Friday, November 05, 2010

Walking Naked Into the Land of Uncertainty

On the road in Eldoret, Kenya
This morning I was looking at the books in my office, saw my cope of Robert E. Quinn's Deep Change, and decided to pick it up and review. It's been ten years since I read it. I remember using it in the doctoral class I taught at Palmer Seminary, a course called Personal Transformation. Even though Quinn's book was non-religious, I thought it was brilliant and complemented what I was doing.

Quinn writes: "Deep change means surrendering control." (3) This is why "organization and change are not complementary concepts. To organize is to systematize, to make behavior predictable." (5) To change, on the other hand, is to enter into the land of the unpredictable. Quinn puts it this way: "Most of us build our identity around our knowledge and competence in employing certain known techniques or abilities. Making a deep change involves abandoning both and "walking naked into the land of uncertainty." This is usually a terrifying choice... It is therefore natural for each of us is to deny that there is any need for deep change." (3)

At Redeemer our leaders sometimes describe hat's happening as "organic." Things are popping up all around us. Quinn says that "an organic organization is one that is responsive, acts quickly and in a coordinated way, and can adjust and learn and grow." (6) Now watch this. "Only organic individuals can create an organic organization." (6)

Theologically, try this. God is an organic farmer who continually "makes all things new." The Christian leader or pastor, as they abide in Christ, are essentially involved in God's new-making activity. To be part of this requires them to be organic individuals, people with soft hearts that can be tilled and planted and productive. A leader who walks in ongoing transformation results in a transformed and transforming organization. As Jim Hunter says, a leader is either green and growing or ripe and rotting. Quinn says: it's either deep change or slow death.

Get organic by consistently abiding in Christ. If you are a branch that is connected to Jesus the Vine, then you are hooked up with the Vine that makes all things new. This True Vine is on the move. You can't abide in the Vine and stay put. For authentic Christ-abiders the word "stagnant" cannot exist. The word is always: "new."

Quinn writes that "to make deep personal change is to develop a new paradigm, a new self, one that is more effectively aligned with today's realities. This can occur only if we are willing to journey into unknown territory and confront the wicked problems we encounter. This journey does not follow the assumptions of rational planning." (9) Theologically, God's ways are not our logical, planned-out ways. To follow after Jesus is not necessarily to know where he is going. "The objective may not be clear, and the path to it is not paved with familiar procedures. This torturous journey requires that we leve our comfort zone and step outside our normal roles. In doing so, we learn the paradoxical lesson that we can change the world only by changing ourselves. This is not just a cute abstraction; it is an elusive key to effective performance in all areas of life." (9)

I'm not as clear as Quinn is that we can change ourselves. Years ago God told me, "John, why are you trying so hard to change others when you cannot even change yourself." This insight served to deepen my branchiness. Which has greatly affected my Vine-ness. This has been mostly good for other people in my life. It's not I that live, but Christ lives in and through me.

Using M. Scott Peck's observations on psychotherapy, Quinn writes that "effectiveness - bringing change in another person - is dependent on change in the psychotherapist." (9) Quinn quotes Peck:

"It has been said that the successful psychotherapist must bring to the psychotherapeutic relationship the same courage and sense of commitment as the patient. The therapist must also risk change. Of all the good and useful rules of psychotherapy that I have been taught, there are very fedw that I have not chosen to break at one time or another, not out of laziness but rather in fear and trembling, because my patient's therapy seemed to require that, one way or another, I should step out of the safety of the prescribed analyst's role, be different and risk the unconventional. As I look back on every successful case I have had I can see that at some point or points in each case I had to lay myself on the line. The willingness of the therapist to suffer at such moments is perhaps the essence of therapy, and when perceived by the patient, as it usually is, it is always therapeutic. It is also through this willingness to extend themselves and suffer with and over their patients that therapists grow and change. Again as I look back on my successful cases, there is not one that did not result in some very meaningful, often radical, change in my attitudes and perspectives. It has to be this way." (10)

As a pastor-leader my task is not to fit into some kind of "role," but to stay in relationship with Jesus. (Seminarians - I give you permission to drop out of the class "The Role of the Pastor.") What grows as a result of this relationship is his business and choosing. If I have any "business" at all to do, it is his.

Quinn, once more: ""Traveling naked into the land of uncertainty" allow for another kind of learning, a learning that helps us forget what we know and discover what we need... After a while, terror turns to faith. These people "know how to get lost with confidence."" (12)

I don't always know where I am going. I suspect this is more common than not. But I can remain confident in my lostness if I know I'm attached to the One who leads and has come to seek and save the lost.