I gave up reading books on leadership ages ago. But... I made a new friend who is studying missions at Azusa and reading a book for a course there that he assured me would be interesting: Leadership and the New Science. He was right. This is not even close to your typical "develop your leadership" bluster.
The author, Margaret Wheatley, describes the inability of our ancient "Newtonian" science concepts to properly describe our universe. The "old" science views creation as a machine that can be understood by taking apart each piece and examining it. This view of life has caused us, for centuries, to put together control-systems that will organize mechanical systems for the desired result. She suggests that our understanding of organizational and leadership models is a direct result of our old way of studying the universe. The new science, on the other hand, describes a universe that is not so easily defined or controlled. At the core of the universe is not some basic "building block" but rather unseen connections between "entities" that change and are, themselves, fluid. Thus, Wheatley sees our new understanding of the universe pointing us toward "living sytems" that use "fluid and organic structures" that possess the "same capacity to adapt and grow that is common to all of life."
Whoa... this is a bit "heady". I know! But I am intrigued nevertheless. There is no question that we have trained ourselves in the "scienitific model" which influences so much of how we approach life, ministry, leadership, and everything else.
I remember being asked, in elementary school, to participate in a special class in which "select students" were trained to think and reason according to the scientific model as a way to think and understand our universe. Yet here we are, however many years later, and the scientists are saying that these models of linear scientific reasoning do not explain the reality of the world as we now know it to be. The world is not a machine, it is a living breathing organism that cannot be defined nor fully dissected nor controlled. It is a dynamic, changing, God-inspired process that is as much mystery as it is order. The structures literally change, like a river that becomes a lake, then a marsh, then a waterfall, yet the systems maintain their mission and intent (the water continues to run downhill to the ocean).
Wheatley does an excellent job (far better than me) of describing how our old way of thinking has impacted our man-made development of organizations:
We seem hypnotized by structures, and we build them strong and complex because... this is a universe, we feel, that cannot be trusted with its own process for growth and rejuvenation... By sheer force of will, because we are the planet's intelligence, we will make the world work...
If people are machines, seeking to control us makes sense. But if we live with the same forces intrinsic to all other life, then seeking to impose control through rigid structures is suicide.
It is easy to see how easily it is to carry this thinking into our "church work" without even thinking about it. We simply, naturally assume that our organizational structures are essential for holding the world together and even God's work within that world. We adopt postures of control and structures that are rigid because they fit naturally within the context of the way we view our world.
In contrast, when we understand ourselves to be "living stones" intimately connected to the source of life, and when we realize that this is simply a reflection of how God created all of life, then we can begin to trust in the Creator's ability to bring forth a natural order within structures that are fluid and constantly changing.
Wheatley writes, in this "secular" book on leadership:
I want to trust in this universe so much that I give up playing God. I want to stop struggling to hold things together. I want to experience such security that the concept of "allowing"--trusting that the appropriate forms will emerge--ceases to be scary.
If I can simplify this dialogue, I just want to say, that if I can give up playing God... just follow after Him for the sake of learning to live life-with-God every moment... I can trust that the appropriate forms will emerge. What we tend to call "church" are just the forms that emerge. If the forms are supporting the simple flow of life in Christians, then they are useful forms for a season. When the life-we-live-with-God needs to be supported by other forms, then let them shift and change--because that is what living things do. We grow and the forms that support that life-growth, if they are serving us well, will shift.
Rather than control life with organizational methods, we allow the values and vision that is within the DNA of every child of God to bring forth an orderliness that will serve God, life, and others. That order will be simple, reproducible, and constantly fluid. It will be His order and therefore it will "work." We can, I believe, trust in the process of life that is in us and the process of the Spirit that has been birthed into the life of every believer.
Will there be chaos at times? Yes... in fact... this is a primary thesis of Wheatey's book that I will address, perhaps, later. Chaos and the life-giving, natural re-organizing that arises out of chaos is part of the process.
Are there leaders? Yes, again... another future topic. But it is leadership that arises out of the context and out of its ability to actually support life and not provide "control functions."
More to come on this... If I haven't lost you with this lengthy post.