loren Eric Swanson: The Nature of Movements Part 2

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Nature of Movements Part 2

I pulled this article off of Marc van der Woude's blog http://marcsmessages.typepad.com. Marc really has his fingers on the pulse of what God is doing in Europe

by: Martin Robinson

3. Recovering roots

The implication of the above could be that it is always best to begin with nothing. Certainly there are those who are sufficiently disenchanted with existing structures that they simply do not have the heart or the vision or the will to renew that which already exists. That can be a matter of call and gift. Some are not called or able to renew existing structures and have no alternative but to strike out afresh. But it is not inevitable for movements to ossify or to decline to the point of death. It is undeniably true that some movements or denominations are not renewed and do die. But there are sufficient examples of the renewal of movements to believe that decline and death are not inevitable outcomes.

We have paid attention above to what happens on the left hand side of the bell curve. It is also necessary to consider what might happen on the right hand side of the bell curve. Unless there is a significant intervention from gifted leadership, the usual pattern of movements or organisations features the following steps.

Plateau and the beginning of decline. There is a delicate balance required in the harnessing of creative energy to organisational skill. All too frequently, organisational skill will dominate over time at the expense of creative energy. As that takes place the watchword becomes “consolidation”. In other words, the message goes out that we need a more stable organisation following a period of rapid growth so that gains are consolidated. That is a valid argument provided that the consolidation genuinely clears ground for another period of chaotic growth to take place. However, the likelihood is that the bringing of order signals that the creative people who disrupt order are no longer able to survive within the organisation and have already left.

Decline and Conflict. As decline sets in, organisations will generally polarise around two groups – the traditionalists and the radicals. These two groups have very different solutions to the problem of decline. The traditionalists wish to emphasise a return to the way we used to do things believing that this will restore growth. The radicals emphasise the need to adopt new methods and solutions for a new day. They are both wrong.

Division and Death. Growing conflict will lead to some kind of division with either the radicals or the conservatives departing. The outcome of such division is usually the death of the organisation. The death may be long and lingering or much more rapid but in either case the organisation ceases to be effective in terms of its original life and vision.

The alternative scenario, difficult though it may be to achieve, is to attempt a process of renewal. Such processes can be accomplished at any point in the decline of an organisation although clearly the greater the decline the more difficult the process of recovery. Renewal can come when creative leadership circumvents the conflict of traditionalists and radicals by asking a different question. The question that needs to be addressed is that of core purpose. Why was this organisation / movement founded? What was its original genius? What was it that God entrusted to the initial participants? What was the Divine deposit that was originally gifted and can that be recast in the present context?

The recasting of the original Divine deposit in a new interpretative framework can allow movement to be rekindled. Such a rekindling assumes a situation in which people are encountering God and coming to faith. If the new vision (interpretative framework) makes sense to these new believers and becomes once again transportable, then movement can be reignited.

4. Stimulating Movements

The rekindling of vision is an art more than a science but the following principles will help.

Realism necessary. Renewing organisations is hard work and history and time tend to be against you. The renewal process requires the presence of creative people who are easily crushed by rigid structures and who tend not to have the patience for the long haul. You may need to protect some of these creative people by developing areas of experimentation where the normal rules of the organisation do not apply.

Spiritual passion. The key issue at the beginning phase of renewal is not large numbers but passion and creativity. A small team with high levels of energy is worth much more than high levels of resource.

Look to the margins. It is very rare for organisations to be renewed from the centre. If you happen to be at the centre, then look to the margins of your organisation for signs of life and nurture them. Give those on the margins permission, encouragement and legitimacy such that eventually the centre can be redefined in terms of the life that exists on the edge.

Live the dream. It is vital to create the kind of teams that manifest in their working relationships something of the dream that they advocate. By living out what you seek to become you establish healthy DNA for the future.

Spiritual strength. The desire to do something different requires that leaders understand what they are up against. Organisations can have a life of their own, a personality that is bigger than the sum total of the individuals involved. Bringing change to organisations requires the spiritual strength to address that developed organisational personality.

Leadership is the key. The recruitment and training of more leaders than you can ever use yourself is the key to the growth of movements. The lack of leadership development operates as the glass ceiling on the growth of every organisation. Developing innovative leadership training systems must be a high priority.

Kingdom focus. The line between the Kingdom of God and personal empire is all too fine a line on occasion. Keep a strong Kingdom focus if you want to attract and keep those who have the capacity to generate movement.

Cheating history. To turn an organisation around so that it becomes again a movement is to cheat history. Be audacious enough to declare that this is what you are daring to do.


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