Spider Deacons


The power of networks is the power of affiliation, relationship, community. It's hiding everywhere in plain sight.

For a moment I saw it all so clearly – community as a web of relationships, a network of connections.   THAT’S community, I said to myself.   With an exclamation mark!   What do people crave?   They want a sense of BELONGING, and a sense of SIGNIFICANCE. 
That’s what the church community offers! (I learned about those two cravings from an urban sociologist about 40 years ago, and they still seem really helpful to me.) 
When I read about what makes a community, even a CHURCH community, I just want to simplify it all down to relationships.   A community is a web of healthy relationships where people’s gifts are identified and used for the common good, and where people are accepted, affirmed, loved, forgiven.  
I crave that.   When my church shows the marks of being a loving accepting forgiving place, I feel energized. When it feels unsafe, trivial, irritating, well, that’s a downer.  
I went to a gathering of folks a couple weeks ago who were talking about the power of networks – sets of relationships formed around common interests, passions, values, purpose - networks that captured and expressed the health, the caring, the passion of the body of Jesus for the “outsider”.   What a picture of the organization THAT is! The denominational bureaucracy suddenly looked like a living body, eyeballs connected to kneecaps in ways that were meaningful, and affirming, and exciting.  I saw “organic” instead of hierarchical. It looked sweet.
If this is all about discovering gifts and offering them up for the common good, or even the uncommon good, then networking starts to look like community organizing.   And that’s kind of churchy, and kind of deacon-y.   It’s about us becoming “us-ier”.   God at work in and through relationships to make us more like we’re created to be, more like Jesus.   Could networking do all that?   Could it make the CRC more churchy?  
For a moment there I saw it – when a bunch of folks were together praying and thinking and creating in a safe environment with really good leadership. I don’t want to lose that!   I want to share it!
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 I like "non hierarchical organic leadership"

Community Builder

 What does it look like?  Can you describe that a bit more so we can catch a glimpse?   It sounds really attractive, and I am trying to picture it in a council room.   

 Hi Karl:

You just finished describing it in Spider Deacons and had  "I saw “organic” instead of hierarchical." I simply rearranged your own words.


Community Builder

 I guess I wasn't paying attention!

Now that we're (back) on the topic, I can't resist the temptation to say a little more about this new kind of leadership.

I'm wondering if (church) leaders are finding themselves in crisis mode more often because church leaders, perhaps more than most any other group, tend to be (self) selected for their ability to lead in situations of continuity.  Typically leaders are leading in one of three types of situations - growth, continuity, contraction.  I think the CRC and its congregations was for some decades a prime example of an institution experiencing continuity. In more recent decades the pace of change has picked up rapidly, and has become a threat in many areas.  Yet we have a predominance of leaders who are most gifted to lead continuity, AND we have a culture that makes it very difficult for leaders who are wired to lead in situations of growth.

So what kind of leadership is needed in this emerging denominational scene?  Perhaps it could go without saying that it's going to require a passionate commitment to follow Jesus.  Then  I'm theorizing it's going to be people who are first of all characterized by competence and integrity.  They are going to have to know what to do and they are going to have to be willing to do it.  Their behavior will be marked by deep love and rich wisdom.  They will be willing to take responsibility - in humility and strength.   They'll be people who are trustworthy and who build a safe and trusting place around them.

This kind of behavior will be characterized by high reciprocity and exchange of gifts to achieve shared ends, and it'll be patient with opposition without being paralyzed by it.  This kind of behavior will be attractive; it'll be invitational; it'll be Gospelized behavior.  and it will influence others.

That's what I imagine organic and non-hierarchical leadership to look like.   

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