Nobody in charge

20 11 2008

harlanclevelandlLife is theatrical – both in the sense of being the actor/actress (leader) and the audience (learner). A well lived life arrives at a good balance between these two roles. When the balance is off, however, we veer off the road into one of the ditches – the ditch of just observing life go by or the ditch of leading without an astute understanding of context.

Harlan Cleveland lived a well lived life and lived it at broadway theatres (I think I’m living mine at a high school musical – and I don’t mean High School Musical). Harlan Cleveland passed away this summer at the age of 90. After reading his obituary Charles Hoffacker wrote: “I felt as though I was standing beside a theatre entrance as a jubuliant audience flooded out onto the sidewalk: I had missed a remarkable show.”

Cleveland’s authored a dozen books including Nobody in Charge: Essays on the Future of Leadership (© 2002). In this book he tells of how over the decades he reworked and refined a list of leadership attitudes essential to what he called “a generalist mindset . . . indispensible to the management of complexity.” Here are the eight attitudes he came to recognize through experience and reflection:

1) A lively intellectual curiosity; an interest in almost everything – because everything really is related to everything else, and therefore to what you’re trying to do, whatever it is.

2) A genuine interest in what other people think and why they think that way – which means you have to be at peace with yourself for a start.

3) A feeling of special responsibility for envisioning an alternate future – a future that’s different from a straight-line projection of the present.

4) A hunch that most risks are there not to be avoided but to be taken.

5) A mindset that crises are normal, tensions can be promising and complexity is fun.

6) A realization that paranoia and self-pity are reserved for people who don’t want to lead.

7) A sense of personal responsibility for the general outcome of your effort.

8) “Unwarranted optimism” and a love for innovation – the conviction that there must be some more upbeat outcome than would result from adding up all the available expert advice.

The church…

15 11 2008

“The church… cannot be content to play the part of a nurse looking after the casualties of the system.  It must play an active part both in challenging the present unjust structures and in pioneering alternatives.”

– Donal Dorr

We need to be sanguine

15 11 2008

roxburghAlan Roxburgh’s comment to a recent article titled New Economic Paradigms & Church Leadership, by Sara Jane Walker, deserves serious attention.  His comment reveals the starke reality of the challenge facing church leaders in North America.  Following is the fourth paragraph from his comment: 

“We need to be quite sanguine about the current state of churches in terms of [the] issues of economic and social change. As the ambiguity and anxiety deepens they tend to become places people seek for security and re-assurance rather than transformation and the spiritual disciplines to live hopefully through transitions that many of [them] may never see end. At the same time I am aware that something else is happening ‘off stage’ just now. More and more Christians in North America (some suggest the number is moving up into the high 40% range) are dropping out of church as they’ve known it. They have not ceased to be Christians they just can’t function inside the church-denomination systems that shaped the 20th century. This is not, I believe, about taste (music, preaching, programs etc) or religious goods and services. I don’t think that read will hold water much longer (certainly not in Canada). Something much deeper is happening. Across all age ranges, this drop out has to do with a deepening sense that the churches are irrelevant in terms of issues people are facing in their lives in cultural transition. We could say much more about that but the point is that very, very soon a huge number of existing churches will find themselves in the position where the economic model out of which the church has functioned is no longer viable. This means high anxiety for a growing number of clergy who have grown dependent upon the salary systems of their church bodies.”

Missing the point

9 11 2008

“The point is.. all the effort to fix the church misses the point. You can build the perfect church-and they still won’t come. People are not looking for a great church… The age in which institutional religion holds appeal is passing away.

“Church leaders seem unable to grasp this simple implication of the new world-people outside the church think church is for church people, not for them.”

-Reggie McNeal


9 11 2008


Primer on missional church

9 11 2008

jrwoodward32J.R. Woodward has compiled an excellent “primer” on missional church.  His post is here and a downloadable version is available here.  This is a great entry point to a wide array of catagorized resources.

Living on the Edge

6 11 2008

The edge of things is a liminal space. The edge is a holy place, or as the Celts called it, “a thin place” and you have to be taught how to live there. To take your position on the spiritual edge of things is to learn how to move safely in and out, back and forth, across and return. It is a prophetic position, not a rebellious or antisocial one. When you live on the edge of anything with respect and honor, you are in a very auspicious position…. To live on the edge of the inside is different than being an insider. Yes, you have learned the rules and you understand and honor the system as far as it goes, but you do not need to protect it, defend it, or promote it. [You can] love both the inside and the outside…and know how to move between these two loves.

Source: Richard Rohr, Radical Grace, Vol. 19, No. 2, the Center for Action and Contemplation