Sears or Amazon?

By Peggy Hahn, assistant to the bishop

Sears or Amazon?
Sears or Amazon?

Only 25 years ago, mail-order meant flipping through the Sears catalog.   Now when you think mail-order, you’re likely to think Amazon.  What happened to Sears?  It seems like they should have been perfectly set to deliver goods through the mail and yet they couldn’t shift technologies or imagine the future market that Amazon has today.

We, the church, have something to deliver too – with the help of the Holy Spirit of course.  What do you want your church to look more like: Sears or Amazon?

We have more wisdom and capacity than we realize.  We have more resources at our fingertips (think Google!) than ever before.  Together, we can draw on our faith-imagination and make small changes that will have a big impact.

The current situation presents us with an adaptive challenge, not a technical problem, and adaptive challenges can only be addressed through changes in people’s priorities, beliefs, habits and loyalties.  Adaptation is radically different from doing the same thing really, really well.  Adaptation calls for a new style of leadership–adaptive leadership.

At LEAD, we have identified 50 different delivery systems for growing leaders. This diversity alone should convince us that a technical solution is a bad joke.  Think about it:

  • Successful adaptive leadership is specifically about change that enables the capacity to thrive.
  • Successful adaptive changes build on the past rather than jettison it.
  • Organizational adaptation occurs through experimentation.
  • Adaptation takes time. (No promise of a silver bullet.)

As the LEAD Design Team worked to create an organization focused on developing leaders, it became clear that what we are really about is calling Christian leaders into a deep, bold, consequential faith. This is not a technical change that looks like new programs we will be releasing for you to try this season. We are convinced that the answers people are looking for to “grow the church” are really questions of faith that we all need to work on together.

If you look back on your personal life, you know an adaptive change when you see one:

  • If you have gone to college, reflect on the first semester.
  • If you have moved to a new town, think about the loneliness and challenge of making friends.
  • If you are married, can you remember how you figured out managing your money together?
  • If you are a parent, think about the first three months of your life caring for a newborn baby.
  • If you are divorced, think about the first holiday you had alone.
  • If you are re-married, think about that first year of marriage.
  • If you have recovered from a natural disaster that took your home, reflect on the first 6 months afterward.

These painful moments–time between life as we knew it and a new normal–called us to do an uncomfortable, vulnerable thing, to rely on more than ourselves. They drove us to push beyond our default behavior because survival was not good enough.

Survival is also not good enough for our church. The answer is NOT in top-down authoritative leaders who come with all the answers. It is in people working problems together. We are creating a community of learners who want to wrestle with the questions, trusting that we can meet these challenges together. We are making a new normal.  We can build on the past to create the future but it will mean a moment of truth for each of us:  What does it really mean to be a disciple of Jesus and to make disciples?

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