Posts Tagged ‘ecclesiology’
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I caught a few minutes of a cop show the other day in which students at a high profile private school developed an ingenious system of cheating on tests. Apparently, they hacked the school’s computers, got the answers, then had generic water bottles made with test answers instead of nutritional information printed on the labels. Hey, a kid needs water during a test, right? The teachers didn’t give it a second thought, and the students got away with it.
However brilliant the idea, and however high the students’ grades, it’s still cheating, right? I mean, no question-they were definitely cheating.
But, how far does one have to go for it to be considered cheating? Where’s the line? If the students had printed formulas instead of actual answers, would it still be cheating? What about just their study notes? Still cheating? You’re probably nodding yes. Cheating then, regardless of its form, could best be defined by the rules. If the behavior violates the rules, then it’s considered cheating.
So here’s my point. You don’t often hear about churches cheating. Yes, you might hear about a church committing financial fraud, or a staff member being unfaithful. When it comes to mission though–advancing the Kingdom of Christ–cheating isn’t a word that comes up very often, if at all. But it happens. Churches cheat. I’ve observed churches violating the ‘rules’ for the sake of the Gospel. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? How could that be possible? It’s possible because God spells out the rules in Scripture and many churches end up violating them and doing what they believe is most effective.
Unlike the devious students though, (most) churches who disregard God’s missiological rules do so out of pure motive. In fact, many of them are violating the rules simply because they don’t know them. It’s like: If one student deceptively tells another student she can use her study notes on a test though it’s against the rules, and she does it, is she still cheating? Yep. Sadly, too many churches believe the deceptive ideas they hear about missiology, and just go and use them. But… just because they’re unaware, churches who operate outside of Scripture are still in the wrong.
Here’s the problem. As you know, cheating hurts EVERYONE. It hurts the cheater in the long run–it will always catch up with you; it hurts others who are abiding by the rules because their relative outcomes look somehow less successful; and it hurts the one setting the rules because he provided the rules in the first place to properly define what it means to be truly successful.
OK. I’ve said all I want to say. It’s your turn. What are God’s universal guidelines for our mission? Are they the same for every church? Give an example of what it looks like when a church operates outside of these rules. Finally, what’s the solution to the problem? How can we help cheating churches get back on the right track?
Looking forward to hearing what you think…
photo credit: http://online.wsj.com
I loved working for Progressive Insurance.
Most insurance companies operate their claims process on the specialist model. They train people to be very good at one part of the claims process. You might have had some experience with this, if you’ve ever wrecked your car. It goes something like… car accident, call to the insurance company, reporting specialist takes the info and tells you to expect a call from the rental specialist, the property damage specialist and the injury specialist. You field all those calls, get your rental car, meet with the other two and then wait for the car to be repaired. When all is said and done, you’ve moved through five or six people. If it all works according to plan, you’re off driving again in no time.
Unfortunately, nothing ever seems to go as planned. When trouble comes in a situation like this, it becomes very difficult to solve problems. You’re left wondering who to call for what, or worse, told that you’ll get a call back that never comes. Each specialist believes it is the other’s responsibility. While the specialist model costs a lot less to manage–less time training, lower salaries, etc., it inevitably costs tons more in lawsuits and unhappy clients.
Progressive has one of the best customer satisfaction/profitability ratios of any auto insurance companies out there, and it’s because they use a different model. Progressive operates on the generalist model. When I was hired, the company spent $37,000 (not including my regular salary) sending me through 4 months of training, where I learned how to take a claim report, set up a rental car, write estimates on damaged property, assess injury, write big checks and manage the whole experience from start to finish.
Instead of being passed through multiple staff, the customer had one single point of contact throughout the entire process. We did all of it. On the front end, the generalist model costs much more and requires tons more time. On the back end, though, far fewer lawsuits and much happier customers. This model is always more effective than the specialist model, since the process is always messy.
In the church, we’ve adopted the specialist model. Proof? The Spiritual Gift Inventory. We help people discover their specialties, and then encourage them to focus just on that. Evangelism, small groups, children, students, hospitality, etc. But discipleship is messy. Imagine if we had the courage to spend the time and resources to make generalist disciples. What would the new believer’s path to deeper spiritual maturity look like if they had but one point of contact–one mentor, one ‘sherpa’–to lead the way?
We’ve been designed for this, but we’re satisfied with providing a fragmented journey. The specialist model clearly costs more on the back end; people ‘slipping through the cracks,’ seeing church as a Sunday event, anemic in the spiritual disciplines.
Be… progressive. What would you change in your church to develop a generalist model of discipleship? Where would you start? Who would you talk to first?
photo credit: http://reluctantlydomesticated.blogspot.com
Clayton Christensen, professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, says, “Innovation requires disruption.”
Think about it. If you make a list of the top 5 organizations changing the world, and compared it to a list of the last 5 to close up shop (in any given industry), what’s the difference between the two? The ones who are flourishing and changing the world are constantly innovating; the others, well, have some sort of story about how change would’ve violated their core values, or that their organization was built on thinking that was before its time, or something like that.
Organizations–businesses, companies, schools, churches–are essentially communities of people. That means they live and die by their humanity. When ego, apathy or indifference poison the community well, the likelihood for innovation diminishes greatly. That’s because innovation requires disruption. And disruption requires humility, gentleness, respect and honesty.
One of the best disruptors out there–a man characterized by humility, gentleness, respect and honesty–is renowned chef Gordon Ramsay. “What?!” you say? To the casual observer, it seems Ramsay’s built his brand on the exact opposite; arrogance, impatience, even cruelty. It’s true, he has a firey personality, but watch his show Kitchen Nightmares. Closely. His purpose in spending a week with a restaurant is to bring it back from the dead. To get it innovating again (or for the first time.) Ramsay knows that innovation requires disruption, and so he comes in at the beginning of the week and ‘shakes things up.’ Though it may look like he’s out of control, it is completely planned and brilliantly strategic. Once the disruption has done its work, observe Ramsay closely, and you will be astonished at how humble, gentle, respectful and honest he is. Ask the chefs and owners whose faces he got all up into at the beginning of the week how they feel about him at the end of the week and you’ll be surprised again. Almost every one of them is gushing with gratitude and praising his genius.
In his industry, Gordon Ramsay has given himself to disruption because he understands a few very basic things. He knows that hard work and working smart both pay off. He knows that success comes from offering real value, and doesn’t come from reputation, past performance or self-reported prowess. And he understands that the kiss of death for any person, organization, industry or institution is complacency.
So what about you? Take a look at the organization you help lead. Are you, as a community, humble enough to welcome disruption? Or are you stuck in your own ego of past performance or self-reporting? Bottom line, if you desire to truly make a difference and impact this world, you must be continually innovating.
Which means you must desire disruption.
(Author’s note: if you desire disruption, but you’re not sure where to start, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our nonprofit organization’s purpose is to help yours solve the problems that hinder mission. We would love to serve you.)
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I was using a friend’s laptop the other day when I noticed a pop-up bubble coming from the task bar. It said, “This copy of Windows is not genuine.” If I’m honest, I kind of noticed the computer was acting a bit… quirky. When I saw that message, it made sense.
You know, I hear a lot of people in ministry these days talking about ‘authenticity.’ Like, “We want to be an authentic church. If we’re genuine and real, we will have a greater impact and reach more people… etc. etc.” One potential problem with this line of thinking is its context. Authenticity seems to be discussed as a methodology or means to an end. If that’s the case, um… isn’t that kind of inauthentic? Seeking to be genuine in order to be more effective essentially misplaces its meaning.
Authenticity isn’t a program. It’s not an application. It’s an operating system. It doesn’t matter how strong your small groups are, or how often you serve; if your operating system isn’t genuine, then all of it will act… quirky. Instead of troubleshooting our methods of ministry by trying to inject authenticity into them, we ought to install a genuine version of the OS–in human terms, that’s our culture.
Building a culture of authenticity isn’t easy. It requires asking some difficult questions like, “As a family of faith, how do we respond to people who hold beliefs that contradict our own?” “Do we have poisonous people in positions of leadership?” “Are we generous?” “What are we measuring?” Yes, reinstalling a genuine operating system is costly, and it can often mean some programs and applications won’t function anymore. It also takes time. (Are you getting the analogy? I’m laying it on pretty thick… )
Bottom line, if you’re currently having the ‘authenticity’ conversation, make sure it’s in the frame of culture and not methods. The upside is that if you’re operating from a culture of authenticity, everything you do will run more smoothly. And guess what? You will absolutely be more effective in advancing God’s Kingdom.
I recently read the autobiography of professional cyclist Mark Cavendish. Quoting a coach of his, he mentioned the principle of the aggregation of marginal gains. In cycling, it’s an awareness that over the course of a 200km stage in, say, The Tour de France, every pedal stroke, every body lean, every ounce of energy saved by riding behind another cyclist all adds up to either victory or defeat. Cav was coached to make, manage and measure these marginal gains throughout a stage at the expense of focusing on measuring only the outcome–win or loss. The result? Well, Mark Cavendish has won more Tour de France stages than anyone in history, he’s been an Olympic track cyclist, he won the World Road Championships last month in Denmark, and he’s considered by most to be the fastest sprinter in the history of the sport.
Cycling is a grueling pursuit that requires patience and big-picture thinking. Being the church demands very much the same, doesn’t it? But what are we measuring? People in the pews, conversions, financial strength… I’m sure I don’t have to elaborate on the mess this has gotten us into.
Instead of building an ecclesiology on the measurement of outcomes, we should seek to make, manage and measure marginal gains as we progress. The aggregation of these marginal gains, if we have enough of them, will inevitably lead to a positive outcome. It has for Cav.
So tell me, in the comments, what are some marginal gains that we can make as the Church. Are they found in relationships? Good conversations? Solving problems in our city? And what should we do to identify and celebrate them when they happen?