When people ask me what my D Min thesis is likely to be called, it’s always a difficult one. What I’ve found myself saying recently is ‘I don’t want the subtitle to become “why we made some really stupid decisions, in BUGB, in 2012”.
That’s because, what began as a relatively straightforward review of post 2000 in the life of BUGB, with a subtext of ‘can any trans-local body really enhance effectiveness in mission?’ quickly becomes a much bigger question, along the lines of ‘can we change the system?’
It strikes me, to ignore the inter-connectedness of our ‘system’ is not only to miss the wood for the trees, but to deny something of the essence of being part of the ‘body of Christ’.
What has become more widely known as ‘living systems theory’ is, I think, what Jesus talks about when he describes the kingdom of God. ‘The kingdom of God is like’ ……. and where does he draw the illustrations from? Human beings (inner and outer integrity), expressions of nature (the habits of God?), human connectedness (relationships), etc.
Margaret Wheatley (I’d like to call her Meg as her friends seem to, because she’s beginning to feel like one) talks about her work in her profession (broadly described as organisational change, or development):
‘when I talked to other consultants, I noticed that if we had an organisational change effort that was successful, it felt like a miracle to us’.
‘we weren’t even geared up for success. It didn't matter that we didn't know how to change organisations. We were all professionals who didn't hope to achieve what we were selling or suggesting to our clients.’
She says this to help describe how she developed some of her subsequent patterns of working.
What I think is really worth grabbing hold of is when she says ‘the real eye-opener for me was to realise how control and order were two different things and that you could have order without control’.
Isn’t this akin to ‘finding the path by walking?’
I’ve lost count how many times Ministers have become frustrated by trying to re-organise their small group networks. I’ve been there too, so it’s not without learning the hard way! How often does control actually work?
People don't often want to meet with X others just because they live near one another, neither does a mini church in someone’s front room, designed to represent the breadth of the whole fellowship, invariably result in genuine accountability, honest sharing and confessing of sin, or mutual encouragement.
However, do Christians generally want to belong and be part of a small group of people, with whom they can share life together? Absolutely!
So if control doesn't actually work in local church life and we think it intrinsically non-Baptist …….