I think I mentioned an event coming up here this October featuring Phyllis Tickle speaking on her book The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why. I’m one of several people who have been asked to present a workshop and sit on a discussion panel over the course of the one-day conference. At the moment, October 31st seems such a long way off, but I’ve been asked for a topic and a brief description of the workshop I will present.
You mean I have to plan ahead? Oh, of course — I knew that. I fired back saying I’d do something on “Navigating Times of Change” to offer a description of some of the characteristics of liminal space and its effect on leaders and churches. I need to flesh that out a bit further, which will take some digging and reflection to know what’s important to present and what to cut. I think I’ve selected a good topic though, so that gives me a good start.
This evening I was reading Clark Cowden discussing context. He mentions a book by Joshua Cooper Ramos, The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us And What We Can Do About It, in which Ramos presents experimental psychologist Richard Nisbett’s work on how cultural backgrounds condition the way we think. Nisbett’s research illustrates that while the Chinese believe in constant change, Westerners believe we go through periods of change and equilibrium. (The post goes on to some good insight on non-transferable context.)
Other resources that will probably prove helpful are Alan Roxburgh’s The Sky Is Falling: Leaders Lost in Transition or another he wrote with Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World. (I find Alan’s thinking on this particular subject to be quite insightful.)
In any event, Clarks’ mention of Nisbett’s research struck me as quite significant for what I’m looking at here — whereas I expect the current liminal space to last for quite a while (if an end date is a realistic assumption at all), the implication here is that pastors and church leaders in the West will be — by cultural nature — waiting for the constant shifting to settle down so they will know what to do and how to address the new situation. The reality is far more likely that change is the new reality, and we need to become comfortable in a constantly-changing milieu that must be navigated wisely.
I guess once I figure that out, you can come to the seminar! ;^)