With all the chaos and confusion, arguments and upsets we see on posts by “Christians” across a range of websites (FB, YouTube, etc.) I’ve decided to put a few explanations to help readers understand what I mean with certain terms.
If we want to cause chaos and arguments amongst Christians, just ask about what is meant by the words “church” and “Christian”. We could ask, “What is a church? What does a church do? How does a church work? What is it that makes a church useful to God?”
Likewise, “Who or what is a Christian? What do Christians do? How do they get things done? What makes a Christian useful to God?”
My guess if you asked one hundred Christians, even Christians from the same church, you would get a hundred different answers.
Here, I’ll attempt to explain clearly what I mean with what I write. Please remember, these are not definitions, they are my perceptions, what have in mind when I use a word or group of words.
A group of people that meet together to honour a deity within that group of people there is a structure containing one or more of the following human relationships:
2. Formal use of power and authority.
3. Routine or mechanistic ways of getting things done.
4. Predominance of one-way communication.
Anyone who says they are a Christian or a Catholic.
Roman Catholics do not refer to themselves as Christians, but as Catholics; theirs is the one true faith so therefore to them, all Christians are apostate and not associated with Christ.
However, When I talk about Christians and Christianity I am including Roman Catholics.
Structure and purpose.
Structure is the way something is made or put together. In the case of a group of people, it is the way people relate to each other. Purpose is what something is used for. Therefore, structure must facilitate purpose otherwise effort become futile and time and money wasted.
Eternal purposes of God
These are usually the things I have foremost in my mind, particularly concerning Christians and a church.
1. A wife for the son.
2. Sons for the Father.
3. A house for the Holy Spirit.
The degree to which a structure enables the purpose for which it is being used to be fulfilled. When a structure fulfills purpose it is effective.
Efficiency and effectiveness.
At first glance these words appear very close in their meaning. However, I think of the differences between efficiency and effectiveness in relation to purpose. One of the best ways to picture the difference is with bicycles.
All bicycles have the same general idea behind them, however, their structure (the way they are made , put together, varies according to purpose. We the difference between efficiency and effectiveness in the road race bike and the downhill race bike.
The road race bike (like those use in the Tour-de-France) is designed and built to convert the rider’s strength into maximum possible forward speed on a stable and predictable surface. The road race bike gives us a picture of efficiency.
We could also think of a production line which is set up in financial terms for minimum inputs and maximum outputs.
On the other hand, the downhill race bike is designed and built to enable the rider to maintain control of the bike at maximum possible speed while descending highly unstable and unpredictable terrain that may include rocks, gravel, mud, trees and sheer drops of three metres or more.
With effectiveness, we could also think of an ant colony. Compared with the production line, the ant colony looks totally chaotic, yet ants are said to be one of the most successful species on the planet. Therefore, we can see them as a picture of how a group of people with no apparent structure being highly effective, that is, fulfilling their purpose.
This occurs when a structure designed for efficiency cannot fulfil the purpose for which it is being used. Would you want to come down the side of a mountain on a road race bike?
Analytical and critical thinking.
Analytical thinking is where we evaluate an entity for its efficiency. In the case of a production line that makes a certain type of bicycle, say road race bikes, we are looking for ways to improve the efficiency of that production line by either reducing costs of inputs or increasing value of outputs or both. We are not considering external factors such as how many people want to buy road race bikes. If all our customers want downhill race bikes then by continually putting effort into analytical thinking we become efficiently ineffective.
On the other hand, critical thinking looks beyond efficiency to include effectiveness. Therefore critical thinking causes us to step back and look at the “big picture”, that is, it gets us thinking about the context or environment that we are working in and the intended purpose of our efforts.
Critical thinking causes us to ask questions like:
1. Where are we now and where are we going?
2. Is what we are doing going now going to get us where we want to be?
3. How are people reacting to what we are doing?
4. How are things changing over time?
The system is the way in which people relate to each other in society or in an organisation. It has been around for millennia. We can see it at work in ancient civilisations and it is everywhere today.
The system looks like this:
• People at the top who tell others what to do but don’t listen.
• People in the middle who are divided into two main groups who are in conflict. Those who work to enforce the system (“system” people) and those who work to meet the needs of people (“people” people).
• People at the bottom who have come to believe that things will never change for them.
The system works like this:
• Formal use of power and authority.
• Routine or mechanistic ways of getting things done.
• Predominance of one-way communication.
The system has two main supporting arguments to justify its existence today; Scientific Management (Also known as Taylorism) and Meritocracy.
Scientific Management (Taylorism).
It’s just over one hundred years since FW Taylor published “Principles of Scientific Management”. Taylor was a forerunner in the field of time and motion studies. His goal was that every task on earth performed by people should be done as efficiently as possible. From what I have read about him so far it seems one of his driving passions was to find, “the one best way” to complete a task.
In essence, Taylor promoted the idea that to be maximise efficiency, objectives should be broken down into the smallest possible tasks, then people recruited, trained and rewarded to perform that task as efficiently as possible.
Taylor believed that all thinking, planning and decision making should be done by suitably educated and trained professionals, that is, management (“bosses”).
Today, we see Taylor’s principles at work in all types of organisations; business, government, health, education and social services, other non-profits and churches.
The system that was seen as oppressive and unfair in ancient times is now alive and well and totally acceptable (to most) in the 21st-century, thanks to FW Taylor.
Is the idea that people achieve their position in society, their status and wealth, as a result of their own efforts. Therefore, in a meritocratic society the rich deserve no less and the poor deserve no better.
In my opinion the idea or concept of meritocracy is more than a myth, it is a delusion.
Organisation and organism.
An organisation is a body of people with structured relationships between them. It is the history, culture, structure, beliefs, attitudes (habits of thought), values and norms of this group that shape and determine their behaviour. It is the people in the organisation that decide what happens and how things get done. Organisations are created when one or more persons decide to relate to each other for a purpose. An organisation does not have life of itself, it lives because of the people in it. A good example of an organisation is a business, hospital or school. The way in which people in an organisation get things done can be seen in local government and in a production line.
On the other hand, an organism is something that has been created and structured by God and it has life in itself (as in a living creature or person). A vine with its branches and the body of Christ are good examples of an organism.
We can see the way in which an organism has life in itself, grows and reproduces with a vine and its branches. The ant colony gives us a perfect picture of how the body of Christ gets things done.
The body of Christ.
A group of people who are actively pursuing one or more of the following development activities:
• Learning to take the Lord Jesus Christ at His word.
• Learning to interpret unfolding events in the light of scripture with revelation from the Holy Spirit.
• Learning to willingly cooperate with the Lord Jesus Christ.
• Learning to relate to God on His terms.
• Learning what it means be transformed into the image of Christ.
• Learning to live in Christ and participate in God`s rest.
• Learning to relate effectively with other members of the body.
• Learning to exercise the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ in the spiritual realm.
• Learning to use God`s wisdom when working with others.
• Learning to build (structure and purpose) the body of Christ according to God’s design.
Mechanistic and organic.
Machines are built by men to get specific tasks completed as efficiently as possible with the minimal of human effort. When an organisation is structured to work as efficiently as possible, I think of it as mechanistic.
When ants go about their tasks they have no leader, ruler or overseer telling them what to do, but somehow, at any given time or circumstance, each individual ant knows exactly what to do for the best of the whole colony. It is as though an “unseen force” is at work amongst them. This is what I think of by organic or organic working.
Top-down and bottom-up.
There are many occasions my work will refer to a top-down strategy or a top-down approach to goal and task accomplishment. When thinking about top-down I have the following in mind:
• The efficiency paradigm (the Noah’s Ark paradigm).
• Efficiency (road race bike).
• Emphasis on organisation structure.
• Emphasis on results.
• Scientific management (Taylorism).
• The system.
• People at the top who tell others what to do but don’t listen.
• A concentration of wealth and power at the top (oligarchy).
• Mission, vision and values dictated.
• Quantitative data.
• Policies, procedures, strategies, plans, objectives, goals, KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators), milestones, targets.
• Job descriptions based on specific, recognised academic qualifications and experience.
• Vertical lines of communication.
• Cross-functional barriers (silo effect).
• Mechanistic working (production line).
• Analytical thinking.
• Deductive reasoning.
• Evidence based practice.
• Continuous Improvement (e.g. Six Sigma) and Total Quality Management.
• Performance Management.
• People expected to think and behave logically.
• Measuring quantities.
In contrast, is the bottom-up response or organic approach to goal and task accomplishment.
• The effectiveness paradigm (the spaceship paradigm).
• Effectiveness (downhill race bike).
• Emphasis on organism purpose.
• Emphasis on character.
• Mission, vision and values lived out.
• Principles for organic working.
• Organic working (ant colony).
• Qualitative data.
• Critical thinking.
• Inductive reasoning.
• Engaging, equipping and empowering individuals and teams.
• Building effective working relationships (organic working).
• Gestalt (the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts).
• The big picture.
• Creating an environment for effective learning and development.
• People expected to develop and use emotional intelligence.
• Describing qualities.
A paradigm is more than a concept or a philosophy. It’s a fixed way of thinking, that is, a belief system. Therefore, if a paradigm is false, it is a delusion.
The power of a paradigm is that it is our perception not only of the way things are but also our perception of the way things should be and the way things have to be because there is no viable alternative. For people who direct others, a paradigm is the way things should be for the best outcome. This makes a paradigm very dangerous to our spiritual life and our eternal future.
The foundation and construction of a paradigm in our thinking is such that it is a “stronghold of the mind”. The city of Jericho in the Book of Joshua represents a paradigm. It is only God’s power that can destroy a paradigm in the minds of a whole nation, by “whole nation” I mean the body of Christ.
A paradigm shift is a transformation in our thinking. What I usually have in mind for a paradigm shift is the difference between a production line and an ant colony, and the difference between Noah’s Ark and the Apollo 11 spacecraft.
When I read, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”, I am thinking paradigm shift, which also equated to repentance. To me, paradigm shift and repentance are synonymous. This is why I teach in the hope that God will grant repentance, because it is only by God’s power (the power of God’s word, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ) that can cause us to have a paradigm shift in our thinking. It is only God’s power that can set us free from the power of a delusion (a false paradigm).
Transformation is not change. It’s a paradigm shift. I think of transformation as a “metamorphosis”. Therefore, something that undergoes a transformation ceases to exist, for example, a tadpole becoming a frog or a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.
For me, the terms “transformational church” and “systems transformation” are an oxymoron. If a church or a system were transformed, it would cease to exist.
Noah’s Ark paradigm and the spaceship paradigm.
Noah’s Ark represents everything that has made us successful in the past, but now those same things are preventing us from being successful in the future.
What has made us successful in the past is the top-down approach. What will enable us to be successful in the future is a bottom-up response to God, that is, a new and living way.
Noah’s Ark was a very simple construction of just wood and pitch. Its purpose was to deliver Noah and his family from the flood (the first death). All it had to do to be successful was stay afloat for the allotted time.
On the other hand, the spaceship is a complex construction. It has extremely powerful engines for liftoff, together with highly developed navigation, communication and life-support systems.
The ability of a spacecraft to overcome adversity was demonstrated with Apollo 13.
If Noah were alive today, the Ark would be of no use to us. Noah faced a flood, but we face a fire (the second death).
The church system is like Noah’s Ark because it has fulfilled a purpose in the past, that is, to keep the body of Christ afloat until the right time to be delivered (brought out). To fulfil her purpose in the future, the body of Christ must have a “spaceship paradigm” compared to the Noah’s Ark paradigm of the church system.
The ability to put theory into practice. It is the combination of our knowledge, skills and attitudes (habits of thought) that make us competent. The way in which motor car engine manufacturers are continually improving at what they do gives us a picture of developing competence; continually getting better at putting theory into practice.
It is the ability of a member of the body of Christ to put the theory of scripture into practice (by the effective working of the Holy Spirit) that makes a “competent minister”.
What I have in mind is the term, “the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts”.
The patterns within Gestalt psychology give us a picture of the way in which we gather and use information to make sense of our experiences and the environment we are living and working within. One such pattern is “closure”.
Closure is our ability to “join the dots” in our mind so that we can “see” or recognise something or someone. A good example of closure can be found in music. When a tune is played in a different key it can have a completely different set of notes, but we can still recognise the tune, not from the actual notes being played, but by the relationship between them.
In the same way, the work and person of the Lord Jesus Christ and the body of Christ can be recognised today, not by comparing and evaluating current events to the past, but by perceiving the relationships that exist between Christ and His disciples.
Gestalt reminds me that the body of Christ is made up of many individual members designed to work together as an organic “whole”.
The combination of competence and motivation that is found in a small group. What I usually have in mind here is a pit crew.
Pit crews give us a picture of highly coordinated effort and an idea of what can be achieved when we have the right people in the right place at the right time, doing the right things in the right way.
Pit crews are also a great example of sacrificial service. They can make or break the efforts of the whole team, but it is only the team driver and the team owner who get the glory that comes from victory.
What I have in mind here is a means of achieving a predictable outcome. To me, the whole idea of a system is that by following a set of predetermined steps, a specific objective, target or goal can be realised and a specific purpose fulfilled.
Systems are only as good as their design, that is, they are not able to perform effectively outside their design parameters. Take for example an electrical system.
If we have an electrical system that is designed for a motor car, it will not be able to perform the job required on a truck. Cars use a 12volt system but trucks have a 24volt system (this is because trucks need more electrical power than cars).
Even a car’s electrical system may not be suitable for another car. It would not be possible to run a high-end BMW 7 series car with an electrical system designed for a Fiat 500. The power demand of the BMW would cause the Fiat 500’s system to fail.
A system is a great way to get results in a stable and predictable environment. However, when systems are trying to operate in an environment that is subject to. “rapid, discontinuous change”, then we are in danger of becoming, “efficiently ineffective”.
Telephone answering systems and call centres that provide technical support are good examples of how a system can become efficiently ineffective.
Because systems are designed and built on the efficiency paradigm (minimum inputs/maximum outputs) change is difficult and transformation impossible (our health and education systems are good examples of this).