Sunday, November 21, 2004

Juicy Metaphors

I was talking to a friend recently about the power of new metaphors, which will make Len Hjalmarsson a happy camper (Len loves a good metaphor), and I came away from the conversation wondering if, for all of our talk of the necessity of new metaphors for leadership and being the church, if some people aren't simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Allow me to be more precise: metaphors that have no power to effect change in our inner paradigms are not going to get us where we need to go.

For example, in the working world, some people are given a new title (metaphor) in their line of work, but nothing changes about WHAT they do, only what they identify themselves as.

Trouble is, if you're still doing the exact same kind of dreary work, then it doesn't really matter what you use as a new metaphor -- nothing's changed. It's about as effective as the person who pumps gasoline at the local Esso station calling him/herself a "Petroleum Transfer Engineer". It might sound more impressive, but at the end of the day, the poor sod is still running out in the pouring rain or driving snow to pump gasoline for other people sitting in their warm, dry cars.

That would be an example of a meaningless metaphor, because calling yourself a Petroleum Engineer wouldn't, and couldn't, change the parametres of your "calling" as a gas jockey.

In the same way, if the new metaphors we employ regarding leadership and what it means to be the church don't in some way have the power to actually change the way we think about leadership and what it means to be the church, then we might as well stop looking for new metaphors.

If you really like the metaphor of church as a hospital, that SHOULD have strong implications on how you treat people, what values you would look for in those to lead, and what you would say yes or no to in ministry.

If you prefer the metaphor of the church as an army (and there's some already-existing scriptural examples that would go a long way in bolstering this metaphor), then that SHOULD have a profound impact on how you approach issues of justice, evangelism, and even your prayer ministry.

Some people have latched onto the metaphor of church as corporation, and that SHOULD have (and has had) serious implications for how the church is led, what gifts are valued within the church, and the strategies that the church will use to reach their goals.

You may not like these three examples of metaphors (I don't), which is fine because that's not really the main focus of this entry. I'm just becoming more aware that if we're going to use new metaphors for leadership, what it means to be the church etc., those metaphors MUST have the power to affect a deep change in our paradigms, or we're only putting a band-aid on a patch of leprous skin.

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