Saturday, May 26, 2007

Missional Church 8 -- Open Source Church

I am playing around with an idea in my thinking about the nature of church. Is it possible for a church community to be an open source organization? By open source I am thinking of the way Linux has been written and improved by engineers freely giving their skill to develop a web browser that is in turn offered free to anyone who wants it. I am also thinking of Wikipedia and the way its users are its authors.

My instincts, frankly, flow in the opposite direction. I am the pastor of a church. I am the leader. I am in "charge." So the life of the church flows in and out of me. This is a CEO, command and control model. Before I offer some critique of this model, there are effective organizations that run on this model. There is a time and a place for the CEO, command and control approach.

I also understand the weaknesses in open source. Sometimes Wikipedia gets messed with. There is no team of official experts to keep things correct. The site depends on every member of the growing community of users to police its content.

But now that I have given the obligatory disclaimer, let me move on with my thoughts. How might a local worshipping community be an open source community? There are certain pieces of what church is that are given -- e.g., creedal affirmations -- and these cannot be open source. They are passed on from generation to generation and are to be protected and preserved by leadership. But what about mission/ministry? How might be people be empowered to create, contribute and lead a community into mission?

Part of the answer, I think, is for the pastor to lead in a catalytic rather than a controlling manner. Catalytic leadership -- as the term implies -- is leadership that stirs up others to act. It is not passive. It is not laissez faire. It is intentional. BUT, its goal is to help others act and then get out of the way. The catalytic leads by example, inspiration and resourcing. The catalytic leader understands that God has gifted everyone to contribute. The goal of this kind of leader is to help others hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and move forward in His call.

This is risky -- plain and simple. It involves letting go of control. It means things will happen in the community in a different way than the pastor might envision them happening. It means things will not be neat and orderly -- maybe even chaotic at times. But it also has the potential of unleashing the creative of power of the Holy Spirit to lead people into God's mission. That sounds exciting to me!

1 comment:

Bob said...

I've heard the Open Source concept applied to church and, as a programmer, I think I get a slightly different opinion of what it looks like. First off, Open Source may seem like a decentralized system where all can contribute, share, and build on one another's ideas. But the more complex Open Source environments like Linux aren't designed for the newbie--though someone who dedicates their free-time (life?) to the community will eventually be able to contribute, there is a long learning curve.

That said, the community that surrounds and supports Open Source projects is amazing. There seems to be no shortage of experienced folks who are ready to help those who come after them, share their tricks and secrets, and admonish them to develop good technique. This willingness (and ability) to teach those who come after with the recognition that the sharing of today's knowledge is what enables tomorrow's knowledge is (IMO) at the center of the Open Source culture.

Maybe that's the fruit of decentralized control--the leaders' own awareness of their responsibility to continuously pass the torch along.

I wonder how that would look in a church---and more importantly, I wonder if I live that in my own life...