I spent a week (re)learning about organization(al) development (OD) last week. It seems there is some disagreement in whether or not you include the “al” when naming the discipline. I infer it depends upon when and where you first began studying OD. For me, it began studying at George Washington University’s School of Education and Human Development (GSEHD). I received my Masters Degree in Ed. and Human Development in 1997. My studies emphasized Organizational Development. It doesn’t really matter. What really matters is that GSEHD still claims its purpose is that “Transformation Begins Here.” That was its purpose back then too.
We spend a lot of time these days in church committees and leadership programs talking about change, evangelism, vitality, stewardship, sources of transformation . We contemplate and make decisions about important topics relating to God’s mission and purpose for contemporary human beings and the systems they abide in. This is powerful stuff. The Feast of The Transfiguration is upon us in a few days. Seems like a great time to do more than just preach, talk, or otherwise diddle about changing our world.
The College of Congregational Development, (CCD) claims that a Christian congregation’s primary purpose is to be Christ’s Body. With God’s help, creative Christians live and act as God’s loving presence. Such discipleship renews the faithful as well as this world. How does this happen? Well, CCD teaches that transformation unfolds through concerted and contextual efforts (interventions in OD language) to be God’s messengers of forgiveness & hope. Resourceful Christians affirm compassionately that communities believe life is graceful and difficult. Our churches are responsible for promoting the further in-breaking of God’s realm of justice, grace, and vitality. Such sacred spaces, and people faithfully strive to incarnate reconciliation, courage, compassion, justice, peace, and hope.” (College for Congregational Development Manual – Year A, 2017, p.29). That’s a lengthy purpose statement. It takes more than a week, perhaps as much as an entire lifetime to even begin to comprehend, analyze, and engage it all.
Let’s see if I can sum it up.
Being a Christian today means being willing to be courageous – for the Sake of the Gospel. The Good News isn’t about going all in like World Series of Poker players do. In their game, they push all their chips in so they can win a big pot of money – for themselves. These days, Christianity isn’t about scoring wealth. I don’t think that has ever been the purpose, really. We might understand the weight of the Gospel’s importance by occasionally (re)reading Matthew 19: 16-30. (Mark 10: 17-31, Luke 18: 18-30) Jesus declares the difficulty that wealthy people have entering into the Kingdom of God. “Who can be saved;?” the disciples ask. Peter complains! “Look, we’ve left everything and followed you. What will we have?” (Matthew 19: 27). Jesus said to them and says to us, “anyone who has left house, husband, wife, brothers, sisters, parents, or children because of God’s kingdom will receive many times more in this age and eternal life in the coming age.” (Luke 18: 29-30)
Such faithful discipleship is chips all in, bare-naked belief in a God who willingly, joyously, hopefully invites us to participate in the creation of a world where other people’s needs are as important as our own. Being a Change Agent in the Church these days isn’t merely about increasing average Sunday attendance. Transitioning congregations from one way of life to The Way isn’t about improving stewardship. Transformation begins inside of everyone who, however meekly and uncertainly, says yes to God’s soulful bidding to redeem the world’s brokenness, within our own contexts. It requires a lot of laughs with friends. Sitting with someone on the threshold of deep, deep grief is a mandate. Personally, I need time in God’s Creation by myself, usually early in the morning. I reacquainted myself last week with the realities that vital Christian communities require people with all sort of personalities. I personally am striving to spend more time in all 16 rooms of the Myers & Briggs Personality Types. As I’m aging, I’m reacquainting with my need for introverted renewal as well as for more spontaneity. I’d like to believe that God delights in such random wanderings. Jesus stayed on task for almost all of his documented life. Oh well, I believe as best I can in Jesus Christ and … I’m not him.
Anne Lamott published a phenomenal book entitled Traveling Mercies about two years after I graduated from GW. Anne shares her life stories about her addiction, her faith, and miraculous stumbling pilgrimage to sobriety and wellness. She writes: “When you make friends with fear, it can’t rule you.” 18 years later, in her TEDTalk, she says: “You’re going to feel like hell one day if you wake up some day and you never wrote the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves of your heart.” … your truths, your versions of things in your own voice. That’s all you really have to offer us. And that’s also why you were born.” (Anne Lamott, April 2017, 8′, 20″).
I’m musing about transformation alot. I want my life, my relationship with my spouse and our three cats (abiding in two separate houses because it is just easier that way) to be heavenly. I want to develop crazy-like Petrine courage and jump into the water for Jesus. I don’t have it yet and I may never gain it. I would prefer that the Episcopal Church’s existence is indeed more than a rumor. I show up at organizational design meetings and congregational development programs because these values are important to me. I think it is purposeful to be risky as a spiritual and human being. Trying to get it done at the poker table of faith is better than sitting in the audience.
My prayer is that God rejoices in the work I’m doing. I’m thankful for George Washington University for sparking my Organizational Development(al) flames. I’m happy for the learning I am gaining from the College for Congregational Development on best means and techniques for being helpful with congregations as I share models of Life Cycles of Organizations or the Gordian Knots of Organization(al) Systems. I don’t know. For today, that seems like enough chips to play. Blessings along The Way, Jim