Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Do church like it's 1999...

I recently attended a workshop billed as outlining what is needed for leadership in the 21st century. The title and about half of the workshop were built around a particular video. We were told in advance that the video was not addressed to the church, but it was applicable. The video opened with a very cheesy introduction, and it felt incredibly dated. A quick search revealed that it was produced in 1999. Really? 1999?

I tried to reserve judgment until the very end, and in the end, I am still left scratching my head. Why are we trying to learn about 21st century leadership from a video that is nearly 12 years old? To me, that speaks volumes about why we are still having such a difficult time moving into the 21st century (or in some cases, moving out of the 19th!) as a church.

While I think the church and church leaders can learn quite a bit from many different resources, equating church leadership with corporate leadership is perpetuating the old 20th century model of church – something that is keeping us from moving forward. What we need is not necessarily new perspectives on how to be church in the same way we have been church. We need new understandings of what it means to be church, rooted in Scripture, and informed by all of the resources we have at our disposal from many different disciplines.

I think the leader of this workshop gets it. I think he really has a vision for the church in the 21st century that is grounded in Scripture and conversant with the great diversity of our times. That makes it even more frustrating to experience the same old models in a workshop that is geared towards equipping church leaders for 21st century ministry.

In fairness, there is a bit of a catch-22. To be a leader in the church, you have to be conversant and fluent in the way that we’ve always done things. That’s how we’re trained. That’s how you advance. Then we’re asked to be visionary. We’re invited – through a system that is outdated and needs to change – to take part in that very system. Even if there is desire for change within that system, we are still working within the system that itself needs to be transformed. So how do we work for transformation? I’m not sure, but I don’t think we’re going to find the answer in a video from 1999.