I am most fortunate in the ministry in which I find myself. A significant portion of my role falls under the umbrella of leadership. Though that may seem like a broad-stroke, maybe even ambiguous, description, what it means to me is that I get to think about, reflect upon, engage in wonderful conversations and imagine practical ways to nurture great leadership in the church!
Connected – and just as importantly – I play with tangible ways that leadership links the church to the future. What, therefore, may we need to consider as the church imagines its place in society 10, 20 years from now and beyond? Just as fortunately, I recently had one of those great conversations … which of course got me to musing … Thus, the next few blogs about leadership & the church will explore the following:
Inside & Outside: No Longer the Same
The church, like many of its contemporaries such as not-for-profits and non-governmental agencies, and even government and universities, have long assumed that the way things were inside, were the way they were outside. Though physical walls divided institutional settings, all were connected in shaping the same culture. How and what they thought internally was the same externally. New ideas might indeed arise, but through a process of accommodation, compromise, the institutions of society formed and moulded us to define ‘normal.’
There is no greater example of the shift away from the shared cultural identity then the gender expectations, which were often formed and defined by churches. Though there were some Christian faith communities endeavouring to draw the circle wider, the options were generally either male or female. In some cases, that definition continues to exist in many churches. Some faith communities have and are indeed re-examining what ‘normal’ means. Yet even then, there is often an underlying expectation that the Other will become like those inside the church. The world outside has indeed moved on … whereas outside/inside was previously bound in an endeavour to form a cohesive culture, inside/outside is becoming more and more of a division between generations and world views.
One of the most recent endeavours to explain this shift from gender binaries to gender fluidity is well explored by National Geographic. The mounting scientific and experiential learning has completely undermined previous cultural definitions. For many in Generations X, Y (Millennials), and Z, gender fluidity is understood as the norm. It is a continuum in which identity is ‘authentic,’ yet not fixed.
This discrepancy is just one example of the challenges the church must engage if it intends to understand those outside. In fact, I believe the challenge is to move away from the very frame of inside/outside and to see the interconnexions. If the church is called to share the Good News, therefore, leadership is going to have to develop innovative ways to not only translate generational and different world views, but it will need to walk a walk that clearly and confidently articulates a theology that embraces diversity as central to Creation. How the church shares the Good News, therefore, will be explored in the next installment of this leadership series …