Is your image of God one of scarcity or abundance? Does God conserve or create?
In an online discussion, Steve Simmons, director of continuing education of Moravian Theological Seminary and an ordained Presbyterian minister, points out that we are observing a clash of two different worldviews.
The old one looks like this:
Scarcity = management-power-control
The new one looks like this:
Abundance = collaboration-connectivity-creativity
What we often see as generational conflict within churches or denominations may actually be different ways of perceiving reality. One mindset is concerned with the preservation of the material assets and the status quo, so a high priority is placed on control and resource allocation. If you want to make changes, you must first get permission.
The other mindset is more focused on the generation of information and ideas. This approach is highly relational and is predicated on the belief that ideas are a renewable resource, that relationships are constantly being renegotiated and developed, and that stories take on a fresh face in every generation.
How does this play out in churches or denominations? Those who embrace a philosophy of scarcity practice control. Their idea of “renewal” is to take the same resources and reorganize them in a different configuration. Those who embrace the abundance model practice exploration. They break down the old boxes and seek out new partners with fresh ideas.
We come back to the theological basis for our ministry. Has God called us to conserve or create? Undoubtedly, there are beliefs and practices that we do want to preserve because they have stood the test of time. At the same time, there are some things we hold dear that may require reconfiguration or renovation to be relevant to our time.
Everything we do in the church was an innovation at one time, but the things that worked a century or two ago may require reassessment today. This is done with the understanding that the Spirit of God walks with us as we enter the process and will provide the people, relationships and insights necessary to deal with changing circumstances.
What does the Spirit of God want to provide for us today?
Ircel Harrison is an associate with Pinnacle Leadership Associates and director of the Murfreesboro Center of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. A version of this column appeared previously on his blog.
Ircel Harrison is coaching coordinator for Pinnacle Leadership Associates and is supplemental associate professor of missional theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary.