Exit, Voice & Loyalty: Emerging Church in 2008

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Exit, Voice, and Loyalty is the idea and work of Albert O. Hirschman who explores the interplay between two essential options in organizational decline, being 'exit and voice'.

Not only was this book written in 1969 (the year I was born), I can't believe I'd never heard of it until recently and it is now on my list of most important books to recommend.

If you do some digging around, you'll find it's a key text still in print today, for anyone trying to understand the nature of belonging, and how people stay and leave organisations in decline. It lends itself to providing an understanding of what happens in a consumer culture with Christians and Church association/relationships.

It's a short (126 pages) and relatively easy read, and I'll try to get my notes in a readable form asap. But here's one application I made from the end of the book, that explores (I think maybe) some of what you might see happening in emerging church in 2008

'Revolution Eats it's Children' That phrase is a qoute from page 95, which explores how revolutionaries pay the price, take risks and and open up a gap between current reality and the possibility of a new reality.

Yet what happens is they are unable to brdige that gap, and make concrete the revolution they hoped for. The children of their revolution move into that gap, and they then feel the need to attack/critique those children, whilst moving further and opening new gaps of idealism.

So in terms of church I think we see this as early adopters and idealists for alternative realities, who then begin to critique the late adopters, who are perceived to have moved marginally into the gaps they have created. The children own the revolution and talk about and do things with it in their own way, and push against the parents.

So in terms of church, perhaps we see the revolutionary who looks for another revolution, and then deems the previous revolution to now be meaningless. So Emerging Church becomes passe, meaningless to early adopters, as they seek to extend the gap, and assert they were doing this before 'Emerging Church" or 'real emerging church' is happening somewhere that the middle and late adpoters don't know about (but the revolutionaries still do).

The revolution they wanted has not happened, as with all revolutions. I don't think this process is all bad or pejorative, and is one small angle on a complex process, of the nature of revolution/change.

We need early adopters who take risks and open spaces, otherwise we'd never enter into them. We also need middle and late adopters who make some of thos ideas a reality and concrete.

This is the nature of 'counter reformation', where the exiting revolutionary can end up talking about a group, that no longers resembles the identity that it had when they exited and gave voice against it.

So in 2008, I think you'll see more people distancing themselves from emerging church, who were early adopters, and yet more people than ever interested in it and asking about it, and finding it now 'safe' to engage in it.

And of course what was revolution can quickly become institution, probably quicker than ever. It's a cycle, that moves us all forwards, be we early, middle or late adopters.