Last August on vacation I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants and I’m not ashamed to say that I loved it. I laughed a lot but was also challenged by the leadership lessons that she expressed and learned through her career and from Lorne Michaels.
I started to read it and think about how these lessons could shape the church and the way Christians approach God. One of the lessons she highlights is from her years of improv and specifically the rules of improv, which we used when I participated in Man Question and it changed the whole dynamic of relational interaction. She says this…
The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES. When you’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if I say, “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun.
Now, obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with evertthing everyone says. But the Rule of Agreement reminds you to “respect what your partner has created” and to at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you.
The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND. You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own…To me YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile.
When I look at the alternative of YES, AND, it’s NO, BECAUSE which is really the beginning of an argument if you think about it. If someone presents an idea and it’s immediately met with “No, because…” how deflating is that? While Yes, And invites opportunity and creative thinking, No, Because invites debate and to follow the status quo.
She talks about how this plays out in life.
As an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whose first answer is no. “No, we can’t do that.” “No, that’s not in the budget.” “No, I will not hold your hand for a dollar.” What kind of way is that to live?
But as I read it, I really started to think about the difference between church plants and established churches, which is directly related to start-ups and established companies.
Yes, And vs. No, Because in the Church
A church plant approaches everything with Yes, And. The possibilities are endless, but an established church has a No, Because filter that it runs everything through based on traditions, denominations, or “that’s just the way we do it” mentalities.
Now, I’m not suggesting we take a Yes, And approach with theology, but I am saying we do so with the way we approach “doing church” and how the church carries out the mission of God to love and serve your neighbor as yourself. In that realm, the possibilities are endless unless you have a No, Because culture.
The problem is that a No, Because culture kills any chance of creating an innovative environment for methodology. It sees new missional methodologies as challenging your “right way” instead of being open to adopting a new way of doing things that may enable you and your church to bless your neighborhood and thrive as a community that loves one another.
Cultivating a Yes, And culture where it’s “your responsibility to contribute” provides the opportunity to be open to new ideas and even new people speaking into the way things are done. It invites the voices of everyone to take ownership of the outcome.
Even when the And presents a potential contradiction to the initial idea, you are creating a collaborative environment where everyone is engaged and looking to contribute to the solution rather than maintain the status quo.
This is what happened in Man Question discussing masculinity with straight, gay, and bisexual men. The ideas eventually contradicted themselves, but the Yes, And rules provided the environment where everyone was willing to share their ideas and give credence to listen and process the ideas of others. This led to greater and deeper conversations because of the willingness to let an idea run its course with somewhat competing ideas.
When a church adopts a No, Because mentality with its methods, it is beginning the process of dying as a church. It becomes a nostalgic organization looking to keep things the way they were or maintain the current way, instead of seeing the church community do greater things than they’ve ever done.
A church should never abandon the Yes, And with methods.
Yes, And vs. No, Because with God
These thoughts have been bouncing around in my head since August and I mainly thought of them in terms of church until I went to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Prayer Meeting.
As I stood with thousands of others praying to God for healing, for reconciliation of marriages, for children to be set free from drugs, I was so challenged that my prayer life was being hindered by a No, Because mentality with God. Instead of asking God to do great things, I was saying “No, God won’t listen to that because there are more important things.” “No, I can’t pray that because I’m had a rough week with too many mistakes in my life.”
Even my theology presented a No, Because roadblock in prayer, saying “No, God doesn’t seem to do the same thing He did in the book of Acts in the Bible so I shouldn’t ask for those things.”
I began to sense that I was living in the No, Because mentality with God that I disliked seeing in the church.
Adopting the Yes, And mentality has changed the way I sit in church meetings discussing our community groups, how we equip families, how we empower people to be great at their jobs, secure in their singleness, pursuing covenant marriage at the right time.
It’s also changed how I pray, coming to talk with God with an open-mindedness that He may want to do something outside my theological box I like to put God in so I can manage my relationship with Him.
As the end of the year approaches, we all look back at what we want to change and do differently in the coming year. Adopting a Yes, And mentality may be the best thing you do for your life, your job, your ministry, and your relationship with God.
Cross-posted from Gentrified.