Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Fresh Wind

Sailing in calm wind is excrutiatingly boring. Usually it's hot and flies come and the boats slogs through the water painstakingly slow. Then, if you are lucky, a fresh wind comes up. You can often see it coming across the lake as the ripples darken the flat shiny surface of still water. It smells different and it fills the sails, heels the boat over and off you go! It's what sailors live for; a fresh wind.
Alan Hirsch's book "The Forgotten Ways" is a fresh wind. It's so fresh I just ordered 6 copies for the church staff here. It will be mandated reading. Hirsch, an Australian gets it. He says what we need to hear and he points us in the direction we, in the established, denominationally anchored churches, need to go. It's a troubling book. The ways we have of doing church are not, by and large, doing the job. We are not transforming lives, not even staying even, but falling behind decade by decade. New church plants compensate for dwindling established churches. And it's not for want of trying. I've been to the seminars and conferences on church revitalization and congregational change. We go, we sit, we absorb, we leave, we revert to what we've always done.
At the end of his book, Hirsch points out 3 central assumptions of traditional (he calls "operative") leaders from the book "Surfing the Edge of Chaos" 1. The leaders are the Head, the organization is the Body. This assumption has it that intelligence is concentrated at the top of the organizational structure. Anyone else need not apply (see Kenton Anderson's blog today!) 2. A promise of predictable change. We know where the next 4 Midwinter Conferences and Annual Meetings will be, what will be on the agenda and who will be in charge. 3. An assumption of cascading intent. This final assumption means that once the leadership determines the course, initiative will flow through the organization from the top down with growing willingness and a veneer of popular buy-in. This is in contrast to an organic view that says real and lasting change comes from the bottom up and "the task of leadership is to foster condidtions that foster imagination, initiative, and creativity."
Hirsch leaves me excited that the real locus of power and transformative change is here in the local church. Get the book!


At 6:29 AM , Blogger kent said...

I love #2, why change? There is an underlying assumption and expectation of loyalty. And to ask for change is seen as being something less than loyal to those who are leading you.

At 5:25 PM , Blogger Kalon L said...

So why is this conversation only with church staff? Why not schedule a larger conversation among any who are interested?

At 9:06 AM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Good thought, let's talk about it more.

At 8:18 AM , Blogger Dan said...

Ah, Donn, I just ordered my next three books and now you bring another one to my attention... I'll put it on the list for the next round of reading.

Bandy, "Kicking Habits" makes the assertion that vision for organic transformative organizations (he is addressing church in particualr) comes from the fringe not the leadership center.

I like kalon's challenge!

At 1:24 AM , Anonymous alan hirsch said...

Thanks Donn and co for reading the book and listening to what I am tring to say. I hope God blesses your dreams.


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