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Course: Leading Healthy Church Culture
Lecture 11: Machine vs Garden
A. Production vs Cultivation
The role of the leader in a machine metaphor is production. The role of the gardener is cultivation and production of God’s work. You can’t scream at a seed and make it grow; you can’t tighten down on a seed and cause it to flourish. There is a nurturing that is critical in a gardening motif that is so very important. But it isn’t that they are not concerned about rice production, they are concerned that it produces rice. It is about what they perceive their role in this to be and it is to care for the rice, to care for the living entity and to do everything they can to ensure its growth, but ultimately it is God’s responsibility to bring the results. Back in Genesis, it says that God formed man from the dust of the ground and gave him breath of live and the man became a living being. The Lord took the man and put him in the Garden to work it and take care of it. The King James Bible says to tend it. The church is a garden and our job is to work it and take care of it.
B. Oiled and Cleaned vs Nourishment
If that is true, let’s compare the assumptions of a machine approach to leadership. The machine approach tends to view the collective called the church as individuals to be oiled and cleaned so they might function within that collective and the garden approach tends to view the collective as something that needs nourishment and watering as that they might grow. It is more individualistic growth which in turn contributes to the Kingdom of God. In the machine, according to James MacGregor in using the machine as a mental metaphor, people don’t like work and try to avoid it. But for the garden metaphor, people view work as a natural part of their lives. People are not motivated in the machine culture; it constantly takes something from the outside to get it going whereas in the Garden approach, people are internally motivated to reach objectives in which they are committed. Thirdly people have to be coerced and threatened to get them to reach objectives. People avoid responsibility in the machine way of looking at things. They will seek and accept responsibility under favorable conditions; they lack energy to solve problems in the machine culture but they become innovative in solving problems in the garden culture. People depend upon the intelligence of the leader in the machine culture whereas in the garden culture, people are bright and will excel when trusted to do so.
Why is this important? It again comes back to how we view people is what we tend to believe about them and what we tend to believe about them is how we tend to treat them. These are assumptions that yield to values that yield to practice. Another issue in how we treat people is how they will tend to act. There is a self-fulfilling prophecy in this. If you treat people as a machine, they will tend to function as a machine; if you treat people as a garden in a garden motif, they will tend to function in a more positive and productive way. Now, these are forced categories; there is of course a continuum between these. I don’t mean to say that if you treat everybody by the garden metaphor, they are going to excel. We are fallen people and we do tend to lean toward the Adamic nature. But as leaders, if we see people from that garden motif and view this as a living thing that is made in the image of God; these people that have been entrusted to us. Then it deeply impacts what we believe about them and it impacts in how we behave and how we function as leaders with them.
C. Coffee vs Culture
A person from the audience: does this creep back to the business world? My own CEO talks about meaningful work and tries to eliminate meaningless work in people’s workday. Giving proper conditions, people will work hard and this gives meaning to what they are doing. It’s interested that the secular world sometimes and in some ways are ahead of the Christian world. One such CEO of a famous coffee chain says that they don’t sell coffee, they sell a culture. It is really about these kinds of issues that are important to him. The way this CEO works, frankly seems more Christian than some of our churches. Another such CEO, there is a deep humility in him. He works with people who are geniuses; there is humility there that is rising to a different level as in the way he treats people within his company. So, there are entities out there like that; sometimes there are lessons for us. Now their motive is often different, but none-the-less their way of going about doing what they do looks very good at times.
One person says: I was just thinking about some of the metaphors that the Scriptures use for the church as you have been using the metaphor of a garden to describe the better way to deal with people. We have a similar metaphor with Jesus and the grapevine with the branches; we can’t produce fruit unless we take an active part in shaping those branches. Then there is the body metaphor with the different parts of the body. I think also of the marriage metaphor of the church with Christ being the bride and the church being the bridegroom. We have the good shepherd metaphor with Jesus being the good shepherd looking over the flock. There is also the temple with the living stones, where God dwells with Christ being the corner stone. They represent living things and not machine oriented. There is the metaphor of adoption also into the family.
So, I have basically submitted to you that the garden motif; the word garden isn’t that important as such. The fact that it is a living thing with the role of the gardener or person responsible to lead in these contexts in cultivation and nurture and God is responsible for the fruit and production as opposed to the leader being responsible for production. Then the people or whatever it is to get the job done become cogs in the wheel. Those are two very different models with the machine model dominating so much of our thinking in both the secular world as well as the church in the latter part of the 20th century. This is indeed changing somewhat because there is a pressure on the church to think differently; to think more organically about its role in the world. But there are some issues that we still face along this line.
D. Attitude and Following Jesus
If this is the case and if this motif of a garden is acceptable, then let’s move up a notch. Once we have this mental image in place, then what kind of core beliefs and values will arise out of that set of assumptions? I want to submit two thoughts to you that may seem very simple on the surface. I would like for us to talk about these. One, Jesus taught that effective leadership has more to do with learning to following him than learning to command or supervise. That doesn’t mean that commanding and supervising isn’t important, it simply means that when we are following Christ then we will tend to lead well. There are lots of implications there. Secondly, effective leadership depends more on a right attitude than on mastery of certain skills. From the audience: I am convinced that leading a successful organization with a person who is a control freak, then you will probably have a bad organization. But effective people allow others to do what they do best. If you are just keeping people in line through control, then they are not going to flourish; you are not going to see what they are capable of. So, one of the biggest things is just getting out of the way, letting people run and seeing what they can do. I think these statements reflect two Bible sections that we started last week from Hebrews 13 that effective leadership has more to do with following Jesus than learning to command. In Hebrews 13:7, it says to remember your leaders and consider the outcome of the way of their life and imitate their faith. If your leader is living that; that is a better person to follow, that reflects John 13 in washing a person’s feet, Effective leadership depends more on the right attitude, one who is a servant leader. That is the attitude, not the mastery of some skill. It doesn’t take a person to go to college to learn how to wash feet.
Can you consider this question, coming up with three points; how would the church in America be different if our leaders truly embraced these two statements? Good or bad? If we would be worst off then say that.
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