About a month ago, I finished reading Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision & Inspiration by Samuel Chand. The book’s premise is that leading a congregation through significant change demands that we assess not just our programs and ministry strategies, but our cultural system as a whole, because “culture eats strategy for lunch.” I think we’ve all seen this in action. Some cultures seem primed to embrace and implement new ideas while others suck ideas into a vortex where they’re never heard from again. When pursuing healthy, missional ministry, it seems that culture change, and I would add cultural intelligence, is our ongoing, difficult, yet necessary companion.
In a chapter entitled “The Catalyst of Chaos,” Chand introduces the need to anticipate opportunities for growth. This means that at times of stability and presumed prosperity, chaos should be introduced again in order to avoid settling back into a decline. I agree that there is wisdom in introducing change, even chaos, during times of peace, but in this section, Chand delivers a line that sets my old church leadership allergies aflame. Quoting John Kotter, Chand says that “Central to a continuous change culture is a continuous high sense of urgency” (125).
“…A continuous high sense of urgency.” A continuous high sense of urgency may well be an effective way to keep an organization on a steady growth trajectory, but it also strikes me as a good way to “gain the world, yet forfeit your very soul.”
I don’t think our souls can handle a continuous high sense of urgency. This should be a consideration of any individual or organization committed to discerning God’s vision. I’m with Chand on the need for continuous alertness and curiosity, and even periods of chaos and urgency, but it seems to me that a “continuous high sense of urgency” can lead nowhere but soul-sapping burnout. Quite simply, a prolonged sense of urgency is unlikely to produce anything of value without a commitment to the s-l-o-w practice of discernment and inner depth.
As you mull over these thoughts for yourself or for your community of faith, consider these few simple questions:
Is there room for periods of urgency and chaos in our spiritual life and practice?
Is there room for the Spirit in our periods of urgency and chaos?
Are we continuously alert to and curious of what God is up to as we lead?