I was introduced to the phrase above when I was a campus minister and doing research on young adult values and expectations. The idea has stayed with me and I have found it helpful in explaining what happens in a number of organizations when they “cast a new vision,” “organize to be more effective,” or make some other change that is more cosmetic than significant.
In a recent blog, the Rev. Linda Grenz, publisher and CEO of LeaderResources, takes a look at the Episcopal Church and challenges congregations to ask questions that will lead to change that is more than cosmetic. She points out,
“Organizational systems theory says that a system is designed to produce what it is producing. If you like what the system is producing but want to ‘improve it,’ tinkering with the system enables you to produce a better result . . . faster, better, cheaper. But if you don’t like what the system is producing, you have to change the system.”
Grenz goes on to pose some interesting questions based on this idea, including:
- Where is God at work in the world around us and, if we had no structures or ways of being the church already in mind, what would we create to align ourselves with and participate in doing God’s mission?
- Who are we, who do we say Jesus is and how does that shape how we live and “are church?”
- Are church buildings, as we currently envision them, essential or the best way for us to create sacred space for people to worship and…?
She also suggests this exercise for churches—“Write down everything you do, look at each item and ask: If we stopped doing this, would we still be the church?”
With all of the challenges that churches and judicatories face today, would this not be a good time to consider some of Grenz’s questions and obtain clarity on the question, “What business are we in?” Too often we seem to be in the business of survival. We assume that if we can just get a new pastor, pledge next year’s budget, or introduce a new program, we will be OK. Such an approach hardly does justice to the charge that God has given us to do Kingdom work. Isn’t it time for a change?