Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Equippers as Environmentalists: Re-Imagining Leadership in Today’s Western Church Part VI

Rose Center For Earth And Space

Originally uploaded by smokeghost

If you are just starting the series, you might find it helpful to read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV and Part V, first. Now let’s look at another major shift taking place today.

From Classic Science to New Systems Science
The media shift and the philosophical shift are both compounded and inter-related with the science shift – from classic science to new systems science. In a research paper, Kurt Fredrickson examines our current postmodern context, especially as it relates to this science shift and notes that this change is from a mechanical approach to life to an organic one. He states, “This new way of viewing and structuring the world offers a non-mechanistic, more fluid understanding of structures. This new understanding of structures permeates culture and philosophy, organizational theory, natural and social sciences” (Fredrickson 2007:9). He then shares this chart from Ervin Laszlo book The Systems View of the World.  Click on the charts to get a larger picture.

In the following chart, we see how the shift from classic science to new systems science develops in organizations, from a mechanistic model to an organic model.  Fredrickson gives us this chart developed by Hatch.

So how should this shift of our understanding of structures shape the church?  Kester Brewin in his book Signs of Emergence: A Vision for Church That is Organic/Networked/Decentralized/Bottom-up/Communal/Flexible{Always Evolving} contends that the current demise of the church in the West is not due to a lack of personal holiness, as much as on old wineskins, and that the church must empower people (herself) to honestly face change and evolve, or become extinct.

Brewin looks to Fowler’s model of psychological change, urban theory, and the science of emergence as well as the story of scripture to help us consider how to evolve, so that “rather than trying to import culture into church and make it ‘cool,’ we need instead to become ‘wombs of the divine’ and completely rebirth the church into a host culture.” (Brewin 2007:92).

He points out that studies of self-organizing, emergent systems in areas such as computing, biology, and economics demonstrate the necessity for organizations to move from the top-down, flabby institutional approach to a bottom-up, adaptable network approach that can meet the challenges of our fast-changing culture.  He mentions six characteristics of emergent systems we discover in new science that he suggests are the helpful genes to have in the DNA of the church.

1.  Emergent systems are open systems
2.  Emergent systems are adaptable systems
3.  Emergent systems are learning systems
4.  Emergent systems have distributed knowledge
5.  Emergent systems model servant leadership
6.  Emergent systems only evolve in places between anarchy and rigidity  (Brewin 2007: 97-117)

Not only are we experiencing the media shift from print and broadcast to the digital age; the philosophical shift from modernity to postmodernity and the science shift from classic science to new systems science; we are also experiencing a spatiality shift from rural living to urban living.  I will talk about that in the next post in this series.

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