LeRon Schults writes in his draft article, “Reforming Ecclesiology in Emerging Churches,”

“.. the ecumenical efforts of emergents are aimed at both reconstructing the identity of the church mediated by encountering [otherness], and reforming the communal practices within and across de-nominating boundaries.  Ironically, this attitude of ongoing reformational engagement with others has opened up interpersonal space and time for deep and authentic dialogue about and within differences, and fostered the practice of collaborative networking, more effectively than many of the efforts of official representatives of various ecclesial hierarchies.

“Emergents are multiplying, and for most of those participating in the movement this multiplicity is not perceived as a challenge but as an opportunity for forging transversal differentiated networks oriented by and toward reformative communion that empowers persons to share in the self-giving love of Jesus’ way of acting in the world.  Isn’t this what church should be?”

coverIn these paragraphs LeRon obviates the need for a “third principle” of leadership, toward which Wilfred Drath and crew have been working as reflected in The Deep Blue Sea (part I of my reflections HERE). The need has also been obviated by Alan Roxburgh in The Missional Leader and in The Sky is Falling – the need for a creative commons). The question asked by Drath is this: “When there is shared work among people who make sense of that work and the world from differing worldviews, how can those people accomplish the leadership tasks while holding those differing worldviews as equally worthy and warrantable?” This question is somewhat prescient, and incredibly relevant in a world that is tearing itself apart.

The question is relevant at macro and micro levels, nationally, and in neighborhoods. It’s relevant politically between Islamists and Christians, in particular between Americans and Iraq. It’s relevant between churches that are still operating with modern assumptions, and emergents. It’s relevant anytime we work across cultural divides. It’s relevant with my neighbors when we have to share the cost and work of a new fence.

It is particularly relevant any time we need to set direction, create commitment and face adaptive challenges. Drath’s fundamental perspective on leadership is that it is “meaning-making in a community of practice.” Leadership development in a community or organization is the process of developing the capacity of the whole to make leadership happen for everyone, no matter how individual persons make sense of leadership.

And, of course, in a world in transition, and in particular in any large organization, people will understand leadership in a variety of ways. Many will see leadership primarily as personal (individual); some will see leadership as interpersonal (a process of negotiating influence); a few will suspect that leadership is relational: meaning-making. People sharing work create leadership by constructing the meaning of direction, commitment, and adaptive challenge.

This “third principle” does not clearly exist yet, but is on the horizon and is intuited by many who work in contexts where there are multiple worldviews. Drath writes that bringing this third principle into being will require three approaches. (It’s the third that interests me the most and connects back to Schults work above).

1. cultivate sense-making processes

Businesses and churches facing a rapidly changing environment no longer hold the needed knowledge to respond effectively in their senior leaders. In fact, the more senior the leader the busier, and the more likely to be operating on assumptions that are outdated. In short.. out of touch with the world outside the office. To effectively reengage leaders have to begin to hear the stories of those on the front lines, the common “lay” folk, or in the case of business, middle managers and sales persons.

But to “hear” from these people requires a new kind of forum. It requires a change in mind-set, a change in how meetings are framed, and a change in actual behavior in meetings.

The change in mind-set is from a problem-solving and decision-making mind-set to a sensemaking mind-set. This can be difficult for managers who have been promoted for their ability to solve problems..

2. explore narrative modes of understanding

Managers mostly rely on analysis, which is very useful for solving problems. The narrative mode is well suited for making sense. Analysis takes things apart; stories tell how things hang together. By staying with the narrative mode, people gather meaning instead of getting bogged down in details.

3. develop the capacity of dialogue

Organizational development professionals have been trying to get managers to learn how to do this for years. The main idea has been to develop respect for one another, critical for effective working relationships. Dialogue has been considered an add-on; nice, but not really necessary. This will be changing. Just as exhortation and command are the language of the first principle, and argument the language of the second, dialogue is the language of the third.

Dialogue enables us to truly engage the other. It is the natural mode of sharing experience. The rub comes under conditions of stress.

If dialogue is defined as a mutual search for a new understanding through fact-to-face conversation, all the parties stand to lose at least a part of what is valued and meaningful to them. Dialogue thus requires that people loosen their grip on the certainty of the truths they held dear, and an openness to a new reality that is unproven.

(Summary of Drath pages 156-62)

1 Comment on ecumenical.. and a “third principle”

  1. […] From a quote on a blog I read occasionally, “Emergents are multiplying, and for most of those participating in the movement this multiplicity is not perceived as a challenge but as an opportunity for forging transversal differentiated networks oriented by and toward reformative communion that empowers persons to share in the self-giving love of Jesus’ way of acting in the world.  Isn’t this what church should be?” (Source) […]