Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Leadership & Management

Len Hjalmarson emailed me a pithy little quote a week or so ago, that keeps popping back into my thoughts on a regular basis:
"Leadership is about creating change, whereas management is about creating stability."
This brief statement is one of those short little sentences that creates an "a-ha" moment when you stop and think about it.

Many moons ago, when I was a volunteer leader under George Mercado, one of my main areas of responsibility was the worship and creative arts endeavours of our youth group (the group was over 100 teenagers at the time). As my seminary days came to a close, and my internship at the church was ending, I was working proactively to "pass the torch" to one of the older teenagers, so that there wouldn't be a gap in ministry when I went into fulltime pastoral ministry somewhere else (BC, as it turned out).

Peter had been in the band since its inception (almost four years), and was a very humble and deeply spiritual guy, as well as being quite musically gifted and well-liked by pretty much everybody in the youth group.

I told Peter something to the effect of, "This will be your area of leadership. Don't feel any pressure to copy what I've done. Make it your own."

Which is exactly what Peter did, brilliantly. Except...

He started changing things that I'd been doing for four years. And he started making these changes almost immediately. And suddenly, even though I had been totally serious about letting Peter "make it his own", I discovered that I was feeling uneasy, even resentful, about the changes.

I realized that, deep down, I felt threatened by the changes. "What, you mean what I did wasn't good enough?" Or, "Did you think I sucked as a leader? Is that why you're changing stuff so quickly?" NOTE: I never actually said this out loud! It was simply a barbed-wire tornado in my thinking.

Stupid, selfish thoughts, really. God used this moment in my life (I was about 27 or so) to show me a bit more of what "dying to self" meant when it came to releasing younger leaders, and allowing them to flourish in the way that He had gifted them.

The irony is that much of the struggle that I have had over the years in ministry has been precisely what Len's quote articulated. Many ministry positions are called "leadership", but functionally, what they really want is "management" or, to use another business term, "franchise". Change, innovation and creativity are not welcome, unless it's a creative way of breathing new life into old programs. The greatest good is seen in successfully franchising numerous identical expressions of the same thing.

When Christians want to apply a cookie-cutter approach to ministry, it's more like running a Tim Horton's franchise; they all look exactly the same. That doesn't require real leadership; it requires management, stability, and enforcing the status quo.

True leadership is about change. It's about staying fluid and flexible. It honours past traditions but is not beholden to them. It blesses the efforts of managers and franchisers, but is not emasculated by slavery to programs. True leadership is about new wineskins.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Aussies & Centred Sets

There was a PDF made available (for a time) regarding the Australian FORGE group's response to D.A. Carson's Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, and how they felt it interacted with the Australian emerging church.

The PDF was taken down from numerous blogs later, at the request of those who had originally posted it. I was able to read the original PDF because I downloaded it first thing this morning, but in deference to the requests to not spread it further, I won't be commenting directly on it. 

However, it did get me thinking about how difficult it is to stay as a "centered set" movement.

This is an excerpt from Bill Jackson's The Quest for the Radical Middle: A History of the Vineyard, which I think describes what the emerging church is currently grappling with.
Centered Sets

1. "Fuzzy sets describe groups that have no organizational center. A group of little league parents might perceive themselves as a group in that they have a common interest, but no core values define their existence.

2. "Centered sets describe groups that have joined together a common center articulated by core values. People in a centered set want to go the same place and generally agree on how they will get there and who will lead them. There is a lot of latitude for collegial disagreement on non-core issues and flexibility in forms.

3. "Bounded sets describe groups that not only have banded together around a common center, but that have also clearly defined rules about beliefs and practices. The number of people who can get in the group becomes narrower because the parameters are more defined.

"John [Wimber] explained that from the beginning he intended that the Vineyard be a centered set of like-minded churches... John also taught that historically groups couldn't remain in centered sets forever because the rules that determine the insiders and outsiders will eventually have to be defined. His desire, however, was to keep the Vineyard a centered set movement for as long as he could.

"In order to evaluate trends and views emerging in the movement, [Wimber] generally chose to let them alone until they could be studied biblically and examined for long-term fruit. In describing this philosophy he used the analogy of growing a bush. It is a temptation to trim a bush back too soon before a gardener knows what he has. This means letting the thing go for awhile, thus having to endure a period when the bush looks messy and untrimmed. Then, when the course the branches are taking is clear, that which is unwanted is trimmed back. This allows for more growth in the rest of the plant."
The term "insiders and outsiders" is a red flag for many, simply because the narrow-minded line-drawing of some denominations has turned a lot of people off.

But it doesn't have to be a negative thing for groups to more clearly define who they are, what they stand for, and their missiological intent. It only gets negative when we assume that our way is the best (or only) way, and that anyone not doing or articulating things as we do, is therefore "not getting it".

If we can go about clarifying what we stand for, without stating it in terms of "we're not them", then a generous ecclesiology can continue. It's not bad to eventually become more of a bounded set in terms of theology and missiology, as long as the attitude towards other practioners remains that of a centered set.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Reformed Epistemology Apologetics & the Emerging Church

The nice folks at Dictionary.com define epistemology as:
e-pis-te-mol-o-gy
n. The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity.

Simply said, it's a study of "how do we know what we know".

I've always found it somewhat mystifying that so many people are up in arms about the emerging church when it comes to epistemology. They are worried about people making comments about being "comfortable with paradox", "content to live in the tension", and appealing to "mystery".

Why I find this bemusing is simply because even more modern-oriented apologetics* advocated the same things, and also warned about the problems of allowing modernism's Enlightenment-based "rules of engagement" to undermine the mystery of the Christian faith.
*a-pol-o-get-ics
n. The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines
Here's an excerpt from Five View on Apologetics, which is part of Zondervan's "Counterpoints" series, from the chapter by Kelly James Clark entitled "Reformed Epistemology Apologetics":
"Suppose you are on a retreat or on the top of a mountain and have a sense of being loved by God or that God created the universe. You begin to believe in God, not because you are persuaded by the argument from design -- you are simply taken with belief in God. You just find yourself believing, what you had heretofore denied, that God exists.

"Now you have come across the writings of David Hume and W.K. Clifford, who insist that you base all of your beliefs on evidence. Hume raises a further point: your belief in an all-loving, omnipotent God is inconsistent with the evil that exists in the world. Given the fact of evil, God cannot exist.

"To meet this demand for evidence, do you become a temporary agnostic and begin perusing the texts of Aquinas, Augustine, and Paley for a good proof of God's existence? Do you give up belief in God because you see Hume's point and can't see how God and evil could be reconciled? Or do you remain steady in your trust of God in spite of the lack of evidence and even in the face of counter-evidence? (emphasis added)

"Since the Enlightenment, there has been a demand to expose all of our beliefs to the searching criticism of reason. If a belief is unsupported by the evidence, it is irrational to believe it. It is the position of Reformed epistemology (likely the position that Calvin held) that belief in God... does not require the support of evidence or argument in order for it to be rational." (emphasis added)