Futurist Cassidy Dale is leading an online class for the Wayne E. Oates Institute on “How Theological Worldviews Shape Our Ministry.” One of the resources for the class is an e-book written by Dale entitled “The Knight and the Gardener: Worldviews Make Worlds.” In this book, he points to two extremes on a spectrum. At one end are the Knights who are always looking for a battle. They are ready to go off on a crusade and see every issue in black and white. They are defenders of the cause. At the other end are the Gardeners who are always looking for something to fix or nurture. They put all their time into bringing divergent constituencies together to accomplish some goal. Gardeners want to creative lasting alternatives.
At different points in a person’s life, he or she may be either a Knight or a Gardener, but each person tends to favor one style (or worldview) over another. Abraham Lincoln might be seen as a Knight who became a Gardener. Dwight Eisenhower might fit that role as well. Both fought wars but sought a redemptive peace.
When it comes to conflict, Knights seek enemies; in fact, they must have an opponent to justify their existence. Gardeners, on the other hand, look for challenges and opportunities and seek partners rather than enemies.
We have seen this played out in Baptist life in the South over the last three decades. Knights on one side sought to purify the Southern Baptist Convention. This gave rise to Knights on the other side (often called Moderates) who sought to defend the status quo. When the moderate Knights withdrew to form their own kingdom (just continuing the analogy), they continued to see the division as a battle to be won, trying to bring the undecided into the fold. Although some Knights continue to exist in the moderate camp, leadership (especially among younger leaders) has tended to adopt more the Gardener approach. These leaders want to build something new, attract the disaffected, and find new partners.
Although we honor the Knights for their sacrifices, the future of the moderate Baptist movement lies with the Gardeners. They are not looking for antagonists to define battle lines but new friends to expand their sphere of influence.
Download Cassidy Dale’s e-book, read it, and find out where you are on the continuum.