Thursday, 3 June 2010

DECONSTRUCTION.3. – ‘Re-Imagining’

"Every day people are straying away from church and going back to God."

Lenny Bruce

This quote brings us abruptly to the point. If we don’t act now we face, well I’ll leave you to ponder that.

One thing is for sure there is wide spread decline across the breadth of the ecumenical spectrum. It encompasses the western world as we know it.

We need to undergo personal and corporate transformation, morphing, re-imagining, re-enchanting call it what you will.
“The Church in the west is well and truly in the midst of a post Christendom and pluralist position, we compete with a number of entities.” Eddie Gibbs.

"We live in extraordinary times in the western world, when church attendances are diminishing but spiritual hunger is rising." Dave Tomlinson.

Our mental models are deeply embedded within us; we are like a rabbit caught in the headlights of the world we live in; paralysed!
Are we in the process of losing our faith personally and corporately?

We have a direct need to Re-imagine our call and what it is we are supposed to do in the midst of the deconstructive process

1. By providing the arena and creating a safe space, people can find their vocation through experience, experimentation and connections. Interestingly Crep’s states that; ‘The Church’s job is not to save people but to shape the space in which God calls them to himself.’ I would go further and state the leader must set the pace and fashion this by his personal Missional life. This ‘Spatial Evangelism’ is not just done in a program or project and is not linear or two dimensional it has volume to it, three dimensional, spirit, heart and venue. It encompasses all of the week, time and space the leader works in. This space is made safe by core values and virtues: providing a positive culture to live and work in.

2. The next question is to ask what this means for the next generation of leaders. The leader’s shape in the 21st century needs to be aware of past and present but is not shaped by ‘being right’ or driven by ‘meeting needs’

3. Engage in the FOUR aspects of the journey which are interrelated, leading to one another and to action and back again. It’s messy and sometimes chaotic yet the leader embraces this as it reflects how life happens around them. What they try to do is to look for God at work and then ask;

How can I interact with this?

Cultural Reflection: - Culture comes from the Latin word culturus, from which we also get, cultivate. ‘Technically speaking, culture is the vast array of symbols (language, clothing, icons, ideas, hairstyles, stemware, obscene hand gestures and pretty much everything else) by which human beings cultivate our life experiences.’ Elsewhere Newbiggin defines culture as ‘Understanding the sum total ways of living developed by a group of human beings and handed on from generation to generation’
Understanding and the application of this is crucial for the leader if they are to position themselves to influence others in the next century. The leader is aware he can’t escape culture and doesn’t try to subvert it; rather he adopts a counter culture posture that doesn’t divide sacred and secular. By embracing this paradigm they show alternatives that people can chose without having sectarian threads embedded within them, its inclusive and not exclusive allowing people to join the movement.

Missional Reflection: - this component is always contextual and always situational to the present yet the leader holds a biblical narrative alongside it this allows them to shape a better future than currently expected. By being unashamedly spiritual, experiential and incarnational the leader shows by example how Christ can transform the arena by human interaction. The main advantage here is that it can work in all settings not just Church or Christian organisations.

• Spiritual Reflection: - This is no longer the realm of the professional clergy, but intrinsic to all believers. A priesthood for all, that includes more than the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, solitude etc. but because of reflection it promotes action, which forms habits and set the tone for the leaders life. Followers watch and repeat this cycle in a manner that is suitable for them in their context.

• Theological Reflection: - is linked to the mission and setting they find themselves in, Jones says: Theology; ‘reasoned discourse about God, religion and spirituality. Literally words about God, from the Greek word logos (word) and Theo's (God)’ the leader is cognisant that all truth is God’s truth and is happy that Christian theology does not have the sole claim to truth.

However the leader can translate the truth into the idioms of biblical narrative. A great example of this being the Apostle Paul and his visit to Athens, ‘It is plain to see you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, To ‘The God Nobody Knows’. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, knowing who you’re dealing with. Theology has a practical outworking and this relationship link informs each other about the outworking of mission.

What is interesting is that a linear sequence is excluded. Cyclical and seasonal influences are rhythmic and ritual to this process. I find this exciting as it reflects my own journey: I have become dissatisfied with next-level thinking and the next new thing. I feel more at ease exploring the dimension of the present. Webber explains how there is no ‘correct point of entry’, this allows free flowing dynamic and organic relationships and networks to be created.

This freedom to explore the dimension sets us free instead of being like salmon swimming upstream to spawn, trying to get up to the next rapids, only to find the next fish ladder and ultimately death. McKinley in his book talks about pastors and leaders and how they love to build the kingdom, but Jesus didn’t, he simply stated ‘the kingdom is…he simply invited his followers to see it, embrace it and believe in it.’ This enables the leader to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’.
The trouble is we like to think in levels of achievement as it gives us a sense of power and control; ‘if I work hard and do the right thing I can move to the next level.’ More appropriate leadership for the context of the 21st century in light of this discussion must be that the leaders ‘be’ first, and ‘do’ out of this sense of being rather than to ‘be’ as a result of doing.

Our previous models have at the centre of them works to achieve and build things, this is changing but it will take time and courage to achieve this.

Concluding Remarks.

If the 21st Century leaders can position themselves in the flux of learning, unlearning, being at home with experiments and tradition, paradox and chaos they can bring about a marked change in Spiritual climate we find ourselves in. One of the greatest skills a leader can learn is the ability to learn from their mistakes. We may get knocked down but we must get up again.

I finish with one last thought from the book Reimagining the Church, by Frank Viola.

But is the church really different in every culture? …..Or is it that the church has over adapted to modern western culture in its theology and its practice?

Speaking of the problem of over contextualisation, Richard Halverson writes; “When the Greeks got the gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business.

hope you enjoyed this series;
speak soon

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

DECONSTRUCTION.2. – ‘Embedded Assumptions’

Today’s post sounds quite grand, it could almost be the title for a novel.

One day perhaps!

From yesterdays post we recall that:
Deconstruction instead describes a particular method of literary criticism that seeks to get behind the text to reveal “Embedded Assumptions” another word being our Mental Models.
What are Mental Models?

Models that shape how we act.

The classic thought behind this term comes from work presented by Peter Senge – The Fifth Discipline.

Senge sets out the thought that; The Art & Practice of the Learning Organisation has 5 “competent technologies”
What are Mental Models?

When brilliant strategies fail to get translated into action because they conflict with deeply held internal images of how the world works, images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting.

All penguins do is think FISH!

What are Mental Models?

These are ‘deeply ingrained assumptions, generalisations or even pictures and images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action’ Chris Argyris – Harvard
Our “linear thinking” dominates most of our mental models Senge states that “ the learning organisations of the future will make key decisions based upon shared understanding of interrelationships and patterns of change.”

We need to be people, leaders who have a clear understanding grounded in the cultural and spiritual time frame they were in enabled these people to make correct judgments for their nation. An interesting point here is that this type of understanding has been quoted as being ‘Contextual Intelligence’: The ability to read the forces that shape the times in which they live and to seize in the resulting opportunities. In Their Time, produced by Harvard Business School.

A notable cross reference biblically;

1 Chronicles 12:32 The men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel, should do--200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command;

The question we must ask ourselves; Do we understand the times and seasons we live in and more importantly do we know what we should do?
In our deconstruction process the “Embedded Assumptions” are deeply ingrained within us, the primary influences being;

• Background

• Education

• Culture

• Values

• Ethics

• Spirituality

Which if that isn’t enough is mixed with the complexity of the 21st century is a major hurdle.

Our task first is to unlearn what we have learned. The futurist Alvin Toffler says ‘ the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn’L Sweet, Summoned to Lead.

Which reminds me of a scene from the film Avatar, where the Shaman of the tribe says to Jake Sulley “You’re are too full”

The question we must ourselves are we too full?

Tomorrows post. DECONSTRUCTION.3. – ‘Re-Imagining’

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


Today’s post is the first of a three part blog.

“DECONSTRUCTION” is frequently used in society today; we hear that “Society is broken” we are in need of “root and branch” change, we are plagued with mantras and visual signs of ‘Change is Needed’ and ‘Its time to think again how we do things.’

Politicians build careers on it, businessmen build large empires on change and deconstruction.

But of what use is it you may ask?

When we see those who espouse it living in direct contradiction to what is being said.

To some deconstruction is a technical term that has often been misunderstood, it’s often perceived as threatening and confrontational and leads to DESTRUCTION.

A search in a dictionary reveals;

A philosophical and critical movement, starting in the 1960s and esp. applied to the study of literature, that questions all traditional assumptions about the ability of language to represent reality and emphasizes that a text has no stable reference or identification because words essentially only refer to other words and therefore a reader must approach a text by eliminating any metaphysical or ethnocentric assumptions through an active role of defining meaning, sometimes by a reliance on new word construction, etymology, puns, and other word play.

Deconstruction instead describes a particular method of literary criticism that seeks to get behind the text to reveal “Embedded Assumptions” another word being our Mental Models.

I wonder if subconsciously when we see or hear the word DECONSTRUCTION we see and think DESTRUCTION.

We need to begin a conversation and ask questions; start “to undo or take apart in order to arrive at a deeper understanding, allowing for a creative rereading” - Barbara Johnson – The Critical Difference.

Another term of phrase is Re-Imagining: – a term I will talk about in a later post. Eddie Gibbs in his book Church Morph, which I heartily recommend speaks of the transformation process (deconstruction) as the “morphing” of the church.

A search in a dictionary reveals;

The animated transformation of one image into another by gradually distorting the first image so as to move certain chosen points to the position of corresponding points in the second image.

Picture by Jade Ashcroft.

I like the term morph it creates warmth and certain safety somehow. It is derived from the Greek word morphe, which appears in the New Testament in a significant context. The apostle Paul writes to the Philippians 2:5-8

5For, let this mind be in you that is also in Christ Jesus,

6who, being in the form [morphe] of God, thought it not robbery to be equal to God,

7but did empty himself, the form [morphe] of a servant having taken, in the likeness of men having been made,

8and in fashion having been found as a man, he humbled himself, having become obedient unto death -- death even of a cross, (Young’s Literal Translation).

Gordon Fee explains the meaning of morphe as denoting ‘shape’ or ‘form’. This is precisely what Jesus did as he embarked on His mission, It cost him everything; yet he gained more.

The paradox of Jesus' remark that we should ‘lose our life to save it springs to mind’.

Deconstruction is costly but worth it, before embarking hastily on our journey we should take care to understand the process the best we can having faith that once that God will journey with us.

What I would ask is that we see DECONSTRUCTION not as DESTRUCTION but as BREAKTHROUGH.
For deconstruction to be of any use to anyone it has to work on a personal level first it seems pointless to attempt to reshape, deconstruct, transform, re-imagining; anything without first applying the principles to our daily lives. Our lives have to morph in order to ensure that destruction doesn’t occur without it our rhetoric is useless, powerless and inept.

I hope this post has provoked some thoughts?

Tomorrows post. DECONSTRUCTION.2. – ‘Embedded Assumptions’