New Rules for Engaging a Complex World

I've been pondering new paradigms in ministry. You probably also have considered the importance of new approaches as we see many denomination’s membership dwindling.

While thinking about this, I heard George Barna recommend a fascinating read, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal.

McChrystal commanded U.S forces in Iraq in the early 2000's. Leading the fight against Al Qaeda, he realized early on that the U.S. military was losing sorely. Old ways of fighting would not work against this new kind of enemy: a loosely organized network, yet one with an extraordinary “shared consciousness” – his term for an organization in which information normally reserved for top leaders is widely disseminated.

McChrystal learned that in complex, chaotic environments where information is readily available via the internet and social media, old style organizations simply can’t compete. Things move so fast and change occurs so rapidly that one leader at the top cannot possibly control everything.

He suggests this is not only true for the U.S. military but in fact applies to all organizations in our evolving, complex, chaotic, information rich society.

So, in the pressures of that environment and in response to what he learned, McChrystal reformed U.S operations into a "team of teams” to fight Al Qaeda. Everything must change, he says, and a “team of teams” embodies that change.

Space won’t permit a full exposition of what he means by that. Nor is it necessary here. I just want to point out both new implications and old truths it raises, in my view, for the church world and for today’s pastors.

If we assume that only flexible, networked, decentralized decision-making, highly informed organizations with a “shared consciousness” can thrive, what does that tell us?  

  • A network multiplying effect can only be accomplished through intentional disciple making.
  • The old model of the past where the pastor does everything while laity just do certain jobs will not work anymore.
  • Each member becomes more deeply involved, equipped through concentrated discipleship, renewed commitment of the gospel, and informed by strategic vision and supporting strategies. 

Discipleship and spiritual empowerment: are these not old concepts that may require a new emphasis, interpretation and implementation?

General McChrystal let go of micromanaging decisions. In his own words, he took the role of a gardener, tending to all the various parts of his command.

You know, that sounds something like “equipping the saints for ministry” to me. Perhaps the role of gardener could serve as a paradigm for pastors, as well. Nurture and empower people for their ministries; give them opportunities to do their ministries; support them as they launch and grow.

So, those are my thoughts. What do you think?

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Dr. Jeannie2 Comments