Leading a Healthy Church Culture - Lesson 10

Metaphors for the Church

Metaphors for the Church

Rick Sessoms
Leading a Healthy Church Culture
Lesson 10
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Metaphors for the Church

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This is a summary version of the Christ-Centered Leadership class in the Certificates section that includes a study guide and additional resources.

Dr. Rick Sessoms
Leading a Healthy Church Culture
Metaphors for the Church
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:00] Well, let's move then to talk about assumptions, because it is important to understand what our assumptions are. And we said that keep in mind that these in other words, worldview. That's a mental construct. It's a mental image. And so if you see your church, let's say that the leaders of the church see their church as a football team. Let's say that your mental construct, your image of the church is a football team. What might that communicate? What might you value and what might it look like? I'm sorry. That is the quarterback. You value the quarterback. He's the highest paid person on the team. Usually. What else? You do have to have some variety there. Okay. There has to be people that are playing different positions. All right. You have to have some consensus on the play you're going to run. Okay. There, there at least somebody is going to call the play. And everybody has to understand what the play is. I think you also value performance. You value performance. Let's push that a little further. What's the goal of a football team when to win against whom? The enemy is the enemy. Yeah. And the opponent, of course. What is there is their competition. Is there a win lose within the team itself? Yeah. Starters and. Yeah, sure, sure. What's the role of the coach? Inspiration. Inspiration with the best Get the best deal win. Okay. Train. Train. Does the coach play the game? I call the plays, but he doesn't make all the plays but doesn't go out on the field. So. A lot of leaders have an athletic image in their minds when they think of leadership. It's it's how we frame up and. And that mental image is going to create for us what we perceive as appropriate in terms of our view of the collective.

[00:02:14] Okay. That's that's all this little exercise is about. It's not about whether it's right or wrong, but it's about a mental construct that is that is affecting what we believe and it's affecting how we function. That makes sense. So it's it's just a it's just an example. Now, if we change the image to this, a symphony. Was the image of a symphony. What are the characteristics of a symphony for you? Harmony. Harmony. There's a there's an emphasis on on a beauty. The beauty of harmony. Perfect. Blending the blending. Okay. There are sections, different groups of instruments. What's the goal of a of a symphony? Is it to win? Losing is the performance. What about the performance is to please. Is to please. We could say it's excellence, right? It's. It's to be superb. Is there competition? You know, in a symphony? Who amongst me, maybe amongst the violinists or whatever. Anybody here, Part of the symphony. I'm not. I can play the radio, but that's about it. But anybody have experience in a symphony and have you? I'm told that there's like first chairs, second chairs, third chairs. Right. So. Is that a competition sort of a thing? Yes. Okay, I'd say it is. Yeah. So there is competition within a symphony, but not during the performance. Not during the performance. Okay, good. What's the role of the conductor in a symphony? The role of the conductor is to keep everybody on time, mostly. Okay. Oh, in a really good symphony. The conductor is keeping the time, first of all. And balancing the vibes. Yeah. Mm hmm. He notices if anything is slightly off that he would hear because of is an advantageous position. And then he can adjust to make little adjustments. Okay. But also, he that he or she does sometimes have to work in those those dynamics in competition with the players to make sure that if a particular player is very competitive, that they that they are not trying to outdo somebody else because that could throw off those.

[00:04:50] I'm glad you know about Symphony. That's good. That's very helpful. So if a person has a has a mental construct of the church or the organization of the symphony as opposed to a football team, you see how these things will shift, right? That's that's important to see. Now, if I change that to this. What's the difference? We don't have a doctor usually. Okay. You have a leader, right? But what does how does a leader different in a jazz band than in a symphony? Playing interview. Okay. Usually that plays an instrument, whether it's drums or the horn or whatever. So the person is a participant. Coach, if you will. What's the difference between a symphony and a jazz band in terms of its function? They are. You can do your own thing in jazz. Okay. So one leader goes and then another leader goes. And it's kind of you have a basic, whatever they call it, the the sort of the base thing. But it, it, but they kind of go off and do extemporaneous things. Right. But they all blend into the gumbo, as they say. That was good. I heard. So again, your mental construct impacts. How you perceive what you perceive as real and what you perceive as legitimate and appropriate. All right. Now, let's go to this one, because this really gets into it when I say the word machine. What are the characteristics of a machine? Efficiency. Efficiency. 24 seven. If I drove my 1993 Honda over here tonight, it's a great little tool. But when I got in that thing, I expected it to crank. And if it doesn't run flawlessly, then it either goes in the shop or it goes in the junkyard. You know it it is expected to do 24 seven efficiency.

[00:07:00] That's that's part of the characteristic of machine. What else about machines? It's true. First of all, it's impersonal. Talk about that a little bit. What's that mean? You know, they think they should love it. But you don't argue with that. You just. But we might actually have. You never argued with a machine. You don't care how it feels, okay? You don't care how it feels. Okay, good. That's good. Requires maintenance. Requires maintenance. Okay. What happens when a boat gets loose on a on a machine? Start to make it noise. But what's the solution? Take the time to vote. The tight knit thing down. Right. What's the goal of a machine? Important. What's the goal of a machine running smoothly? To run smoothly to produce the purpose for which it was designed? Okay. So it's productivity, isn't it? It really, at the end of the day, whatever machine you're talking about is to produce. That's the goal. When a person is talking about running a machine or being responsible for the machine, what is the what is the role of the of the machinist? Just the operate and keep it moving and keep it running through them. And what happens if a part goes bad in a machine? Replace it, replace it, Throw it away. Throw part away. Throw the part away. Get a new part. Is there life in a machine? Just characteristics of life movement. What does that mean? Well, if you define life, it's things like is there inherent life in a machine? No. So in other words, it has to have either wind from the outside or benzine, as they call it, in in India gas or whatever. It has to have something from the outside to keep it going. Okay. So there's no inherent life within a machine.

[00:09:11] The reason that this mental construct is so very vital today is because the machine was the dominant. Organizational metaphor of the 20th century. So that when people talked about organizational life, whether it was IBM or whether it was, you know, Ford or or whatever they were talking about in the 20th century, the dominant metaphor in all organizational studies was that of a machine. They talked about systems theory. Does that sound familiar? They talked about span of control. And even when they talked about people, they talked about human resources. So it's all about machinery. In the 1960s and 1970s, the church fundamentally adopted. That language and that mental image, that mental construct of what the church is effectively. You follow that? And so what does that mean? It and we'll go back to discussing. Well, and to just show you what I'm talking about. I was with a pastor who was making some wonderful statements about his church and and he described his church as a well-oiled machine. You heard that. So it's in our very language. So, see, that's where your mental construct, even though we don't think about it, is creating our value system and is creating our our products and practices now. Go back to the machine. What are the characteristics of a machine? Do you see it in the church of the 20th century? What's the goal of a machine? It's productivity, right? We call it fruitfulness. But call it what you want. It's about the end game is to produce. It's to. It's to win souls. It's to. Is to build bigger churches. That's the end. You follow in this. So what happens when a part of the body kind of goes off the rails when it doesn't quite work well anymore? What tends to happen within a machine oriented church try to fix what's broken down, Breaks down.

[00:11:39] Conflict. Conflict. Don't you go to the junkyard? Exactly. The person sort of gets sidelined and you move a new person in. Keep the machine going. You see we got here. That's what is is dominant in terms of the model of the church in the 20th century. The problem is, is that the generation that's coming up behind me is resisting that machine metaphor, that that machine assumption, because they're saying. We really want to be valued as people. It's about the people. It's not about the production. It's about the people. And so they're they're reacting to this. And that's why in so many places, there is a there's an exodus. There's a book that's just been written by a guy named David Kinnaman. He's head of the Barna Group is called Exiles. And these are Christian young people. And I'm talking to young people below the age of 30 that that that are believers, but they simply are exiled from both the culture and from the church. So they find themselves in no man's land because of this reaction to the machine assumption, the machine worldview that is so dominated church culture in recent in recent generations. So they're saying, can you tell what that is? I'm not doing that. Yeah, isn't it assembly line? Oh, it's probably church term. Tell us what it is. That's a fact. A right processing way. And those are people all dressed exactly the same. And it's about a river bank in China. And the people are actually the machine. So the people have become the machine. Is the point. And unfortunately, we see this in the church as well. The people have become the machine. Unfortunately, there's little life in a machine. And the machines whirring out. We have had so much conversation in recent years about the fact people are tired in the church.

[00:14:18] And so much of that is because functioning as a machine for a couple of generations, if not more at this point has led us to a point of meltdown. And and because the machine metaphor is simply not working for us anymore. You know, I think what goes back to that is one of the assumptions is that measuring success is something that we need to be doing. Like, you know, we think, you know, we measure success on these areas of our lives. Like, well, maybe like your church health. Is it something like you measure? Like is it because we measure things just like compare to know that we're doing well? And so we want to like, say, is our church better than this other church or are we growing as fast? And so we like, you know, how do we stack up nationally? Are we a growing body and are we as our giving per capita, like compared to the national average, because we're where we like to measure and compare? And maybe that that's assumption that measuring and comparing matter and they probably don't. But that's an assumption that a lot of people have. And yet we still have to be concerned about this accountability because in our example earlier. So we do want to have some sense of evaluation. Maybe it's not right. Yeah, right. So we still need to make sure the sense of humility and connection and that we don't. Interesting. It's an interesting conversation. We'll get into that more at the end of the day. You will determine what the values are, the church. But the process here is is simply to to help us understand that our assumptions do impact our beliefs, and our beliefs do impact how we function and how we behave.

[00:16:10] If I went to this word. How will that change if we began seeing the church as a garden? How might that change our view? The church. It's not a farm, it's a garden is doing a variation of season two. Okay, so there's the efficiency thing. There are times of fruitfulness and there's a time of idleness, right? So there are seasons. There's cycles within any kind of a of a garden. It takes a lot of tending. Okay. In fact, would it be safe to say that the goal, the real function of the gardener is not productivity, but is tending and cultivating? Is that is that a fair statement? Like farms make money, gardens, or just often an outlet that people enjoy working in their garden and they enjoy the beautiful things and in the fruits of the garden and the vegetables. And those things are a benefit. But you probably could go buy vegetables for less money than and time and effort, energy and tending your garden. Well, you know, I'm not a big gardener, but I some people in my family are. And I can tell you that gardeners do care about how many tomatoes they're going to get off their plant. They do care about the bugs, don't get the beans and they do care that that the corn grows healthy and that the that too much water or too much drought doesn't destroy it. But they know those things can happen. They know those things can happen. And here's the key. They know they cannot control those things. So the fundamental role of a gardener is cultivation. Not production. That is a huge difference. That's a huge difference. Now, let me go further. Well, let's let's talk about it together. What else is characteristic of a garden? I'm not a gardener either, but I've enjoyed so many benefits of other gardeners who are so interested in sharing their gifts.

[00:18:25] Not for credit to them. Look how big my tomato is, but they have something that they can share. Joy to see you enjoy. It brings joy to them. Okay, so this sense of open handed with the garden. Okay, good. Is there life in a garden? You're talking about brothers? Yeah. There is inherent life within a garden. And that's a powerful metaphor. As opposed to a machine. You see that? In fact, there's a bias towards survival in life. Sometimes just leave a garden alone. It'll grow with a machine. You got to turn that thing 24 seven. You got to continue to pump gas into it, or it'll stop running. If I don't have enough oil in my machine to get from here home, it'll blow up on the way home with a garden. The reality is there's there's. There's a bias for survival. There's a bias for life within a garden. Very, very different metaphor. So. If we changed our mental construct from a machine to a garden, how might it affect? Our belief system in the church. Because I will go so far as to say this. I believe that the garden metaphor is a much more consistent metaphor with biblical imagery than a machine. Well, just starting out with that assumption, our whole sense of pace. Complacent. That's right. It's not efficiency. It's about recognizing and respecting life and how life develops with a long term vision. Sometimes with a garden, you choose some plants and you plant them knowing plant trees, for example, knowing that it'll be 30, 40, 50 years before you know. Right. And it's interesting, Paul said one planted, another watered, but who gives the increase? God gives the increased God responsible for production. I'm responsible for cultivation, a totally different imagery, a totally different mental construct of what the church is about.

[00:20:59] Now, do you buy that or do you not buy it? I guess that's that's the question I want to pose to you at this point. This is a I can't I can't tell you how fundamental a shift this is. That's going on and and and in my opinion, needs to go on in the church around the world, moving from a mental model of a machine to the mental model of a garden. So how many business practices do you think work for them in the church? I mean, because that's part of what you're talking about. Quality of a well-run business. Yeah. And please understand, I'm not against well-run businesses. I think that there are there are certainly elements that we've got. We've got to have accounting, accountability in finances. I mean, our I was stuffing donor envelopes today because it's it's a reality that that we live with within any organization. So this is not about bypassing those, but it's about the fundamental we start with the fundamental imagery of what is the church, what what is the the the the mental imagery of our collective. Because it will affect what we believe about the church and it will affect how we practice. So you have to keep coming back that kernel of truth. If you're going to focus on even when you do say, well, if we're going to have room for people, we have temperatures. I mean, important to the business part of it. Sure. So I've got to remember why now again, please. I said and I want to say it again, every gardener that I know is concerned about how many tomatoes they get. It's not that we're not concerned about that, but it's how we go about getting those tomatoes and who ultimately is responsible for getting the tomatoes.

[00:22:58] It's like a posture of humility and that we know we don't control the outcome. It's where we put our energy. It's where we put our priority. It's how we frame our responsibility. Because that mental construct is going to affect what we believe about people and about our roles as leaders, and it will affect our practice and our products. Let's take a break.


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