A couple of weeks ago Baker Books sent me a copy of Joe Myers second book, Organic Community. A book in which he builds upon the ideas of a Search to Belong. I finally got around to reading it yesterday while sitting under my patio umbrella. I am not sure how long it took me to read it but no longer than a couple of hours which is an endorsement of Myers’ writing style. Despite being a quick read, it had a lot of good stuff in it and made me rethink some ideas about Church of the Exiles, Resonate, and some other organizations I am apart of and I have several pages of notes and ideas that I took from the book and want to put into practice.
While in Search to Belong, Joe deconstructed the thinking that goes into small groups and gatherings in the church, he expands his thinking and looks at the impact of sacred cows like “vision casting” and planning have on church communities and how a change in the questions we ask can change the results. In the end, Myers is describing a community centric vision of a church (or business) rather an a hierarchical centric generated vision of the church which demands conformity with the vision about all else. By using real world examples from the church and his own business, SETTINGPACE, Myers shows that it is not only plausible theory but is happening in practice.
As I glance over my notes, the following thoughts hit me.
- While not taking anything away from what was written, I think this is a lot easier to do in new communities rather than old ones. As Pete Ward talks about in Liquid Church, churches do have certain expectations of their leaders (Ward uses the illustration of prisoners and guards acting a certain way in prisons because that is what is expected of them by each other) and do expect others higher up the org chart to lead in a certain way. For some reason, many men cling to the idea that their pastor needs to be a visionary leader, perhaps to justify their involvement in the church.
- True community and traditional churches are incompatible. Part of the problem is the idea of a pastoral calling being a career and also the view that church leaders are interchangeable parts that can be swapped in and out for the good of the community. In both ways, the commodification of those who are a part of the community destroys it and makes it not much different then any other profit driven company.
- Speaking of profit driven companies, some official and many unofficial church vision and mission statements are variations and spiritualizations of the old axiom, “maximizing shareholder value” rather than existing as a community.
- As good as Joe Myers book is (and it is excellent), it is a minority voice in a crowded market of people trying to sell the exact opposite of what Joe is writing. The leader/pastor has been so ingrained in how we see the church and we have spent so much time building him or her up, it is going to take a long time and a lot of discussion for the church to move away from it. Ironically, for the first bit, it may even take a strong leader to have the church to stop thinking in terms of heirarchical leadership and start thinking in terms of community (rather than just blather on about it).