25.8.10

Your Church, Your System

I don't know where I heard it first, but this quote still often bounces around in my head:

"Your system is perfectly tuned to produce exactly the results you are getting."

Inevitably, when this quote comes up, another quickly follows: 

Matthew 7:17-18 "Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit."

In other words, as you look around with ever ready critique on the tip of your tongue, remember that the thing you lament is a result of a system in which you are a part.  

What got me thinking about this? A third quote:

"If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory.  If a revolution destroys a government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves... There's so much talk about the system.  And so little understanding."
- Robert Prisig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I think these are important facts to understand, especially in church.  It never takes a long look around to see things we want to change; the desire is there.  Not only that, but the desire is there at literally every level of the church structure.  From the pastors and elders on down to the youth. More than just the desire, there also seems to be a continual thrust of action which is supposed to bring about the desired changes.  Unfortunately, I think that most of the time we are tearing down one factory so we can build another, upgraded version with newer branding, in its place.  We never realize that the problem is the factory, not the particular brand or the old equipment inside. 

Trite example, programs and people: One group in our church is neglected, older, in new life situations, or ready for something new? Create a program just for them.  Not enough volunteers? Training and recruitment programs. Need more involvement/buy in? Involve people in the programming.  But what if the problem is not these surface level issues? What if the problem is that our focus on programs inevitably neglects people? What if the number of programs, and the inherent demands in the system, guarantee lack of buy in, volunteers, and care?  What if the solution is not to create more isolated groups, but less groups which are more integrated? Of course, we can't leave all programming behind; there is a place for such things.  But how do we change our thinking about the way we do church so that we can come up with a new system which results in proper focus? 

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