Wednesday, October 25, 2006

More about Connecting

Rather than waiting for the simplified version, "Dwight for Dummies," I delved into the next essay, written in 2004, anticipating further treasures. It is hard for me to describe why this really impacted me. It describes what I sense - that the church should be more fluid, more connected, more mutual. I'll share a few more quotes today from the next essay.

Hubbing: The “Being” and “Act” of Leadership within Dynamic Christ-Clusters

The strength or health of a Christ-cluster requires multiple links bridging outside of the immediate cluster. The multiplicity of links bridging beyond an immediate community is what knits the members of a Christ-cluster into the larger fabric of the kingdom. When Christ-clusters live into the links beyond their immediate community they find a type of intrinsic accountability stemming from an infinitely larger network giving meaning and definition to the localized Christ-cluster. Without connections beyond itself the rogue Christ-cluster can assume a type of totalitarianism, heresy, cultish tone or any manner of idiosyncrasies, which further reinforce its isolation from the rest of the network.

This is really important, whether you are talking about traditional churches, independent churches, or simple/house churches. It isn't about having a "covering", but about maintaining authentic connections and truly joining ourselves with the larger body of Christ.

Missional linking is what it means for a hubbing node to seek connection beyond its natural affective community. David Weinbergerger describes 'missional linking' using the term 'hyperlinks.' He writes, "Hyperlinking throws everyone into immediate connection with everyone else without the safety net of defined roles and authorities." Missional linking will cause a hub to position themselves in such a way that the safety of their own social construct is jeopardized, for the sake of establishing links where none existed prior.

Ideally, a church allows and encourges and sometimes instigates the missional activity that produces these connections. What can be threatening to the organization however, is that many of these connections will happen beyond the control of the organization. For those churches willing to take the risk, there is an incredible opportunity for transformation.

Within living organisms chaos is a necessary prerequisite for change, innovation and creation. Without chaos there is no learning, no change, and no transformation.

When the equilibrium of relationally organized clusters is thrown into chaos, the Christ-clusters do what all living organisms try to do when thrown off balance, they try to stabilize. Relational stability becomes a goal and the cluster or the individual node will link and re-link with other nodes seeking to re-establish equilibrium.

This drive to forge new relationships further knits the nodes of the Christ-cluster within the kingdom even though it may demand a radical reorganization of the Christ-cluster such that the node which had been serving a relatively significant hubbing function ceases to do so.

In the solid church paradigm the group dispersement and an altering of a node's hubbing significance would usually be seen as failure, however withn the scale-free paradigm dispersement serves as a type of cross pollination which actually strengthens God's kingdom as a whole.

I believe that most of our traditional models have been too rigid to accomodate the kind of dynamic, organic change described here.

Equilibrium in living organisms is a death sentence. The moment a cluster settles comfortably into its presumed static existence it runs the risk of becoming a cancer or a parasite of sorts. "Disorder becomes a critical player, an ally that can provoke a system to self-organize into new forms of being."

It is important to stress that the service of introducing chaos is not the same as wrecking havoc. The introduction of chaos is not an end in itself, but is a nudge out of a false security of preceded equilibrium, for though we often long for equilibrium we stagnate in it.

In thinking of community, it is important that we don't idealize permanence, even though we value commitment. If we understand that transitional nature of our connections and the importance of these connections continuing to evolve and multiply, perhaps we will be less likely to mourn the inevitable changes in relationships as the kingdom continues to advance and be more willing to launch others into the next season of their journey, even when that journey takes them away from us.

Some more interesting thoughts about leaders:

Quoting Peter Senge of MIT:

Our traditional views of leaders - as special people who set the direction, make the key decisions, and energize the troops - are deeply rooted in an individualistic and nonsystemic worldview...At the heart, the traditional view of leadership is based on people's powerlessness, their lack of personal vision and inability to master the forces of change, deficits which can be remedied only be a few great leaders.

Dwight says:

We do ourselves a disservice when labeling people as 'leaders.' We create a false dichotomy between leader and follower. This dichotomy lends itself to abuse by the person social labeled as 'leader,' while encouraging a type of disengagement from persons socially labeled as 'followers.'.

The function of leading within a Christ-cluster links other nodes, fosters interpersonal relationship and facilitates connection, and then is open to getting out of the way, encouraging the new relationship to develop as those in relationship self-determine.

I believe it is possible to have a type of leadership that doesn't foster dependency. Doing this however requires fighting against two very powerful forces - first the tendency of those in leadership to settle into a position of dominance, and second, and possibly more powerful, is the tendency of people to prefer defaulting responsibility to a designated leader.

Hubbing leaders ask different questions than hierarchal leaders ask.

Hierarchal leaders ask: Who is following me? Who is different? Who will support me?

Hubbing leaders ask: Where is our common ground? How can we aid one another? What are our hopes and dreams - any intersection? How can we introduce chaos so that we become more deeply knit into the network of God's kingdom? How can we make more room around the table? How can we bridge the gulf that has separated us?


Steve Sensenig said...

[Leadership without fostering dependency] requires fighting against two very powerful forces - first the tendency of those in leadership to settle into a position of dominance, and second, and possibly more powerful, is the tendency of people to prefer defaulting responsibility to a designated leader.

Very well said! The responsibility really does go both ways.

I think part of the "fluid" nature of what the church needs to be necessitates (to go along with what you're saying here) that leadership not be a "position", and not necessarily even a permanent one.

More and more, I really like the term the Bible uses of "elder". The term, as well as Paul's list of qualifications for elders, seems to imply an "earned" position, one that is earned over time with demonstrated faithfulness, humility, etc.

When we have leaders who hold a "position", the forces you mention become even stronger. And even more so when that position is a salaried one.

steve :)

grace said...

I completely agree with you!
(no big surprise there)