Review: The Sky is Falling

by Len Hjalmarson

Alan Roxburgh
ACI Publications: Eagle, ID 2005.
188 pp
Available through ALLELON

cover This is Roxburgh's third book, or his fourth if you include his lucid contributions to Missional Church (Eerdman's, 1998). It may be his best yet, though the pending release of Missional Leadership: Equipping Your Church to Serve a Changing World (2006) could change that.

Todd Hunter asks, "Leadership always functions in a given context. How do we lead today-in our current cultural situation?" Brian McLaren comments that, "The Church exists for something bigger than itself. Understanding that one thing alone will be worth your expense, time, and effort in turning this page and reading on…" I'll let you make your own assessment as we work through the book, because while McLaren is correct, I'm not sure the book is for everyone.

"The Sky is Falling" is divided into two sections and twelve chapters.

Section One - "Lost in Transition" ch 1-9
Section Two - "Leadership Under a Changing Sky" ch 10-12

The preface sets out Roxburgh's agenda. First, he gives notice that "missional" is the word of choice. He harks back to Newbigin's question, "Can the west be converted?" and reminds us that where once the story was about God, now it is about us and our needs. But if this is the center of the shift we need to make, from "membership" to missional, or from "church" to kingdom, it only begins to define the landscape of change.

Roxburgh echoes the agenda of "Missional Church" arguing that God's mission defines us, and not we it. Similarly, he argues that "the way we conduct church is an essential part of the conversation [because] the local church is to be a sign, witness and foretaste of where God is inviting all creation to Himself through Jesus." (13) As he concludes the preface his thoughts echo the "ancient-future" appeal of Webber and others: Roxburgh clearly embraces tradition and history and sees that rootedness as part of the way forward. He also clearly sets out another agenda: to debunk the facile appeal to "organized" versus "organic" church. Not all will agree that the dichotomy is complete, but more on that later.

Chapter one frames much of the conversation to follow, as Roxburgh lays out the parallel worlds of two divergent tribes: the "liminals" and the "emergents." This will be a new taxonomy for many, and the mileage Roxburgh makes will vary according to personal frameworks, but it is necessary to understand how he uses these terms.

The "liminals" are those who are maintaining the church on the corner. They've been around a while, and they've been doing just fine for the most part. But like Charles Howard in his bike shop in "Seabiscuit," suddenly business is failing. And the vehicles showing up at the bike shop in need of repair bear no resemblance to the bicycles that have gone before. While the leaders of these established shops have tremendous resources of skills and experience, their maps no longer represent the world around them. Suddenly no one cares how much they know. Roxburgh opines, "Our frameworks seem disconnected from the emerging cultural context." (20) This is the essence of liminality.

The "emergents" are living in a different world. Many of them have been busy building new frameworks of meaning. Change is not novel to them, and many of them are comfortable with chaos. Many of them have abandoned the battles for control within the existing church structures, believing them to be institutional, archaic, and out of touch with the new landscape. But they do share much of the anxiety of the liminals above, because while they have abandoned one path, they have not yet discovered a new one. They are searching for frameworks and practices that will guide their actions and root their own faithfulness. Most of the rest of this chapter is spent arguing that these two tribes need each other.

This is probably a good place to acknowledge that this taxonomy of "liminal" and "emergent" feels awkward to me. There is little question that these two groups exist. But the word "liminal" already has specific connotations. We all live in this time of transition, so we are all in a liminal place between what has been and what will yet be. On the other hand, there are those of us who clearly identify with the "emergent" label (though many of us will agree with Roxburgh that we can't move forward without taking the best of the past with us).

The limits of the taxonomy becomes more apparent later, when Roxburgh shows that the dynamic of social systems is between structure and liminality (108). But wait a minute.. if the polarity is between structure and liminality, surely the emergents are on the liminal side of the equation? But Roxburgh has labeled the other side the liminals. I feel this tension of the taxonomy in other places in the book, and it adds to the difficulty in clearly grasping the logical direction of Roxburgh's argument. It will make the book that much more challenging for his readers.

In chapter two Roxburgh builds on the work of Ulrich Beck (Risk Society, Reflexive Modernization) to talk about different kinds of change. Beck notes three phases in late modernity, with the most recent phase beginning about 1990. This latest phase Beck labels "risk society" with a turn to radical uncertainty, fueling the dynamic of individualism and the increasing abandonment of institutional loyalty. Roxburgh nails one of the central questions that arise in such times: "Is it possible to be rooted and belong when so much change is happening all the time?" This chapter closes with a capsulated summary of recent history of the western psyche. (In 1962 CG Jung gave the west fifty years before its inner structures would collapse).

In chapter three Roxburgh sets out to develop a model for change. He distinguishes between change and transition. Change is what happens to us from the outside, over which we have no control. Transition is our inner response to change.

Every counselor knows that one of the components necessary to negotiate significant transition is community. Apart from a supportive network, transitions tend not to go well. This is particularly true where grief is acute. An old therapeutic axiom states that, "No one grieves well alone." Roxburgh notes that a key leadership capacity during transition "is the ability to form communities of God's people learning to dialogue together about these experiences of change." (42) This is challenging, because "it requires leaders to lay aside their need to provide solutions to peoples uncertainties and sense of alienation." BINGO. In times of discontinuous change, entire communities are grieving a sense of loss. Roxburgh continues his analysis, "When our maps of the world stop operating in the ways we expect .. we become confused, frustrated, and angry.." Kubler-Ross could chime in here.

The latter part of chapter three makes a shift to what Senge would call "seeing our seeing."

Parenthetically, one of the comparisons that will inevitably be made is between Roxburgh's book and "Presence," by Senge, Scharmer, Flowers and Jaworski. Those authors describe the seven movements in the process of transformation." They write that a new spiritual path, or a new vision of leadership, will emerge "from building three integrated capacities: a new capacity for observing that no longer fragments the observer from what is observed; a new capacity for stillness that no longer fragments who we really are from what's emerging; a new capacity for creating alternative realities that no longer fragments the wisdom of the head, heart and hand." (Presence, p 218)

Roxburgh asks,

"What are frameworks? They are .. conceptual maps, or lenses.. that we have developed inside our [communities] .. that determine how we see the world and thus shape our decisions…" (46) He uses a couple of metaphors to facilitate understanding, but the one I like best is a pair of glasses. When your prescription is up to date you don't think about your glasses. But when your prescription becomes dated you no longer see clearly. As our culture changes our perceptual maps become dated and the lenses we use become less and less helpful. When this occurs we tend to work harder at our frameworks. Many leaders assume that simply adjusting the map will provide the answers needed. These men and women have not recognized that we are dealing with "discontinuous" change. The old lenses are not allowing them to see things "as they really are." Roxburgh quotes from Surfing the Edge of Chaos, that in times of discontinuous change "equilibrium is death." (49)

Part II

We have looked at the first three chapters, and we continue now through the next three.

Chapter four is titled "The Five Phases of Change." Roxburgh points out that everyone knows we live in a new world; the task is to figure out how to live faithfully here. He argues that we first need to understand the larger process of change. To this end he outlines five phases: 1) Stability (and equilibrium); 2) Discontinuity; 3)Disembedding; 4)Transition; 5) Reformation. (I find myself thinking of "Presence" and the seven capacities for embracing a new paradigm: Suspending, Redirecting, Letting Go, Letting Come, Crystallizing, Prototyping, and Institutionalizing.)

Instead of the "U" of "Presence," Roxburgh's diagram looks like a figure eight turned on its side, or a racetrack. Stability is below the first circle on the left, which then climbs left and up around the first ring to become discontinuity. Roxburgh suggests that the process itself is non-linear, where we cycle out of and into periods of stability and transition.

The discussion then continues with a look at each phase, using insights from systems theory overlaid with organizational theory, then applied to congregational systems and organizational roles.

1. Systems seek stability. One of the ways they accomplish this is by forming traditions and standardizing roles. Change during stable phases of cultural life is marked by gradual and manageable change. The role of leadership in these phases is well understood.

2. When stable phases shade into instability, or discontinuity, patterns emerge that alter the way the world works. Leadership roles generally fail to change much, however, instead trying to respond to discontinuity with known skills, failing to question fundamental frameworks, leading inevitably to burnout as leaders try harder.

3. Discontinuity increases until the power of tradition can no longer withstand the forces of instability. Relational alliances shift; new networks grow up; power struggles and blame shifting ensue as the system breaks down. This disembedding is painful and necessary, both local and cultural. Roxburgh notes that it is in this phase that many break with the past, leading to further disorientation. Leaders in this phase often revert to old skills which cannot enable a meaningful engagement with the new context.

4. When stability, predictability and control are gone the transition phase has arrived. (Interesting that this transition is used in my wife's profession to describe the fearful sense of loss of control moments before birth). One common response is pragmatic.. to search for what is working, here or elsewhere. At a similar point Israel wanted to return to Egypt.. but there is no going back. This is a painful and potentially creative time.

5. "Reformation happens as the church has negotiated the reinventing of its life through disembedding, discontinuity, and transition and begins to approach a new period of recreating transition and finding fresh stability." (56) This requires a rediscovery and reframing of the church's original story. "A new language, a new set of roles, and a new set of rules have emerged…"

Roxburgh argues that the shift from transition to reformation is still a long way ahead. Meanwhile, we will continue to cycle back and forth in the transition phase. Leadership in this time will require "living in the midst of the tension between reentering the stories and traditions of our past and experimenting in ways that discern the emergent forms of God's activity." (58)

Chapter five marks a shift of sorts, with Roxburgh setting out some of the biblical narratives of change and transition. Roxburgh chooses Jeremiah as the prophet who imagines a new way forward in a time of transition, speaking to both the established leaders (Liminals) and the Emergents. From stability (life in the covenant community) to exile (the disembedding from Jerusalem) and then to reformation (returning home and renewing the covenant), Israel's story is a paradigm for our imaginations. Exile was the place where Israel relinquished their old dreams so that God's new future could be welcomed.

Chapter six is an attempt to come to grips with liminality. Liminals and Emergents deal differently with transition. How do you retrain for an uncertain future? How do you start again with new rules in the middle of the game? Emergents may be more comfortable with transition, but they too feel lost and uncertain about the way forward. Liminals lack the imagination and adaptive skills of Emergents. And few Emergents have mentors or the experience necessary to anchor their experiments in reality. Roxburgh suggests that the two common responses to transition.. attempting to recreate the past, or jettisoning the past and attempting to rush forward to a new future… are wrong-headed. He argues that we must remain in the midst of discontinuity without attempting to fix it or find answers. Only in this way can we find a relational common ground, a necessary step in the way forward.

The typical pattern in management is defining the problem, finding the solution, forming a plan and implementing it. Roxburgh says this will no longer work. The future is not predictable. Instead of forecasting, we must be concerned with forming networks of discourse among disconnected groups. Change must now be seen as an emerging process. Neither is emergence imposed, but rather cultivated via participation. I hear echoes of Senge and Wheatley,

In the knowledge era, we will finally have to surrender the myth of leaders as isolated heroes commanding their organizations from on high. Top-down directives, even when they are implemented, reinforce an environment of fear, distrust, and internal competitiveness that reduces collaboration and cooperation. They foster compliance instead of commitment, yet only genuine commitment can bring about the courage, imagination, patience, and perseverance necessary in a knowledge-creating organization. For those reasons, leadership in the future will be distributed among diverse individuals and teams who share responsibility for creating the organization's future. (Senge, The Fifth Discipline. New York: Doubleday, 1994)

Roxburgh suggests that leaders in transitional times need to develop three abilities. The ability to..

1) focus on the transition (internal) not just the change
2) connect people's experience of loss and change with the core stories and traditions of biblical narratives
3) cultivate environments of conversation within which 1 and 2 can occur. (91)

The closing section of this chapter gets to the core of liminality. Roxburgh rehearses the work of Victor Turner (Rites of Passage). Liminality is composed of two processes: the external event of separation, and our internal responses. The key challenge is the loss of a core sense of identity. The result is what Stanley Hopper has called "mythic vertigo." With the loss of a larger narrative or religious framework that gives meaning to life, with increasing distrust in traditional institutions (like marriage and the church), there are fewer and fewer rituals that embed our identity in familiar soil. At the same time, choices increase. The consumer market that is popular religion only increases the anxiety produced. There is no quick fix for this problem, though groups that offer what appears as a quick fix often flourish during such times. According to Roxburgh, the answer lies in honestly facing our liminality, and in finding what he calls communitas.

Part 3 Chapters 7 & 8

We have covered the first six chapters in "The Sky is Falling," and today we'll cover two more. Roxburgh continues to analyze the shift we see around us, but now he begins to sound a new note as he moves toward his own agenda for inviting God's future.

This is a good time to note an element of the book that I have not yet mentioned. Each chapter closes with a set of questions. There are five questions that close chapter six, and I'll rehearse two of them here.

" Look again at the diagram on page 89. How could you start engaging in this process with your own congregation? What biblical narratives might you start with? How do you see engaging in this kind of a solution to transition as opposed to a strategic planning approach?

" Review what Victor Turner discusses about rights of passage. How do you see these rites as important, even though our culture is largely devoid of them today? Discuss examples of rites of passage from other cultures (bar mitzvah/bat mitzvah). How do such rites bind a community together and address times of transition?"

Chapter seven is titled, "Liminality and Communitas," echoing the title of the essay by Victor Turner (1969). Turner's concept denoted intense feelings of social togetherness and belonging, often in connection with rituals. In communitas, people stand together "outside" society, and society is strengthened by this otherness. The concept is in many ways the opposite of Marx's alienation and is closely related to Durkheim's ideas about the "sacred" (vs. the "profane").

"Communitas as a social form alternates with "normal" social structure, and is, according to Turner's theories, not limited to the liminal phase in rites de passage. Many social phenomena are difficult to place within the rites de passage model of separation, liminality and reintegration, [but] may more naturally be considered a form of "anti-structure", alternating with normal social structure. Turner detached the phenomena liminality and communitas from the model for transitional rituals (Turner 1969). The two social models exist simultaneously in a society, and no normal society can function adequately without this dialectic with communitas (Turner 1967:129). The alternation between the two states follows successively and is enforced naturally." (Definition quoted from: Eggen, Øyvind: Troens Bekjennere: Kontinuitet og endring i en læstadiansk menighet, translated by Finn Sivert Nielsen.)

The chapter opens with a series of stories that demonstrate the challenge of Liminality and transition. Referring to rites of passage Roxburgh writes that, "Communitas describes a latter, potential phase of Liminality. Communitas is about what can happen to the relationships among a divergent group undergoing discontinuous change together." (102) The next few pages rehearse some organizational theory, referencing the embedding of roles in a particular culture, which contributes to social stability. When the culture shifts and the roles are disembedded, we are thrown into Liminality and anxiety and chaos ensue.

People or societies in a liminal phase are a "kind of institutional capsule or pocket which contains the germ of future social developments, of societal change" (Turner, 1982:45).

Roxburgh then rehearses Turner's stages of Liminality. As he moves through the stages he references the dynamics observable between Liminals and Emergents. Roxburgh appears particularly interested in the "anti-structure" tendencies of the Emergents, who are pushing toward the edge as a means to confront those who hold onto former positions, forms and practices.

Later in the liminal stage the tension between anti-structure and structure becomes acute. Liminals desperately seek to return the system to stability and equilibrium. Emergents continue to fight against structure, thereby undermining the creative dynamic of liminality. Roxburgh argues that this is where dialogue is needed. Communitas is "the potential for people to discover one another on a very different level of identity and role than from the previous period [of stability]." (109) He continues,

"Communitas is a new kind of commons, an open space where we might discover and learn from one another in powerfully innovative ways… The commons is an archaic, unfamiliar idea.. [it] refers to those spaces (land, ideas, values, relationships) open to ordinary people. They are collectively owned." (109)

Roxburgh believes that the new commons is a place of both opportunity and danger. A diagram on page 110 shows the opportunity on one side, and the danger on the other. The first items listed in opposition are the opportunity to "move out of established positions," versus "react defensively and defend establish positions." Roxburgh continues to elaborate on communitas on the following page.

"The potential of communitas is for something innovative to emerge across the differences that have characterized the last several decades… Communitas is the willingness of people to risk entering a new commons where they journey together as God's pilgrim people in order to discern the future that God's Spirit might be bringing forward to them. It calls for leaders on both sides of the polarity to recognize the gifts of the other and a readiness to submit themselves as novices to each other." (111)

Roxburgh appeals to Moses standing before the burning bush. His world of safety and identity was shattered. Asking for a sign and seeking for control, he asked for God's name but received only a promise of presence. Roxburgh writes that when we seek to obey God the future is not in our making.

Chapter 8 is titled "Liminality and Communitas in Scripture." In this chapter Roxburgh anchors the discussion in biblical texts. He reminds us that a danger of liminality is to hink our situation is unique. The narratives of the Old Testament remind us that this is the common path of pilgrimage. Roxburgh then rehearses the paradoxical movement of liminality.. between separation and the resulting grief, and listening again to the stories that root our shared identity. This listening is essential if communitas is to emerge. The Scriptures offer our only hope for an alternative future and the cultivation of environments where God can address us as His pilgrim people.

The paradigmatic stories Roxburgh chooses are the Exodus, the period of the Judges, Ruth, the Exile, Peter and Paul. The exile probably forms the centerpiece of the discussion. One short section is striking for its ability to mirror our own circumstances.

"Over years, their assimilation and compromise to the cultural assumptions and religious powers of the surrounding peoples had corrupted their understanding of God's purposes. The covenant relationship - expressed in festivals, worship days, and great feasts - had been emptied of their realities and cultural memory. Instead, these festivals, feasts, and rituals had become functions disconnected from the framing stories of the great acts of God's deliverance and promises. By the time of Jeremiah, they were merely external habits that satisfied traditional requirements. Priests and court prophets functioned as regulatory agencies ensuring the structure and rules of the system were maintained appropriately. Right performance displaced covenant faithfulness; ritual replaced meaning." (123)

Roxburgh writes that two critical things happened in Babylon. "First.. the Liminals. began to reenter the primary stories of Israel, but this time from the place of loss and confusion rather than authority and control. Second, there was born.. a generation that was not a part of the glory days of Jerusalem. These.. began to imagine a different future for Jerusalem… These people were compelled to rethink and reimagine the meaning of their original primary stories in light of their world. From the margins… came the reformation of Israel…" (125) Roxburgh closes the chapter with a reminder that liminality is not a new idea, but part of God's plan for His people in history.

Part 4 Chapters 9 & 10

Roxburgh has now given us two consecutive chapters on Liminality. Chapter nine is titled, "Transition and Culture."

Roxburgh begins by drawing the distinction between society and culture. He quotes Geertz that we all begin with the equipment to live a thousand different lives, but we live only one: the reason is culture. Paul Hiebert defines culture as "the more or less integrated system of ideas, feelings and values and their associated patterns of learned behavior and products shared by a group of people who organize and regulate what they think, feel and do." Culture consists in three dimensions: cognitive, affective, and evaluative. (132)

Roxburgh goes on to say that we live at two levels: core, and surface. At the core level lie values and frameworks, our weltanschauung, or 'worldview.' This distinction is important, because the change we are confronting in our culture is occurring at the core level. If we focus on the changes on the surface of society, we completely miss the real issues, and our responses will be unhelpful. Roxburgh quotes Edgar Schein from "Organizational Culture and Leadership,"(Jossey-Bass, 2004) who offers six engagements by which we might achieve communitas between Liminals and Emergents.

1) we need to create a common language. If we close this development too soon it will be difficult for the groups to talk to each other
2) we must redefine group boundaries and criteria for inclusion and exclusion. All groups want to close the circle, but the longer we resist this the more likely we will achieve communitas
3) we need to learn dialogue outside power and status and develop norms of intimacy, friendship and love
4) we must get past ideologies. Until we can reflect on our own assumptions we are unlikely to listen attentively to others, and unlikely to address the core traits rather than merely the surface level changes in our culture.

This closes the first section of the book. Section two is titled, "Leadership Under a Changing Sky," and the first chapter is "Transition and Leadership."

Roxburgh opens the chapter by defining his task as setting out a framework for understanding the forces now shaping the church in North America. Puzzling.. I thought that was what we had been doing. He moves on to talk about leadership, and then in an echo of the work of Frost and Hirsch (chapter ten in "The Shaping of Things to Come,") uses material from Lawrence Miller on organization life cycles.

Roxburgh harks back to chapter six and reminds us that leadership is now about cultivating environments that release the missional imagination of God's people. He notes that Liminals will react from their perspective of command and control, and Emergents will react from their perspective of anti-structure (read, "no structure and no leaders.") He admonishes that, "Cultivating leadership recognizes the need for some skilled, experienced people in a community who function like the ancient Abbot/Abbess in monastic communities to nurture younger leaders in skills and practices that have been passed down through the generations and can only be developed through a form of spiritual apprenticeship. This requires a formation of one another as a community of leaders around practices, habits, directions, commitments and traditions." (147)

Roxburgh moves on to talk about cultivating teams. The most interesting part of this discussion revolves around prophets and poets. I hear in this both echoes of the biblical narrative as well as Victor Turner:

Prophets and artists tend to be liminal and marginal people, 'edgemen,' who strive with a passionate sincerity to rid themselves of the clichés associated with status incumbency and role-playing and to enter into vital relations with other men in fact or imagination.

"Liminality and Communitas"

Roxburgh challenges us to see in the NT not a formal "five-fold" structure, but a flexible and adaptable model that was oriented around the work of the Holy Spirit. During the time of Constantine, roles became fixed and then were further embedded during the Reformation around the functions of word, sacrament and discipline.

Miller's seven stages of organizational life help us see the problem. Congregations tend to choose leaders who fit with their stage of life, rather than leaders who bring the dynamic of renewal. Emergent leaders tend to be functioning on the left side of the picture, while Liminal leaders tend to function on the right side.

Roxburgh concludes that the roles of apostle and prophet (and poet) are largely absent from church systems today. These leader types tend to move outside existing systems, "finding no compelling reason to connect their passions with systems dominated by regulation and bureaucratic management." (155) Roxburgh has been reading our mail.

The answer Roxburgh advocates is again communitas. But now he sounds a new note.

"Leadership groups must develop and work together across tribal lines as communities. To describe what this means we need to look at the final leadership category Miller develops - the synergist - and use this descriptor for the recovery of an ancient leadership role - the Abbot/Abbess… a leader with the capacity to unify diverse and divergent leadership styles around a common sense of missional vision for a specific community." (155)

Part 5: Dominant Metaphors and other questions

The final two chapters are "Proposal" and "The Role of the Abbot/Abbess." Before we go there, however, I'm taking a break to reflect on two issues. The first could be seen as a matter of style, but I point it out because Roxburgh himself has raised it.

As I completed chapter ten, I found myself feeling in great need of a metaphor, and hoping there would not be another diagram on the next page. The style to this point has been very modern and analytical. I felt like Elisa Doolittle, "Words, words, words…. Is that all you blighters can do?!"

Roxburgh, like all of us, plays from his strengths. His prophetic bent and cognitive strengths would be well balanced by the gifts of a poet and a pastor. I found myself wishing that he had taken on a partner in this project, like the collaboration of Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost in "The Shaping of Things to Come." This would have enfleshed something of his call to communitas, and it would have strengthened the book.

Alternatively, rather than a list of questions closing each chapter a couple of pages of discussion could have been very powerful. But this would have added considerable length to the book, and perhaps the discussion is best left for gatherings and online forums.

It would have helped to hark back to Seabiscuit; it seems like a natural connection point for a metaphor. Roxburgh opens the book with a reference to Charles Howard. In Seabiscuit Charles Howard is the synergist or the Abbot figure, the fathering and visionary individual who gathers around him a gaggle of broken leaders. He is anything but a command and control CEO. He understands liminality and brokenness because he has been there, and he sees the potential of new life from death because has experienced it. Together the small band learn to hope in each other and to pursue a dream when no one else believes it is possible, and as they pursue their dream they give hope to thousands of others. The new kinds of communities that are being born hold a similar promise, and since communitas is our direction then ipso facto none of us will go there alone.

The second issue is the use of language that describes the church as we have known it. The typology is generally framed as organic versus organized, or institutional versus unstructured. Roxburgh is correct that the dichotomy is utterly false. There is no organic life that is not organized, and there is no gathering or missional expression that is completely unstructured.

Some of us who have continued to struggle with the language here have continued to live with the dichotomy because there is something worth describing that remains difficult to articulate. The difference we have sought to capture is the difference between primary metaphors, and our concern is where those metaphors take us in our imaginative life. Howard Snyder addressed the problem in his book, "Liberating the Church: The Ecology of Church and Kingdom" (IVP, 1983) Snyder writes that, "Fundamentally, the Universe is not ordered logically,, psychologically, nor sociologically, but ecologically." (50) Synder goes on to connect God's rule to shalom, an embracing metaphor. He continues,

"Will we opt for technology or ecology? This is not an either-or choice, but a question of dominant models. Will we view the world essentially as a machine or as a garden? Will we see the earth as a factory or as a home? Will we opt for technology or ecology? This is not an either-or choice but a question of dominant models… If the controlling reality is technosystem, mechanistic technology takes over and life suffers from being squeezed into the "clockwork orange" habitat for which it was never meant…. (43)

The clincher follows on the next page when Snyder writes that, "As men and women become like their gods, so they become like their models. A machine model (a technosystem) produces human robots; an organic model (an ecosystem) produces healthy persons."

It's still too simple, but the role of the imagination in drawing us toward a vision is powerful. What most of us are getting at when we use the language of organic versus organized, or institutional versus unstructured, is the expression of dualism we see in most of the western church. We see an incarnation of the technological society, and a vision of the "good life" that is culturally bound, oppressive, and unsustainable. It is not coincidental that we pursue small as the new big. Some of us remember EF Schumacher. It's true that some really are anti-structure; but most of us are pursuing simplicity without that dichotomy, and we are ready to embrace both design and emergence (in the words of Fritjof Capra).

Roxburgh would respond, I believe, by pointing out that the typology of organic vs organized has not been helpful. It has stifled dialogue and understanding rather than encouraged it. While the language might work within certain groups, it doesn't work between them, and that is where the greater work now needs to occur if Liminals and Emergents are to bridge their differences.

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• © 2005-2006 Len Hjalmarson.• Last Updated in April, 2006