Tag Archives: leighton ford

Is Technology Truly Connecting Us?

I received the below text in an email from Leighton Ford, a long-time hero of mine and author of The Attentive Life, a beautiful book on silence, prayer, and a rhythm of contemplation before God.   I’ve gleaned much wisdom from Leighton over the years.

I’d love to hear what you think about what’s written below.  I can certainly relate.



(From The Flight From Conversation, by Sherry Turkle. NYTimes Sunday Review)

We expect more from technology and less from one another and seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship.  Always-on/always-on-you devices provide three powerful fantasies:

that we will always be heard;

that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be;

and that we never have to be alone.

Indeed our new devices have turned being alone into a problem that can be solved.

When people are alone, even for a few moments, they fidget and reach for a device.  Here connection works like a symptom, not a cure, and our constant, reflexive impulse to connect shapes a new way of being.

Think of it as “I share, therefore I am.”  We use technology to define ourselves by sharing our thoughts and feelings as we’re having them.  We used to think, “I have a feeling; I want to make a call.”  Now our impulse is, “I want to have a feeling; I need to send a text.”

So, in order to feel more, and to feel more like ourselves, we connect.  But in our rush to connect, we flee from solitude, our ability to be separate and gather ourselves.  Lacking the capacity for solitude, we turn in to other people but don’t experience them as they are.  It is as though we use them, need them as spare parts to support our increasingly fragile selves.

We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely.  The opposite is true.  If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely.  If we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will know only to be lonely.

(By Sherry Turkle, psychologist and professor at MIT, in NYTimes Sunday Review,
April 22, 2012)

Leighton Ford, May 2012


Good Advice I’ve Received Lately

I find myself more grateful these days, probably because I’ve had a bit more time to reflect on my life, and also because I know that there are people who are persevering in much more arduous circumstances.

In the midst of my grief on behalf of others, I’m realizing that the things that worry me aren’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.

Older, wiser friends have given me good advice lately, and I thought I’d share some simple snippets of wisdom that have come my way in recent days.

1. Lesson 1 – “Lead like Jesus”

This bit of advice came this past week from Dave Jennings, the Director of the New Life Community Health Center and the Vice President of Nyack College.  Dave is a phenomenal leader, and in many respects, I’d be a lucky man if I could become a leader like him.

Over the past couple of years I’ve been reading a ton about leadership.  I’ve gone to conferences, scoured podcasts, books, blogs – anything I could get my hands on, really.  Being surrounded by so many great leaders at New Life Fellowship has helped too, and so I’ve been a bit of a maniac about some of the principles I’ve been learning.

Meanwhile, I’ve been fumbling about as a leader, making my fair share of mistakes, disappointing others, getting frustrated with myself in the process.

I had fallen into a bad habit of dissecting my every move and decision, testing the wisdom of my perspective against the latest thoughts on leadership by Pete Scazzero or Andy Stanley or John Maxwell.

Earlier this week, I sat down with Dave and chatted briefly about some of my reflections about leadership.

In the midst of my angst, Dave leaned back in his chair with hands on his head, smiled, and then said, “Drew, just lead like Jesus would, and you’ll be fine.”

I know, it sounds pretty simple, but his comment really struck me.  In some weird way, I had been searching to be more like Jack Welch or Bill Hybels, instead of reflecting more on the very simple question – what would Jesus do?

Anyhow, thanks for the advice, Dave.  I trust I’ll keep coming back to your words at various times throughout my life – “Just lead like Jesus, and you’ll be fine”.

2. Lesson 2 – “You are God’s Beloved”

This past week was an anomaly of sorts because I had a chance to meet with different mentors at various points throughout the week.

Leighton Ford happened to be in town for a conference, and he needed a ride to LaGuardia on Thursday morning and Pete asked if I was interested in giving him a ride (Leighton is Pete Scazzero’s primary mentor).  I pushed some engagements around and made time to pick him up in Manhattan and drive him to the airport.

One stalled big rig on the Queensboro bridge ruined our plans, so he ended up taking a cab instead.  I was bummed.

Leighton arrived at LGA really quickly though, so he called me up and asked if I’d be willing to meet him at the airport for 30 minutes or so for a chat.

I zoomed over there from Astoria, and ran to the terminal as fast as I could so we could sit down and talk.

And yes, getting 30 minutes with Leighton is worth all the trouble of big rigs, airport parking, and uncomfortable LGA terminals.

Leighton is now 79 years old, and there’s a certain air that he possesses that is quite healing.  It’s kind of hard to explain, but I’d highly recommend that you read his book The Attentive Life to see what I mean – it’s probably one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life.

Anyhow, I’ve been a huge beneficiary of Leighton’s mentoring from people whom Leighton has mentored – which is quite a long list of extraordinary leaders, including Pete.

Leighton’s network has galvanized so many movements around the world, and so I finished our conversation with one question – “Leighton, if you were to give a piece of advice to a 31 year-old leader like myself, what would you tell me (and others in my season of life) knowing what you know and have experienced around the world?”

I suspected Leighton to give one of the following responses:

– Drew, be disciplined in your pursuit of God.

– Drew, make sure you value your marriage above any other commitment.

– Drew, keep the dreams alive.

Instead, Leighton pierced me with these simple words, “Drew, I would want you to know that you are God’s beloved.”


Leighton continued, “There’s a lot I don’t know and understand about today’s world and all the different innovative things happening, but the message I want young people like you to know more than anything is that you are God’s beloved.”


Leighton gave me a hug.

I drove home and I cried.

It’s really going to be okay.  Life is going to be all right.

I am God’s beloved.

Sometimes the wisest words are the simplest words, too.

Theological Influences

I recently met with one of our small groups for a theological pow-wow, and I must say, I came away from the discussion quite energized.  It’s been awhile since I’ve had a chance to revisit some of the thoughts I’ve come to (and am still wrestling with) regarding the Bible, theology, and its relevance to the world, and I realize that I really like discussing these subjects!

Anyhow, I also recommended a few books to the group, and as I was explaining each book, I realized there are a few authors/thinkers who have really shaped my approach to theology, Scripture, and the world.  I thought I’d share who these people are.  I’m usually quick to read any books/articles/talks that come from these people.

Interestingly enough, I think the rest of our pastoral staff at NLF would have varying lists, a thought which brings me much consolation.  Also, although they’re not included on this list, our pastoral staff (Pete, Geri, Rich, Jackie, Linda, Mike, Myrna, and Peter) challenge and shape my thinking in more ways than most!

This list is in no particular order

1.  Christina Park – Yes, my wife.  I’ve learned much about love, forgiveness, grace from her.  She’s taught me to appreciate sci-fi, fantasy, and romantic comedies as well, even pointing out profound theological underpinnings in each.

2.  Pete & Geri Scazzero – Pete’s my boss, so he’s on the list.  But seriously, his books have certainly had the greatest influence on me in my formative years as a pastor.  Geri has also lent wonderful insights regarding marriage, God, sexuality, and all that good stuff.

3.  Howard Thurman – Thurman has quickly become one of my favorite theologians, especially because he’s so rooted in Scripture while having unique perspectives on justice, contemplation, and all sorts of things I’m passionate about.  His Meditations of the Heart are some of the best stuff I’ve read recently, as well as his book Jesus and the Disinherited.

4.  NT Wright – He’s a Biblical scholar whose perspectives on Israel, God’s Kingdom, the Victory of Jesus, and Paul’s message, have blown me away.  I know there’s been some theological jousting between him and John Piper regarding justification, but I don’t think I’m sophisticated enough to see how they’re both not talking about the same thing from different angles.  See, you couldn’t even understand that last sentence.

5.  Richard Rohr – Every single work I’ve read from Rohr has been deeply profound and insightful.  His thoughts on manhood, Scripture, spirituality, and grace are really astounding and cause me to ponder everything.

6.  Ron Vogt – Ron’s a counselor whom I regularly see (now with Tina).  He hasn’t published a book as far as I know, but his thoughts on the emotional world and its intersection with theology and humanity has been radically transformative for me.

7.  Jay Feld – Doctor Jay is NLF’s Counselor in Residence, and I’ve learned a lot about grace, community, and wisdom from him.  He’s speaking at our singles’ retreat, and I think you should be there if you’re a single person between the ages of 21-84.

8.  Tim Keller (and his son, Mike) – It’s hard to find things to disagree with Keller about because he’s so thoughtful and winsome in the way he approaches faith, culture, and the gospel.  Aside from being an amazing thinker/preacher, he also models a kind disposition toward those with differing opinions, which is quite frankly, really cool.

9.  Paul Lim – One of my theology profs at Gordon-Conwell.  What I really appreciate about him is the way he handles heady and heavy material with an edge toward orthopraxis.  In other words, he is about the head, heart, and hands, and he had done a lot of thinking about God and real people in the real world.  His stuff on theodicy and the problem of evil is pretty mind-numbing, as are his thoughts on the trinity.

10.  Laura Speiller – Laura was the first one to introduce me to the contemplative tradition.  I’ll never forget one of the ways she described contemplative prayer – an embrace without words.  Deep.

11.  Sean McDonough – Another one of my seminary profs, he modeled and taught me to approach the Biblical text systemically as well as meditatively.  I can’t wait until he publishes some more stuff.  He’s also a great sparring partner when it comes to sports predictions.

12.  Leighton Ford – Leighton is like the godfather behind so many movements happening in today’s Christian world.  I nearly cry every time he speaks or writes about something.  He introduced me to a number of authors including Parker Palmer, who should also be on this list.  I love Leighton’s breadth of learning – I think it’s shown me how to look for truth everywhere.

13.  Dan Shin – A close friend and former staff member at NLF, we had (and continue to have) extremely stimulating theological debates.  I love it.  I must say, for a guy who doesn’t read much (Dan), he has a great philosophical and theological understanding of varying subjects.

This list is getting out of control, so here are some other folks whose perspectives I appreciate and seek out somewhat regularly.

Martin Luther King, Jr, CS Lewis, Parker Palmer, Henri NouwenRichard Lovelace, Gordon Fee, Doug Stuart, William Webb, Anne Lamott, Andy Crouch, Rob Bell.

I notice I’ve listed relatively contemporary people.  I think the classical authors (Calvin, St. Teresa, Augustine, Jonathan Edwards, St. John of the Cross, Aquinas, etc) are too prolific for me to want to start following.  Yes, that’s a lazy perspective, but one that I freely confess to.

Who are your theological influences?  What are your thoughts about this list?

PS  If you’re looking for recommended reading from our church, you can click here.

More thoughts about the Leadership Summit – Part 2

More General Thoughts from the Summit…

1.  Every Reader is not a Leader, but every Leader is a Reader.

There were so many remarkable sound bites, especially from Gergen’s session.  This one hit home, because I’ve found it to be so true!

Well, at least it’s been true of the mentors I’ve been around, namely Pete Scazzero, Ken Shigematsu, and Leighton Ford.  I also hear that Tim Keller is a voracious reader – there are books and bookshelves all around their apartment to prove it.  Rich Villodas and Mike Keller are like mini-mes of these guys.  Grace Yu also comes to mind – she’s a walking encyclopedia.

I don’t think this quality has to do with nerdiness (actually, I take that back.  There’s a hint of nerdiness here).  Instead, I think it speaks more to an appetite for learning, exploring, etc.  Gergen had another incredible quote about how someone who can see far into the past, can see far into the future.  That just oozes of wisdom, doesn’t it?

I would probably add a comment from the wisdom of Good Will Hunting – just because I’ve read Oliver Twist doesn’t mean I can understand what it’s like to be you.

Experience helps inform and sensitize knowledge.

2.  Some pains can be Re-Named “Valleys of Insight”

This was from the interview with the Heath brothers.  I must admit, I was fading by the afternoon of Day 2, but this was a takeaway that I think was reiterated several times in different ways.

Bill Hybels talked about the lessons learned through this painful transition of the economic crisis.  The scars are probably still being felt (100 people let go at willow in one week, I believe he said).  Dave Gibbons mentioned the pain of going through his pastor mid-life crisis and all that it taught him while the numbers went down and to the left.  Keller spoke of criticism being a revealing catalyst for when it comes to how well I believe the gospel.  In all of these examples, pain led to progress… it’s true for organizations, people, relationships, etc.

I was so mesmerized by this point.

Then I realize it’s all over the Bible (James 2 comes to mind).  And then I realized it sounds a lot like the cross.

That’s a great book, the Bible.

And that’s a great principle, the cross.

3.  I was Glad to see Minorities as Speakers

Harvey Carey was super-inspiring, as were Rugasira and Gibbons.  Jackley was really cool.  She’s like a poster-child for the up and coming generation of young leaders – articulate, fun, hip, crazy, & good with technology.

Normally I would have wanted more minority representation… but I learned so much from each presenter!

*Plus, Stafford is a black man trapped in a white man’s body.  If you heard his testimony you know what I mean!

I’d still like to see some more representation of the Next Evangelicalism, so perhaps they can get Barack and Michelle Obama next year.

4.  I’m a big fan of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and apparently, so is the Leadership Summit

A theme that appeared everywhere was being a contemplative and replenishing one’s soul.  Keller’s talks always have a contemplative theme too, because they’re so darn insightful.

I’m not talking about the binder-contemplative type a la Carey’s comments, I’m talking about thinking, praying, or going fishing, as Gergen would say.

I’m so glad to be at New Life and to have learned from the Scazzeros… they really have ntroduced principles and practices that I believe will help shape the soul of leadership in our frenzied generation.  There are many others who are leading the way in introducing emotional health and contemplative spirituality, but none in the context of a church that is multi-cultural and serving the urban poor in the heart of a city.

I’ll probably post more reflections as they come later…

three incredible books.


Why Faith Matters by David J. Wolpe

I ran across this title on a bookshelf in Barnes and Noble, and I proceeded to read the first few pages.  I became engrossed immediately, and ended up ordering a copy for myself.  I find it a remarkably compelling apology for faith.  It’s much more narratival than most books about why belief in God is a reasonable endeavor.  I’d highly recommend this book to anyone wrestling with issues of faith, doubts, and even suffering.  I’m actually very curious to hear discuss this with someone, so let me know if you ever get around to picking it up!



The Attentive Life by Leighton Ford

A remarkable book.  I was repeatedly moved to tears while reading it.  I found it so full of wisdom and insight, and I suspect it’s a book I will turn to in different seasons of my life.  I hope to go through my days – and years – with great attentiveness.  I can’t remember a time I’ve been this impacted by a book.  It’s a wonderful, beautiful devotional book.

As an interesting note, Leighton Ford is Pastor Pete’s mentor!


imagesWhat is the What by Dave Eggers

Mesmerizing and well-written.  It’s shocking to think that all of these accounts happened in Sudan during my lifetime.  I hope that reading a book like this can somehow translate into meaningful action on my part – both here and abroad.

Tina and I are thinking of taking a trip somewhere outside the US sometime soon – anything to grant us perspective, friendship, and an experience with God in another land.  Would anyone like to join?