Building the Kingdom in Diaspora


by Len Hjalmarson


    We live in a time of transition, where in every city of any size thousands of believers are finding that the church no longer seems relevant to their lives. Sensing that something is seriously wrong with the system, believers are tired of sitting passively every Sunday while paid clergy "do the work of ministry." Many believers have the idea (how odd!) that as priests themselves they should be more involved, and there is often a sense of coming to a theatre rather than participating in the life of the Body.

    Furthermore, many are tired of giving to building projects and for the purchase of new carpets. They seem to have become infected with the idea that our surplus funds ought to go to the poor, both those among us and those outside the walls. No one knows where such strange ideas come from, though some appeal to Paul in II Corinthians 8: 12-14 ("your abundance being a supply for their want.. that there may be equality," and to Acts 4:32 ("all things were common property to them." For more on this issue see The Tithe and the Field). .)

After all, is the church not a family? In a family do we not know and love one another? Do we endure long meetings where only one person speaks? Do we not seek to meet real needs among us? Do we "go to family" or is family an expression of our love for one another wherever we are?

    Many others are tired of church politics, and tired of sitting through long sermons that have questionable connection to their lives. Many are tired of the rigid roles and being defined by function. Others complain that they have attended a Sunday service faithfully for years, but have no real friends. They seek significant relationships, and are leaving the institutional church in droves.

    After all, is the church not a family? In a family do we not know and love one another? Do we endure long meetings where only one person speaks? Do we not seek to meet real needs among us? Do we "go to family" or is family an expression of our love for one another wherever we are?

    But we are na´ve to think we can simply abandon the church on the corner without substantial impact on our lives of faith. What will take its place? How do we build a supportive faith community outside the structure? How do we maintain a meaningful covenant not only with God but with other believers?

    Furthermore, how do we make significant connections apart from a regular gathering? And how do we endure the emotional transition of leaving the structure, which is often fraught with guilt and anxiety as those around us ask, "Who is Your Covering?"

    In order to answer these questions, I asked the Lord if there was a time in history that paralleled this transition from religious institutions and priesthood to community and an organic association. If there was such a time, we could learn much to help us through this transition and toward a new wineskin. Can history instruct us as to how we can bring real reformation to the church in our day?

The First Century Diaspora

    It shouldn't have surprised me. Such a time in history can be seen in two places in the New Testament itself.

    The first instance of a transitional time focuses on a transitional figure: John the Baptist. This guy was weird. That got me thinking about the emotional roller-coaster that occurs when people leave the institution as the center of their lives. Hmm. Yes, we were a bit weird at first. You can't begin to doubt yourself, the church, Christian culture and your own objectivity without feeling like a Martian for a while.

    In this discussion I don't want to focus on John the Baptist, though he is a fruitful study, but rather on the book of Acts. In Acts we see the rise of the early church, an entirely new social reality. Moving from Jerusalem and Temple worship, believers first find themselves in synagogues and then in homes. The books of Acts and Galatians document these changes and their impact on the new faith.

From the Temple to the Body

    Soon after the stoning of Stephen the persecution of the church began in earnest. As a result, Christians began to leave Jerusalem. At the same time, they left behind the center of their faith, and they went to live among people who didn't understand their customs.

    What is not commonly understood was that up to this time the Christians had been gathering at the Temple, just like the Jews. After all, had not Jesus Himself taught there? And had this not been the central gathering place for God's people for many centuries?

    Acts chapter two, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, probably occurs in the Temple. At the end of the chapter we read,

    And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart." v.46. (For other references to the apostles and disciples gathering in the Temple see 3:1, 5:12, 6:13 "this holy place").

    In fact, not only did the believers of Stephen's time gather at the Temple, they still made sacrifices as the Law commanded (Acts 21). At this point in time the new believers did not understand that observing the sacrificial Law risked compromising the gospel of grace.

    Fifteen years after the death of Stephen, Paul and Barnabus began their first journeys. They always went to the synagogues to teach and try to persuade the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. As the persecution spread, however, the early believers were no longer welcome in the synagogues.

    As the early church grew, and as it took root in non-Jewish cities like Antioch, a religious problem arose. The synagogues no longer welcomed the believers. They had no Temple where they could perform sacrifices. This was a problem, a serious religious problem!

crisis is also opportunity! When we lose our moorings in the certainty of the old, we become open to new ways of doing and being. We experience a new dependency on God. We become open to the Lord leading us to places we have never even dreamed existed.

    No one likes transition. Let's face it, change produces uncertainty and anxiety. Anxiety is a problem all its own, because anxiety blocks us from hearing the voice of God. We lose our peaceful center. How then can we see to take the steps that will lead us to the new center and new beginnings?

"The seeker will be broken
on the truth he's bound to find;
With joy and sorrow so closely intertwined,
No wonder this way is taken by so few..
There's a danger in loving You..."
-Tom Howard, c. 1981

    But you see, crisis is also opportunity! When we lose our moorings in the certainty of the old, we become open to new ways of doing and being. We experience a new dependency on God. We become open to the Lord leading us to places we have never even dreamed existed. In A Divine Confrontation, Graham Cooke writes,

    Order is always birthed out of chaos. When chaos surrounds us, the Holy Spirit broods over us...and God is creating a new masterpiece.

    We cannot hold onto our old order and still progress to a new level of anointing. When a new paradigm unfolds before us, it will always take us back to ground zero. Paradigms do not build on each other; they replace each other. God loves this! We start again with a new dependency rising out of fresh inadequacy.

    As the church grew believers were scattered throughout the Roman world. This was called the Diaspora. When they were no longer welcome in the synagogues, they met in homes. And when the Temple was destroyed in AD 70, even Jewish Christians knew that the Lord had engineered a significant change in their concept of worship.

    So, for the believers in Diaspora, the loss of the old moorings was a divine opportunity. Now they were ready to receive new revelation from the Lord as to the shape of their faith.

    The first steps were taken when Paul wrote the letter to Galatians; he drew a clear line in the sand... the Spirit and the law were at odds. Truly justification came by faith alone. There is no point in observing feast days or new moons.. these were all shadows whose fulfillment was Christ (Gal. 4). Paul urged believers to cast out the bondwoman and her son. "For freedom Christ has set us free!"

    Paul must have often thought about the words of Stephen before Stephen was stoned..., "..the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands.." (Acts 7:48). Paul himself preached in Athens that, "the God who made the world and everything in it does not live in temples built by hands" (17:24).

    Indeed, WE are the temple of the Holy Spirit! The only holy place now is wherever we move our feet! We are bearers of the Spirit, carriers of the kingdom wherever we go. This truth has become so familiar we need to ask the Lord to open our eyes to its full meaning.

    For the first three centuries the believers understood and lived by these words. But when the Emperor Constantine was converted something strange happened. Everywhere buildings began to appear, and the Church took the Old Testament as its pattern. A clergy arose and the truth of the laos of God was all but lost. Formalism replaced spontaneity and the rule of the Spirit in the gathering (1 Cor.12-14) was all but lost.

In Spirit and in Truth

    But back to the early church. After AD 70 things became clearer. The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. There was no longer any question about sacrifice and worship centered around a building.

    Jesus Himself anticipated such a time. In the fourth chapter of John Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman and they have a short conversation. She says to him..

    "You people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."

    Jesus responds,

    "An hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

    "But an hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers.

    "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth." (21-24)

    Incredible! The very foundation of worship is shifting. The PLACE will no longer be important. How can this be?

    Those who worship the Father have the Spirit. They don't need to GO anywhere to worship God. They carry worship within them, and the One they worship has the very earth as His footstool. He is not confined to any location. Rather, He fills the temple of His people, who are like living stones.

With a new Temple at the center of our belief system, we built many "Come" structures. We even rebuilt Old Testament worship, and talked about the "sanctuary" as though God lived in buildings made with hands. With the huge effort and expense of maintaining a physical structure, all roads led to "Rome." We had many ways to call people together in the fortress, and many programs to keep them busy. This took care of most of our free time, so we had to hope that unbelievers would come to us.

A Building Centered Religion

    The Chinese character for "danger" has two meanings: crisis, and opportunity. We live in a time when the corner Temple no longer seems relevant, and this is a big problem, and a great grace to us. Although transition is often confusing, and generally painful, truth is recovered in new clarity in such times. The truth that WE are the church and every believer a priest can be recovered in our time as we lose our dependence on leaders and structures and turn our gaze upward on our King. Truly, the Body has no human head, and we are all brothers and sisters.

    In our modern Christian culture we are building centered and leader centered. The result is that we have become very passive and dependent. We even began to believe that Sunday was the center of our lives, and we began to see Sunday as a Holy day and the church building as a Holy place. We were near to idolatry.

    With a new Temple at the center of our belief system, we built many "Come" structures. We even rebuilt Old Testament worship, and talked about the "sanctuary" as though God lived in buildings made with hands. With the huge effort and expense of maintaining a physical structure, all roads led to "Rome." We had many ways to call people together in the fortress, and many programs to keep them busy. This took care of most of our free time, so we had to hope that unbelievers would come to us.

    But they didn't come. The more needy ones didn't even feel welcome. With all our formalism (it's there, even if you don't see it), how could they? Not only did they lack the right clothes or the right language, they certainly didn't have the right habits or etiquette.

    With all our "Come" structures, we had no "Go" structures. We had many roads leading to the fortress, but no roads that led outward into our communities. We weren't involved in the lives of our neighbors; we were far too busy with church things. Our lives revolved around buildings and programs and other Christians. While we felt very comfortable, we were isolated from the real world Jesus entered and had no way to connect with the lost ones around us.

The Response of the Spirit in the Early Church

    The Diaspora of the Church parallels our own time. The early Christians also lost their center in Jerusalem. They lost the Temple and the sacrifices. Eventually they even lost the synagogue.

    Instead of mourning this loss, they began to build something the world had never seen before. Indeed, it could not be seen, because it was an internal structure, not a physical and external reality. It was not based on programs or human rationalization. It had no timetables and rules. It had no mechanism or syllabus.

    Instead, it had to do with the Spirit, human relationships and an organic network. It was dynamic and spiritual. It was spontaneous and founded on love and community. To express something of this reality, I want to quote from Mike Peters, "Meetings in His Kingdom."

    "This is a small part of the New Covenant, expressed from Acts Chapter 2 to Acts Chapter 2000:

    Monday: Early AM.... Many of the saints are gathered at different homes to open up their lives to one another before they headed off for work. What was it like? Some laughing, nearly half of the Hebrew letter was read in one of the homes; some passionate prayer for the souls of coworkers; and jubilant praise to Jesus everywhere. Nothing "goo-goo" or hyper-spiritual. Just some rock-solid gratitude to a Living King and terrific friend.

    Noon time... Different brothers are together for lunch with each other and some unbelievers with whom they are sharing God's love. Back in the homes, various mothers of young ones are together praying, and encouraging and teaching one another in the challenges of their situations. Practical, challenging time. Some tears are shed, God is honored, and satan is hammered again as the Word of God is spoken into the difficulty. Courage is renewed by Jesus' Victory.

    Late afternoon... Some disciples are out on a run and meet an unbeliever. He likes the idea of coming over for dinner.

    Evening... Because all the Saints were "seeking first the Kingdom," what started out to be a barbecue with a couple of families and the hungry runner who they found on the running trail at the park, is now 25 people who have found "where God's action is" this evening. They're sitting in the hallway, up the stairway and into the kitchen as various ones share their hearts and pilgrimage with the newcomer.

    Prayer and worship are the natural product of the move of God this evening. Of course. "Religion" isn't something we do on a some day of the week. It isn't an emotional pacifier, or a nice little sprig of parsley on the big, important plate of life. Christ and His Kingdom are real. Jesus is now alive, and reigning as the head of a living body - provided we are not disconnected from Him.

    Consequently, tonight He has used a Priesthood of Believers to do His Will (as He will where we have not denied His Headship by hierarchies, name tags, and pre-programmed liturgy). "And thus the secrets of his heart were revealed; and so, falling down on his face, the non-Christian worshipped God and reported that God was truly among us." And thank Him that He was! Tuesday:

    Early AM... Again, especially after last night's cutting-edge time, a number of the Saints are together to seek God's Face. ("My Father's House shall be called a House of Prayer." Without being know for prayer, at least by the Father, it's not His House.) This morning, too, one of the women confessed that she was not sharp in the use of her time at home. She earnestly desires some input and a lot of prayer that she might bring her heart joyfully into the Government of God and His Grace. Prayer. Tears. Laughter. Some really excellent time together to start the day.

    Daytime... A couple of the men who work third shift have given up some sleep to go from house to house amongst the church and some neighbors doing odd jobs for them. Several non-Christian ladies are over for lunch. Down-to-earth, non-dramatic, God-centered life.

    Evening... Two of the men have a strong desire to teach some of the older children some Truths about reverence for our Father and response to His Life and Love in a practical way. The nine of them all head off for a trail through the woods and "rise up, sit down, and walk along the Way" (Deut. 11).

    When they return, they discover that one of the brothers has called the whole church together to share some things that have been stirring in his heart. Some powerful teaching about "the full armor of God." A brother from India who we met in Bombay is visiting with us. He has become a true man of God.

    He too shared his heart and experience about the weapons and armor of God. All are agreed that we should "declare a Holy Fast" in the church for tomorrow, and really pursue God's application of these Truths to each of our individual lives. We have Bread that the world knows not of. (I hope that Bible verse is your experience, as well- to the extent that you could have written it, even if you had never read it?)

We have become like the fleas in the story of the scientific researcher. He used cellophane to cover a container loaded with fleas and then heard the "tick-tick" as the fleas continually bounced off the cellophane. After a few days he didn't hear the impacts, and curious, he removed the cellophane. To his astonishment, the fleas did not leap out of the container. They had adapted to the limits of their environment. We have adapted to our environment and its controls.

A New Task: Building Structures that Support Life

    All over the world the church is undergoing a quiet revolution. Few leaders in the church on the corner even recognize that it is occurring. All they know is that their back door seems larger than ever, and they spend more and more of their time putting out fires. The saints are restless and frustrated. Leaders don't know what is going on.

    All over the world believers are trying to send a message to Church leaders. They are trying to say, "We love you. But we have outgrown you. In fact, you are holding a lid on the gospel. You have become a cork in the bottle, and the life is captured inside. And we are all so used to the limitations that none of us even see them anymore."

    "We have become like the fleas in the story of the scientific researcher. He used cellophane to cover a container loaded with fleas and then heard the "tick-tick" as the fleas continually bounced off the cellophane. After a few days he didn't hear the impacts, and curious, he removed the cellophane. To his astonishment, the fleas did not leap out of the container. They had adapted to the limits of their environment. We have adapted to our environment and its controls."

    "Together we have been living in a model that limits us rather than releases us. But God gave us wings to fly, and fly we will." More and more believers are voting with their feet, moving outside the walls of the fortress church and trying to find ways to connect with the real world and walk as Jesus walked.

    Believers world wide are beginning to take the gospel to the streets. And when they begin to get results, will they bring the new believers to church? Of course not! Who would take a baby into a cold nursery where there is no food? Who wants a new convert ruined by leader-centered and consumer oriented Christianity? Who pours new wine into an old wineskin? Instead, they will take them home. Home is where the heart is, and the heart of the Lord is for the home.

    This is the church in diaspora, free of the religious institution, free of the limits imposed by the customs and traditions of men. The challenge before the new diaspora is to raise up leaders with a new vision, and to build structures that hold the new wine. As Jesus said, "no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out; and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved." (Matthew 9:17).

    To whom will we look as we seek to develop new ways of being the church? Not to the theologians; most are mired in old ways of thinking. Not to older church leaders; most are seeking to protect the kingdoms they rule so as to preserve their jobs. Too many others fear change. Instead, we must look to artists and philosophers, biologists and astronomers. We must look to those whose imaginations are unhampered by fear or by old ways of thinking, and then compare what we learn to the images of the church that we see in the New Testament. Only in this way can we break free of old paradigms.

A Simpler Way

    In the summer of 2000 a friend of mine lent me a book by Margaret Wheatley titled, "A Simpler Way." Wheatley previously authored a book that I greatly enjoyed titled, "Leadership and the New Science." That volume is required reading by anyone who expects to lead in the new millennium!

    The friend who lent me the book is a believer and a consultant for Fortune 500 companies, and helps them sort out leadership problems. Nowhere do we have more leadership problems than in the church in these times of transition. (Often this has less to do with the particular leaders than the challenges of change in a system resistant to change).

    Margaret's book was like a shaft of sunlight on a gray day. One of the questions I have had as I have begun to live and move and work for the Lord outside the fortress involves organization. You see, I've discovered that is tough to function as a body without some structure.

    While the example we have of body life is too rigid and formal, we can't do without some structure. Jesus pointed this out when he remarked that we need both wine and a wineskin. A wineskin is a type of structure; it is a form that holds the wine. Without a skin, the wine is lost. When the skin is old, it cracks and dries and the new wine is lost. We need some form to ensure that we retain the new wine.

    In the same way, as believers move outside the walls, they need some form of organization to contain the life. They need ways to connect regularly with each other, and to care for each other. They need new legitimizations of identity and authority. Perhaps they need new models of caring and equipping and leadership.

    Or does all this just happen as a natural expression of life in the body? Perhaps these things are not mutually exclusive. "Spontaneous" or functional leadership also needs models.

    As you listen to Margaret's thoughts, remember that she is coming from a theistic but primarily biological science perspective. Her observations are based on discoveries in biology and physics, primarily. Some translation is needed, but I think you'll be encouraged.

    Finally, don't expect answers here. Only the Lord has the answers. Our part is to learn the right questions, and to be open to see what the Lord is doing. From here on the purpose of this article is not to offer answers, but to help you ask new questions and to jar you out of old ways of thinking. On we go!

    "There is a simpler way to organize human endeavour. It requires a new way of being in the world. It requires being in the world without fear. Being in the world with play and creativity. Seeking after what's possible. Being willing to learn and to be surprised.

    "This simpler way to organize human endeavour requires a belief that the world is inherently orderly. Life seeks organization. It does not require us to organize it."

    Oh, oh. That threatens me as a leader. I might not be required to hold all this together? Wheatley's book breathes fresh air over the old paradigms, which simply start to wither away...

    "This world of a simpler way has a natural and spontaneous tendency toward organization. It seeks order. Whatever chaos is present at the start, when elements combine, systems of organization appear. Life is attracted to order -- order gained through wandering explorations into new relationships and new possibilities.

    "If we can be in the world in the fullness of our humanity, what are we capable of? If we are free to play, to experiment and discover, if we are free to fail, what might we create? What could we accomplish if we stopped trying to structure the world into existence? What could we accomplish if we worked with life's natural tendency to organize? Who could we be if we found a simpler way?"

    If we open our eyes, and if we let go of fear, we can begin to embrace some new rules. I confess that soon after I left the institutional church, I was looking for ways to organize other believers outside the walls. I was afraid for them, and afraid for myself.

    But as I let go of fear, I watched a wonderful thing happen. People got together. People prayed for each other. People reached out to their neighbors. People still read their bibles, and .. they talked with each other more. Relationships deepened and got more honest. In fact, incredible as it may seem, Christians gathered more frequently in smaller groups, and still had more time to connect with non believers. New ministries sprang up, mostly oriented to the poor.

    What might a new set of rules look like? Can we facilitate new structures, without actually controlling what happens? Is it possible that the less control and organization we do up front (the strategic thinking that characterizes those of us with discipled training ), the better the structures that will arise naturally under the direction of the Holy Spirit?

    In her book, Margaret Wheatley proposes these elements of logic:

  • Everything is in a constant process of discovery and creating. Everything is changing all the time: individuals, systems, environments, the rules, the processes. Even change changes.
  • Every organism reinterprets the rules, creates exceptions for itself, creates new rules.
  • Life uses messes to get to well-ordered solutions. Life doesn't seem to share our desires for efficiency or neatness. It uses redundancy, fuzziness, dense webs of relationships, and unending trials and errors to find what works.
  • Life is intent on finding what works, not what's "right." It is the ability to keep finding solutions that is important; any one solution is temporary. There are no permanently right answers. The capacity to keep changing, to find what works now, is what keeps any organism alive.
  • Life creates more possibilities as it engages with opportunities. There are no "windows of opportunity," narrow openings in the fabric of space-time that soon disappear forever.
  • Possibilities beget more possibilities; they are infinite.
  • Life is attracted to order. It experiments until it discovers how to form a system that can support diverse members. These explorations continue until a system is discovered. This system then provides stability for its members.
  • Life organizes around identity. Every living thing acts to develop and preserve itself.
  • Identity is the filter that every organism or system uses to make sense of the world.
  • Everything participates in the creation and evolution of its neighbors. There are no unaffected outsiders. No one system dictates conditions to another. All participate together in creating the conditions of their interdependence.
  • Life is creative. Most of us grew up in a fixed and mechanistic world. Things could be understood by analysis, and laws and principles extracted from observations of behavior. Right answers could be found by bright minds.

    We have focused too long on right answers. We have taken things apart in an attempt to build the better mousetrap. But it is all falling apart.

    Our previous activity was cloaked in fear. What if we don't get it right? What if someone else gets it right before we do? When we are immersed in fear, our creativity disappears. We don't hear from the Lord. Our options narrow. We make the greatest mistakes when in this state.

    But how then can we find a new way?

    We need explorers, those willing to venture where there are no maps. We need tinkerers. Margaret comments, "Tinkerers have skills but no clear plans. They make do with the materials at hand. Tinkering opens us to what's possible in the moment."

    "Life's (the Holy Spirit's) tinkering has direction. It tinkers toward order - toward systems that are more complex and more effective. The process is exploratory and messy." "All this messy playfulness creates relationships that make available more: more expressions, more variety, more stability, more support. Who we become together will always be different than who we were alone. Our range of creative expression increases as we join with others."

    Look at the diversity of creation. Do you see a playful creator? Do you see solutions, or just a love for life in all its expressions?

    Look at our churches. Do you see the same thing? Or do you see homogeneity, stagnation, and boredom? She continues,

    "We often tend to limit our explorations of what's possible by surrounding ourselves with large amounts of information that tell us nothing new. These measure lock us into learning about a predetermined world. They keep us distracted from questioning our experience in a way that could create greater possibilities.

    "There is an important humility associated with trying to direct our activities by setting goals or measures. Every act of observation loses more information than it gains. Whatever we decide to notice blinds us to other possibilities. In directing our attention to certain things, we lose awareness of everything else."

    It would increase efficiency if there were fewer actors. We still need those two guys on stage directing traffic.. and anyway how many leaders can we afford?

    "Simultaneity reduces the impact of any one error. More errors matter less if the actors are not linked together sequentially. ..

    The simultaneity of parallel systems may look like wasteful redundancy. Yet our fears about redundancy developed from the belief that organizations work best when they mimic machine efficiencies. But what is efficient for a machine has few ties to life. Life behaves in messy ways. In a living system, what is redundant? Who can know?

    "Life requires that we change. It cannot explore new possibilities otherwise. Stable systems provide space for our explorations. But if they do not welcome our explorations, they become rigid and die. This broad paradox of stability and freedom is the stage on which change dances.

    "Life leaps forward when it can share its learnings...

    "How do we support our natural desire to organize and the world's natural desire to assist us? It begins with a change in our beliefs. We give up believing that we design the world into existence and instead take up roles in support of its flourishing. We work with what is available and encourage forms to come forth. We foster tinkering and discovery. We help create connections. We nourish with information. We stay clear about what we want to accomplish. We remember that people self-organize and encourage them to do so.

    "In self-organization, structures emerge. They are not imposed. They spring from the process of doing the work. These structures will be useful but temporary.

    "Stability is found in freedom -- not in conformity and compliance. We may have thought that our organization's survival was guaranteed by finding the right form and insisting that everyone fit into it. But sameness is not stability. It is individual freedom that creates stable systems. It is differentness that enables us to thrive.

    "Most people have a desire to love their organizations. The fall in love with the identity that is trying to be expressed. They connect to the founding vision.

    "But then we take this vital passion and institutionalize it. We create an organization. The people who loved the purpose grow to disdain the institution that was created to fulfil it. Passion mutates into procedures, rules and roles. Instead of purpose, we have policies. Instead of being free to create, we impose constraints that squeeze the life out of us. The organization is frozen in time. We see its dead and bloated form and resent it for what it prevents us from doing.

    "And all too often, organizations destroy our desires. They insist on their own imperatives. They forget that we are self-organizing. Sometimes, so do we.

    "To recognize that everything is surprising is the first step to recognizing that everything is gift." Our plans are nothing compared to what God willingly gives us.

    "If we look at our efforts to change organizations, we see mostly failure. For almost half a century we've been trying to influence organizations. We still don't know how they change.

    "When there is so much failure in the hands of so many skilled people, it can only mean that we are seeking answers in the wrong place. Collecting more details or enforcing greater rigor still won't reveal wisdom. We have to journey to a different world and see our organizations with new eyes. We have to understand that we live in a world of emergence.

    "Many organizations use multiple assessment tools to categorize people. From such information, managers can assemble dream teams by recipe. We reassure one another that if we combine the right styles in just the right proportions, we can cook up high-performance teams.

    "We don't engage in all this assessment becase we are curious about the many ways people engage with life. We analyze individuals because we want to control them. We need to predict what will happen. What can we expect from this person as a leader? How will this team perform under these conditions?

    "When we realize that the world creates newness in every relationship, we can only laugh at these studied attempts at control. We can't predict what we think we can; we can't know ourselves in isolation. Life seeks systems; systems are full of surprises.

    "So are we.

    "Identity is another essential condition for organization. It is the self of the system that compels it toward particular actions.

    "Rigid identities give rise to rigid organizations. Initial clarity about direction becomes hard certainty about everything. Such organizations feel unapproachable. They know the way the world works; they know who their customers are; they know the future. They stand in their certainties, suppressing disturbances, shooting messengers.

    "Many of us have been in these organizations and felt deeply frustrated. Why can't they see what's going on? WHy aren't they listening to us? But they see through a self that admits no differences and no doubts. They don't wish to be disturbed.

    "Rigid organizations die early."

GO Structures

    "Learn from me, how difficult a thing it is to throw off errors confirmed by the example of all the world, and which, through long habit, have become a second nature to us." Martin Luther

    Somewhere way UP THERE I suggested that we need new structures, new forms of belonging that facilitate our touching those around us, outside the fortress. Some of these might be...

  • coffeehouses
  • food banks
  • clothing banks
  • women's groups
  • men's groups
  • service groups like a handymen's group
  • free meals

    While these might sound a long way from "doing church" they might be the vehicle to build a new way of being the church by collecting hurting individuals and gathering them together around the only One who can heal them.

    But now it's your turn.. who are you and where are you going? Ask the Lord to show you what is your part.


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• © 1999-2002 Len Hjalmarson.• Last Updated on September 25, 2002