Monday, December 8, 2008

Put Down The Model

For most of my life I have been trying to make existing models work. I have spend countless hours and dollars buy books, attending conferences, watching videos and listening to podcasts. Learning about the newest model for developing the church, or how to be an effective pastor, or whatever the topic of the month is. Constantly I find myself adapting these models, and still coming up short in feeling like they are meeting the need I see. I am tired of models. I am tired of using the same thought process and hoping to get a different outcome, see Einstein for definition. We in the church world are really good at putting a new coat of paint on something and trying to call it new and different, yet the core is still the same. Instead of getting new wineskins we insist on dressing up the old ones hoping they will work. It is time for a different way of being the church.

This is not a new wrestling for me, but I believe it has come to a head so to speak. The proverbial straw that broke the camels back came last week. I lead a meeting on clergy effectiveness. Now our original charge was to develop a list of characteristics which indicate a effective clergy person. Additionally, we were to think about how we would measure these characteristics. The group took a courageous step and decided that was not what was most needed. That clergy effectiveness can be developed in other ways. I invited the group to read, learn and glean from all the models we were shown. Then I offered the freedom to go off the map, and try a whole new process of getting at clergy effectiveness.

The group finished up the meeting with great excitement, and passion about the course we had laid out. Then came the note, the institution was looking for a checklist, so there could be an evaluation developed, just like we have always done. But this time it will be different, we will have the right checklist, and the right tool for evaluation. It seems our task was to rework an existing model, and not step beyond that. It is time to stop putting our trust in models, especially ones which have brought us to death's door.

No longer can I play the institutional game. It is time to lead the church in a new way. The direction has always been the same, the kingdom of God, but the ways we work to get there need to change. The time has come to forge ahead with something new. The existing structures, models and thoughts will not move us forward in the quest to follow the heart of Christ.

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