Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Ministry is Messy!

Written by: on April 11, 2013

Ministry Is Messy!
I used to think that ministry that is going well is predictable and orderly.  How naive!  There was always a frustration that I could do more to prepare and I could work harder and then maybe there would be fewer loose ends.  Perhaps that was a Newtonian perspective where there are clear and distinct boundaries, where the ministry is like a machine with predictable programs and where problems can be analyzed and fixed.  Over time I realized that the world does not work in completely predictable fashion and people do not always respond as expected.  I know understand that real ministry is often messy and problematic.  
Though not from a Biblical perspective, Margaret J. Wheatley, in the book Leadership and The New Science: Discovering Order in A Chaotic World Revised, provides a quantum physics style explanation for how organizations and leadership can flourish in a world that is messy and problematic.  Being in full time ministry, my mind immediately began to reflect on the book as it might have implications for ministry in general and for the discipleship ministry in particular.  In ‘traditional’ or ‘legacy’ church organizational life, programs are utilized to accomplish certain goals.  They are often ‘stand alone’ in the sense they do not rely on another program to function.  If a program is broken, it is analyzed and fixed or jettisoned and another put into its place.  Equilibrium is desirable and change is an enemy.  Wheatley would describe this type of church as a Newtonian construct.  She pushes the reader to accept another way for organizations to function and for leadership to lead.  She suggests a quantum physics style where change is expected and good and creative.  Where equilibrium is bad (zero dynamics), and where participation leads to creativity and ownership.  
Wheatley describes her new world view this way, “This is a world of independence and interdependence, of processes that resolve so many of the dualisms we created in thought. The seeming paradoxes of order and freedom, of being and becoming, whirl into a new image that is very ancient-the unifying spiral dance of creation. Stasis, balance, equilibrium, these are temporary states. What endures is process—dynamic, adaptive, creative.”  Loc 1482-1484.  I find her writing very helpful and refreshing.  I particularly appreciate her optimistic attitude and commitment to relationships and cooperative participation.
I was challenged by her writing when I thought about the ministry of discipleship.  Generally, I think of how I can function as a disciple maker to assist the growth of another person.  Though the Bible makes pluralistic leadership the norm and although it also points out the different functions of the various spiritual gifts and offices, Wheatley’s book really woke me up to the power of participation and process for the cause of discipleship.  Certainly, discipleship is a non-linear process in spite of the best intentions of 13 week discipleship handbooks!  The chaotic glitches that occur, rather than viewed negatively, can be embraced as growth opportunities, iterations for energizing the process.  I liked the author’s plea for a certain kind of leader and one needed for discipleship as well, “We need leaders to help us develop the clear identity that lights the dark moments of confusion. We need leaders to support us as we learn how to live by our values. We need leaders to understand that we are best controlled by concepts that invite our participation, not policies and procedures that curtail our contribution.”  (Kindle Locations 2056-2058).  
Her encouragement to focus on three areas to bolster connectedness to an organization or community: Who are we? Who do we aspire to become? How shall we be together?  These could easily form the basis for a discipleship process which helps a person to form a Biblical self image, to seek and follow God’s will, and to walk together in community with other believers.  I agree with the author that Westerners ”have been kept apart by three primary Western cultural beliefs: individualism, competition, and a mechanistic world view.”  Loc 2501.  I had never before connected a mechanized world view with how the church is organized in the West.  However, I do think it does inform how that view can limit the dynamic process of community life.  
This is a good book!  I will keep this one and refer to it in the coming days.
Wheatley, Margaret J. (2000-11-29). Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World Revised. Berrett-Koehler Publishers – A. Kindle Edition. 

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