A quick glance back at the date of my last post will let the reader know that I have been suffering a bit from “blogger’s block” for a while now. Not that I haven’t had any thing to write. Since I last blogged I have written a dozen sermons, hundreds of emails, the prep work for a Leadership Open Space Gathering, and several revisions of our Presbytery’s proposed Vision for Mission Design. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say, it’s just that I found myself stuck about what to say next in this series that has captured my blogging attention since early in the fall. And attending to, instead of resisting that “stuckness” finally led me to understand something about myself and my role as a pastor and leader that I had been silently resisting.
So, with apologies to anyone who actually missed this blog while I was working it out, I think I may be on to something. To recap, back to where I was….
A year ago I read a book by Rod Beckstrom and Ori Brafman called “The Starfish and the Spider” that challenged me to start thinking about the way in which organizational design can limit organizational effectiveness. I was challenged and fascinated by their insights. Further, while they never mentioned the early church as an example, it was clear to me that if they had looked at the New Testament, there would have been ample reason to include the first century church as evidence of the success of an organization of circles and shared values.
At the same time, I was working with a team of people from Los Ranchos Presbytery on a reworking of our Vision for Mission Design. The Odyssey Group, as it was called, was working out a shift in our presbytery from being primarily a “regulatory body” to a “missional learning community.”
Meanwhile, at the church where I serve as Senior Pastor, we have been in the middle of a reconfiguration of our church leadership culture from a “pastor-centric” to “collaborative” model. This process had started in earnest in June 2007 when I had invited in Kevin Ford of TAG to consult with us based on the concepts of his book, The Transforming Church.
At the center of all of this discussion was an ongoing to and fro around roles and responsibilities. Especially leadership roles and responsibilities. Most specifically the Pastoral roles and responsibilities. (And notice the plural in roles.)
I was using my blog to reflect upon the insights of Beckstrom and Brafman and had written a dozen or so posts on a roughly once a week basis when I got stuck trying to work out the last piece on the roles of a pastor.
In my last post I had written about pastors as catalysts, but even more than that, pastors had to be champions. Something that I truly believe. Indeed I need to finish this thought because I believe that it is as a “champion” to a community filled with catalysts and connected people that a pastor finds the kind of fulfillment and energy that makes ministry so rewarding.
But…this is where I got blocked. Other thoughts kept running around in my head. Thoughts about staffing a church team, about the roles of pastors and lay leaders together, about who gets paid in a church system and why, and how in an organization of “circles and shared values” there is a crucial “adaptive shift” that must take place that is so difficult for most communities of faith to do that they never make it. Thoughts that led to questions that I couldn't answer and even worse, questions that led to more questions.
Every time I wanted to hold up the role of Champion as the main role for a pastor in a “catalytic and connected community”, I kept feeling this, “yeah, but…” sticking like a sliver in my mind. And after just sticking with the unanswered questions and continually raising them in different circles, I stumbled on an insight that has been staring me in the face all along. Even more than being a Champion of Christian catalysts and their ideas, Pastors especially had an even more important function in a community that is so wedded to who they are as pastors and leaders that it has been overlooked.
The primary role of pastors in a church community, the role that we are most equipped for, most eager to do...
the role that probably got us into this in the first place and the role that we probably left behind somewhere along the way as we became more experienced and successful...
the role that if we could recapture it and if our church’s would let us live it out would keep us pastoring longer...
The role that many, many churches are just to fearful to let their pastors pursue is that of…
This is what I needed to figure out how to say. Pastors are not primarily Chaplains or CEOs, and only secondarily Catalysts and Champions. We are, are at least we once were, Learners, students, disciples. And as we reconnect to and live out that primary calling as learners we best serve our churches.
Further, if we are recast as the CLO of an organization (the Chief LEARNING Officer) we guide our churches into the organizational shift that is most necessary if our churches are going to remain vital in a changing world. This shift has been at the heart of the redesign of our Presbytery, the restructuring of our church and the renaissance of my calling as a pastor.
It’s the shift from an “Expert-Centered Organization” to a “Learning Community”. (Which will be my next series of posts after I put up the "Champion" piece.)
For me, the blessing of blogger’s block was reconnecting to the part of me that was resisting becoming the “Starfish and the Spider” expert. Even blogging has a tone of “I know this and need to share it”. I was struggling with writing about something that wasn’t fully formed in my mind. About writing about what I was learning, what was changing, and how I was shifting. And that led to me being “blocked”.
When people asked me when I was going to post again, I went from feeling irresponsible to finally feeling free. And all it took was for me to honestly answer, “I don’t know.” I didn’t know when I was going to post again, because I didn’t know when I was going to figure out what I needed to figure out. And once I embraced that ‘ignorance’, ‘insight’ followed.
Because I am at my best when I admit what I don't know. Being a learner is what eventually led me to be a pastor. Being a committed passionate learner is what led me, paradoxically, to become a leader. When I am leading from my ignorance, (instead of my expertise), I am ironically leading best.
In the upcoming posts, I’ll explore this notion of being the CLO of a Learning Community as the heart of leadership for a changing world (and especially at the heart of pastoral leadership in a changing world.)
But for today, I just want to give thanks for a blessed and fruitful blogger’s block.