Feeling Flat

Hi. I'm back. Finally. It's been a very busy several weeks, much of it in preparation for this past Tuesday evening's "Spiritual Formation in the Digital World: A Conversation on the Opportunities and Challenges of the Internet Age." It was a good event. 60-70 church members ranging from young- to senior-adult turned out to wrestle with many aspects of emerging technologies and how they're impacting the human soul. I'd say it was a head-spinner. Really, if you think about it, what age has witnessed this much change this quickly? Yikes.

I'm reading Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat right now and even though it's a 2005 publication, it highlights much of what we discussed this past Tuesday. "Flattening" is probably the main theme of the book and the biggest implication of this technological change. Now that so much information is so easily available to so many so immediately, the pyramidal structures of power have dramatically flattened--accessibility, democracy, and new views of authority and decisionmaking are all emerging with huge implications for corporations, countries, and churches.

Here's a chilling quote from Friedman with all kinds of implications for church leaders and denominational officials:

"[T]he experiences of the high-tech companies in the last few decades who failed to navigate the rapid changes brought about in their marketplace by these types of forces may be a warning to all the businesses, institutions, and nation-states [dare we add "churches"?!] that are now facing the inevitable, even predictable, changes but lack the leadership, flexibility, and imagination to adapt--not because they are not smart or aware, but because the speed of change is simply overwhelming to them" (p. 46).

As our church navigates these new developments, as we consider new leadership for our future amidst a rapidly changing world, how will we respond to the implications of the digital age? Will there be a spirit of bold innovation? (Is this even possible with Presbyterian polity? I say, somewhat with tongue in cheek, but not really.) Will we think outside the box, consider flattened leadership structures, develop ministry partnerships, and move toward strategic staffing?

One thing the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) can use right now are consultant coaches--savvy people familiar with our tradition and the multitude of changes around us--who can assist pastors and congregations to restructure and renew their ministries in the digital world. While many churches may think they have the chutzpah and the talent to do this from within, I'm not convinced. An outside coach who's familiar with shifting paradigms and doesn't have an axe to grind, is better equipped to be a change-agent, than those within a church structure, who may be perceived as having a conflict of interest. In February 2010, we'll be hosting such a coach and a dear friend of mine for a weekend conference. Stay tuned!