have that affirmation. Any thoughts? For those of us who are listening, Mike, and want to implement something that you’re sharing, what would our next steps be?

Mike Mather: So let me describe a couple things we did. Hopefully they’ll just kind of inspire and encourage other ways to think about this. One of our neighbors who’s a member of our church, we asked him to show up accidentally at the beginning of meetings we were having in our church and bring along a neighbor and introduce them. So again, before we were meeting neighbors only out of what was wrong with them, they were going to get some service from us at the church. But what DeAmon did was he would show up and say, “Oh, I’m really sorry. I’m interrupting this meeting. I forgot you all were meeting. Could I introduce you to my neighbor Quanza? He’s head of the Indiana Reggae Band. He lives just down the street. Could you all introduce yourselves to him for a minute?” And people would do this.

  Well, the third month in a row he showed up at the meetings, people would begin laughing. It was in that laughter that something positive began to happen. If one has a service that one provides, how does one… In the food pantry, we just one question. Instead of asking how poor you are, we asked people how rich you are. So there’s another little thing one could do. And then for us in worship to find a chance to shine a light on the gifts of people who we’d always thought of as meeting by having people come and share with us what they’re good at and what they care deeply about gave us a chance as well. So there were kind of three different areas of our church’s life where we tried to do something. And have experimented with doing something that’s helped us pay attention in those ways.

Becky Robinson: Any parting thoughts from John or Peter or Mike before we close? And I have an announcement about the next event.

John McKnight: Mike, one of the things that just comes because of you being who you are is that deep sense that you are now seeing in everyone their gifts, and when you do that, a name of the practice is love. It does seem to me that when people wonder, “Well, where can I start? What can I do?” This is a great leap I think. It’s pretty hard to be against discovering people’s gifts.

Mike Mather: Yes. It is hard to be against discovering people’s gifts.

John McKnight: And if one wants to wrap theology around it and say that God has given them, I think that’s a point that you’ve always understood as a way to act and to be. At the outcome of a gift oriented life is the manifestation of love. They just go together. You’ve given us such precious advice. I want to thank you.

Mike Mather: Thank you, John, and thank you, Peter. Thank you, Becky.

Peter Block: I would just say, Mike, you’re a great voice for this, and you’re also a great voice for how simple it is. This is not a methodological triumph. This is not require an IT department to reach more people.

Mike Mather: It doesn’t require more money.

Peter Block: And it doesn’t require more… In fact, it produces economic well being- in your neighborhood. To me, that’s extremely confronting because it steals from all of us our excuse. The world isn’t ready. This isn’t the kind of leadership the world wants. Where’s the evidence? You can’t raise money from a health department without disease. And I just think you give voice to its simplicity, and that’s a beautiful thing. Thank you so much for your friendship, everything you’ve done.

Becky Robinson: Yes, thank you to all. We look forward to you all joining us on Tuesday, August 6th at 1:00 p.m. Eastern with Peter Block, John McKnight, and special guest Mike Butler, the public safety chief in Longmont, Colorado.

Going Further

Home page image:

About the Lead Author

Mike Mather
Mike Mather
Mike Mather is the pastor at Broadway United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. It is his second tenure at Broadway. He served there from 1986-1991 and then he was sent to serve another church named Broadway in South Bend. He came back to the Indianapolis Broadway UMC in 2003. Mike is the author of Sharing Stories, Shaping Community and Having Nothing, Possessing Everything: Finding Abundant Communities in Unexpected Places. In addition to his work in Indianapolis, he often meets with congregations and communities in the US and abroad on community development and engagement.

The Latest

The Story of the Clouds and the Forests

There’s a story one often hears in conversations about systemic transformation that goes like this… We are headed in the...


More Articles Like This