Polarisations

Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World, by Margaret Wheatley UK - £8.39, USA - $13.57

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Why do we polarize, move things into opposites that cannot live together, make life into either/or, a list of axiomatics when it comes to our organizational systems and relationship? Here are some I hear frequently:

1. Congregations/Being Missional: You can't have a congregation and be missional/post-modern.

2. Spirit Filled/Emerging Church: Emerging church is anti the holy spirit.

3. Preaching/Relevant: if you preach you are irrelevant, if you don't preach you are irrelevant take your pick.

4. Buildings/Organic: got a facility, then God forgive you for the monetary abuse that one is, be organic and sell it for the poor.

5. Leadership/Participation: got leaders, talk about leaders, then you are a modern control freak, where no one can participate, on the other hand not got any and you are going nowhere, in some communal share all.

6. Denominational/Post-Denominational: are you a dead dinosaur left over from christendom, or a post modern post denominational revolutionary.

And the list goes on and on. And they are all reductionistic, and all doing the same thing, from different sides. Just like the liberal/conservative polarization, or the modern church vs post-modern church. Polarization's using the same language, philosophy, and approaches to belief and practice, against each other. And of course in writing this, I am being reductionistic and polarizing too :-)

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If you have read my blog and my research you'll know I don't buy into the 'let's get rid of preaching, and all will be better', or the 'let's get back to solid preaching and all will be well' polarized approach. It's the crudest policing of boundaries, and the need to say who is right, who is in, who is correct.

I think there are other ways ahead. Margaret Wheatley in her book, Leadership and the New Science (above), talks about these kinds of unnecessary polarization's. How we try to police peoples beliefs and use polarization's to say either you chose my old, or my new way, either your in your out, and that it's unnecessary.

For example, a denomination might keep asking 'what does it mean to be baptist/vineyard/methodist', and warn people not to listen to others outside that policed boundary. Emerging church people might do the same, 'What is emerging?' and warn people away from the modern church beliefs and practices.

But there is another way. Instead of trying to protect people by using polarization's, we facilitate their experiences of things outside their system. Instead of controlling what people experience, interact with we facilitate it. Now I am not talking about the act of letting people do what ever they want, experience whatever they want with no input, that is just as unhelpful, and the flip side of controlling people's learning systems.

Instead I act as a facilitator, coach, tour guide, learning catalyst. If my denomination does this well, I might end up with multiple relationships to several networks, multiple coaches and influences, but as my denomination helped me grow, my primary connection remains with them, because they facilitated my learning, not because they controlled it.

In our churches, we acknowledge we can't provide everything, and help others find things outside of our limited provisions, and in doing so people connect with us more because we help them make connections in multiple places.

It means letting people people belong in multiple ways, and to multiple spaces, with multiple belief systems. The role of leadership becomes not about defining, or abandoning but in guiding, facilitating, and co-learning.

BTW this book is amazing, and explores the implications of quantum physics on organizational practice, then investigates ways that biology and chemistry affect living systems, and finally focuses on chaos theory, the creation of a new order, and the manner that scientific principles affect leadership. "Our old ways of relating to each other don't support us any longer," she writes. "It is up to us to journey forth in search of new practices and new ideas that will enable us to create lives and organizations worthy of human habitation."