Monday, May 21, 2012

Healthy Systems and the Downfall of the Church

This morning I was reading a commentary by William Willemon on the recent United Methodist Convention.  There was one concept that really caught my imagination...

My organizational guru Ron Heifetz speaks of the “myth of the broken system.”  Heifetz argues that all systems are “healthy” in that systems produce what those who profit from the system desire.
It makes a lot of sense to me... and to the degree Heifetz is correct,  it really calls into question the future of the Church.

The first important observation is that Heifetz is not saying that all systems have healthy goals.  Indeed, they may be fooling themselves about their goals.  In my 34 years as a pastor and three moves plus a few other times when I've considered moving, I have interviewed with many churches representing a variety of different settings all across the country.  I dare say that every single one of them has said that they wanted to grow.  Almost all of them had a statement regarding growth in their descriptor of hat they were searching for in their next pastor.  I don't doubt they actually believed that they wanted to grow.  When faced with the changes that were required in order to grow, almost all of them declined.  They were committed to maintaining the status quo, not to moving forward.  Those few who actually took steps to change often did so with considerable conflict.  The reality was that the vast majority of folk who were there, were there because their needs were already being met.  They didn't really want change and if that was what growth required... never mind.

When I look around, I don't see a lot of hope... (sorry, it could just be that I'm feeling particularly cynical today).  I live in an area of the world where there are lots of megachurches very willing to change style at the drop of a hat to bring in new people.  The problem is that in large degree, I think the UCC folk are correct when they observe the conservative wing of the Church has put a period where God has put a comma.  And they often fight against what seems to me (although obviously not to them) the clear movement of God.  On the other end of the spectrum - very rare in my part of the world - I see more progressive churches who clearly see a comma when it comes to justice issues and theological questions... but when it comes to style, they have a period that was drawn no later than 1950.  In either case, there are large proportions of the population left out... they yearn for a theological openness (which I believe is a yearning of the Spirit) of the more progressive church but chafe at a stilted style... or the resonate with a freer style in the megachurches but cannot abide by what they experience as a simplistic and irrelevant theology.

In either case, there are populations in the Church whose own needs are being met by the status quo... and who see very little need to struggle with the implications of real change.

2 comments:

Michael Mahoney said...

"The reality was that the vast majority of folk who were there, were there because their needs were already being met. They didn't really want change and if that was what growth required..."

I am totally stealing that.

roy said...

so we agree twice in one week... A MIRACLE! ;-)