Four key shifts facing the Church
From an essay by Rich Robinson
In a book 'Red Skies: 10 Essential Conversations Exploring Our Future as the Church', Rich Robinson writes about four key shifts that the church has to wrestle with in the next few years. His thoughts are based on the fact that rather than act as a one-man band or provide an expert-led class for students, Jesus' foundation and focus was to create a community of disciple-makers. And those disciple-makers went on to birth the early church.
That church is a body - interconnected and interdependent, yet we work in silos following the model of European Christendom. We need a new map. We need to recapture and reimagine the church as a movement of disciples, asking ourselves, "What would a collaborative, dynamic, authentic, sacrificial, generative and innovative community of Christlike leaders look like?"
The four key shifts could help transition to answers to this question. They are:
Shift 1: As generations age, the values of the millennial-influenced worldview will increasingly become normative.
A shift away from the ‘big boss man’ and edicts on high towards shared access to information, communal decision-making, and issues of justice, environmental care, equality, common good, and equity. This shift will challenge the church to once again be the prophetic agency it has always been called to be. The millennial generation longs for purpose and this will influence the church to be a force for creativity and innovation through communities, families, social enterprises and business, across all strata of society.
How can you help this shift?
Invite and involve different generations and diverse voices around your decision-making table.
Create space for ideas around possibilities or problems you have as a church.
Identify an issue e.g. equality, environmental care and engage with it as a church community.
Shift 2: As adaptive challenges increase, the necessity of embracing and leveraging collective intelligence will yield disproportionate returns.
A shift away from ‘solo-heroic leaders’ towards co-design, shared process, empowered teamwork, and mutual efforts of innovation. Think Clapham Sect, Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, etc. Could you create a team around an innovative, impactful goal and trial one or two projects.
Shift 3: In a digital world, the online reality is here to stay.
A shift away from corner offices or closed doors, towards networked, digital, dispersed teams. There are global online teams, global online businesses. How can the church take advantage of links to shared resources, people with experience, new relational connections? We are no longer constrained by the local. Why not identify some digital natives and ask for recommendations for your church.
Shift 4: As times change, the template for the leader will return to the original Founder.
The first 3 shifts will influence a fourth shift, which will involve returning to the person and pattern of Jesus as our role model for life and leadership. Jesus chose his core team and put a succession plan in motion. They had normal jobs, living unimpressive, ordinary lives. They were not cultural icons, endlessly ‘friended’ on social media. They, in turn, equipped others. This is an opportunity for us to re-imagine leadership, reimagine community, reimagine what we have and what we can be together. Seminaries need to change their leadership programmes.
The challenge is that we have institutionalised much of our church life, and we are likely to defend or tweak it rather than making the words, works and ways of Jesus our defining narrative.
This will take leadership rather than management.
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