Friday, 31 March 2017

The baby and the bath water

1 Corinthians 3:10-11
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.

As we've been learning and sharing more about the Adaptive Challenges facing the church in Scotland this week, I was struck by one phrase in particular, from Heifitz and Laurie who were writing for Harvard Business Review: They state that tackling an adaptive challenge involves "Distinguishing immutable values from historical practices."  - that seems like a pressing pursuit for the church.
Most organisations under threat seek to redouble efforts to retain what they can, enforcing customs and norms as vital to their raison d'ĂȘtre when often the paraphernalia obscures their very reason for existence.
Responding to an adaptive challenge involves changing hearts and minds. In the church, that will mean weighing up the values that are central to our faith and freeing those from the walls of practice and tradition we have built around them. It means releasing the gospel from the obscurity to which we often consign it. It means sharing that good news freely in every sphere of life, wherever we find ourselves. It means discovering the plans God has for us and walking in those. As well as honouring and equipping others to engage with whatever God lays before them.
At one of the conferences, one minister remarked: "This sounds like getting back to basics." Precisely.
Jesus commissioned his disciples to go and make disciples. Today, we are called, not just to be disciples, being salt and light, sharing faith in all of life, but to make disciples. And to make disciples who make disciples. Sharing immutable values, discarding historical practices, gently or brutally, that no longer serve this core calling and continually discerning the voice of the Spirit of God as she stirs up a chafing with the confines of an organisation are just some of the ways we can respond to the adaptive challenge facing the church today. The foundation has already been laid. It is for us to clear away the debris and build on that foundation as we are enabled and empowered by God. For the sake of God's kingdom.


  1. This is such an important lesson. I have usually talked about principles and methods, where principles are your immutable values, and methods are the culturally relevant outworkings of those values.

    One of the failings in the past is that we have attempted to (and sometimes succeeded in) remove historical practices without first understanding the immutable value that they are attempting to outwork. Sometimes this has left us without any outworking of that value, and we are lesser for it.

  2. Sure. That's really helpful, Ben. Thanks