Friday, September 28, 2007

Dealing with the Changes of Postmodernism

My friend Darci said this in an email to me: You bring up a good point about post-modernism... and I completely agree with you about the changes that it will bring about - that it's already brought about. The pastor of the church we were at on Sunday was talking some about change - and how strongly people are holding onto what they think church should be like, and how it's causing so much dissension... What is to be done about that? Why do people argue so much about things that don't matter eternally? I've been trying to think about things (like music) that we do now, that I would feel quite strongly about if they were to change? I haven't really come up with anything... Any ideas?
I just finished reading Humble Leadership by Graham Standish. In his chapter, "Spirit-Led Leadership," he refers to the thoughts of Bill Easum in Leadership on the OtherSide. I'll try to summarize Standish's summary of Easum: "Our culture and our churches are caught in a wormhole." The basic idea of wormholes is that one can enter one (in outer space) and suddenly transport to a far away part of the universe. "Acclimated to our own galaxy, we would enter the wormhole and exit into a galaxy whose very fabric was different and difficult to understand. This is the realm of the church today. We are leaving an age of Christendom in which the rules for church, religion, and faith were fairly well known and accepted. We are moving toward a new realm of life and faith, one that also has certain rules and requirements. The problem is that because we are not there yet, we do not know what to expect."
Then a direct quote from Esaum: "You and I are part of something big. Our world is plunging head over heels through a remarkable period of history. The epistemological, philosophical, ontological, and metaphysical structures underlying all of our belief and values systems are coming apart and being reassembled. As a result, the way people process knowledge is undergoing a profound metamorphosis of mind and heart. Something of this magnitude happens only once or twice a millennium."
Back to Standish: "The changes occurring today are rapid, and they ... require the development of new approaches to congregational life - some of which renew old rituals and some of which create new rituals. ... As leaders of congregations in the wormhole, we are responsible for leading the church through a time of transition in which the old ways no longer make sense and the new ways are not yet clear."
Back to Esaum: "Effective leaders today reside somewhere between absolute order and absolute chaos. The trick is to ride the wave of chaos to its crest without becoming engulfed in it. Instead of seeking order, leaders court chaos. The worst thing a leader can do today is avoid the chaos of the moment for the order of the past. To do so signs one's death warrant as a leader and consigns the organization to death."

So basically, we are in a tough spot, where the past doesn't work and the future is unclear. We don't know what does work (in terms of method or foundational philosophies). We are sort of feeling our way forward, taking tentative steps out into the unknown. Sometime we will go in the wrong direction, but we won't know that until we are already several steps out there. Humility and true leadership amid all of this worm-hole type change involves embracing the risks of moving forward and also embracing the possibility that we might be wrong and have to retrace our steps and start again.
Is this helpful or frustrating or both?
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