Monday, October 26, 2009

redeemable metaphors...

i have been giving a whole lot of people a whole lot of grief for their continued use of applying business model metaphors and terms to the function and identity of the church and its agents. though i believe that no institution or power is beyond redemption (thank you walter wink) i also believe that at this moment the business model may be temporarily bankrupt of integrity when it comes to models we should follow (e.g. enron, worldcom, aig, citicorp, bank of america, the list goes on...which is a major part of the problem). one of those folks challenged me to supply them with a model or models that might be less problematic. so i threw out three and i would like to see what you think...

pioneers: (ala Walt Whitman & western US expansion) moving out into an unfamiliar area with little professional expertise but a boat load of common sense, the church could reclaim its pioneering spirit of not only reaching out into new areas to establish community but also rediscover the value of relying upon natural or readily available resources in a respectful and renewable manner to thrive. could also breed creativity and innovation as we are asked to rely on the gifts and expertise we bring rather than going out and hiring one/some.

tribes: (ala Indigenous/Native Americans and, more recently, Seth Godin) playing off of the innate human need to group itself into communities or tribes, the church could rediscover what it means to live in a self-sustaining community where each member has a unique role and brings unique gifts to the table. tribes need leaders; sometimes that's one person, sometimes it's many people.

movement: (ala history) working out of a metaphor that in and of itself is a verb, the church envisions itself as a community on the move/in action. a movement often involves a greater number of people and employs decentralized leadership as a survival mechanism: having one leader centralizes power and possibly redefines its ideals as one person's philosophy and also risks that the movement will live or die with that leader. decentralized leadership doesn't mean the community is "leaderless", it means that leadership is spread throughout the community making its survival and growth reliant upon the many rather than the few. also, movements have traditionally been perceived as counter-cultural and if we cannot claim Christianity as counter or at least transformational to popular culture we may be in more trouble than we realize.

1 comment:

Jason Valendy said...

Good work here. It is easy to critique the working metaphors but much harder to create ones to fill the void created by removing former lenses.

While every metaphor breaks at some point (as these will if taken to far or used in excess) I think you have the start of a good foothold.

Of the three, I think movement resonates with me the best. Pioneers might work but I am hung up on the destruction of the native land/people that tends to follow the pioneers of the past.

Tribes seems to work, but it also seems to lend itself to a "close" set of people. Getting into a tribe is sometimes impossible if not difficult.

Whereas movement works for me as a way to understand how to 'be church'. This seems to recapture the original descriptors of Christ followers - people of "the Way".

As you know I have been working on Spirals, Circles, and Cones as a working metaphor for not only Biblical hermeneutics but also altruistic action and the role of the Church.

The more alternate metaphors we use to talk of Church the wider range of people who will connect with the message of Jesus. Using business metaphors (which I am noticing the Bishop is using more and more of) comes at a great cost to our credibility when we talk about "Changing the World."

Are we trying to change the world like Wal-Mart is trying to change the world, or is the church changing it differently? If it is differently, then we need different language and metaphors.

Keep it up.