I first learned about paradigm shifts from the Rev. Kevin Martin when I was a young priest. Deeper reading lead me to Thomas S. Kuhn's work. Recently, a friend talking with me over coffee reminded me of Kuhn and his landmark scientific essay entitled, "The Structure of Scientific Revolution". It is now over 50 years old. He is credited with popularizing the phrase "paradigm shift"and scientifically showing how they work within the scientific community.
What I have learned is that as the paradigm breaks down, those on the inside have the most to lose as the paradigm shifts. Their voice, power, and control will inevitably be lessened in the face of new revelations. As the arena, paradigm, or worldview shifts, these individuals begin to get louder. The matrix works well as long as both sides stay in conversation on those areas of common and shared understanding.
In today's electronic age, those voices which would normally go unheard are now given more power and visibility via electronic and social media. This can create dark mobs of cynics who attempt to draw attention and focus away from the good work being undertaken by the new creatives.
As I look at our Church I see a "wonderful and sacred mystery." I love it. I want it to grow and flourish. Sometimes I am in the good seats and it is easy to be a critic and cynic. As a bishop I know that it is important to be quiet and let the innovators innovate. I can shut down creativity faster than anyone else. John Kotter of "Leading Change", at Harvard Business School, reminds leaders that one of the most important roles is giving cover to healthy voices of change. I also know that if I don't think it is great, the best idea ever, or I have concerns about it failing, then all I have to do is nix it. Good leaders know the importance of this power and use it sparingly. Why? Because if they are true leaders, they know that a half-thought out idea, a good idea, a risky idea never has the potential for success if they shut them all down. New paradigms, reformations, revolutions, life itself needs space and an opportunity to take root.
As the new paradigm is emerging, as innovation is taking root, as we are trying new things and old things are passing away - the voices are getting louder. In some corners they are getting VERY loud. And, I know for those who have tried hard, worked in the arena all day, and had very real spiritual experiences, those disparaging words from people who stand outside the arena and just throw rotten tomatoes into it - well - those words, emails, Facebook and Twitter posts sting.
I am powerless to take away that sting. The sting comes with creative work - especially good creative work.
“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Apple
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." Roosevelt
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.
O, do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks! Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle. But you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God.
Phillips Brooks, "Going up to Jerusalem", Twenty Sermons (1886), p. 330.
I dream of a church which is no longer afraid of the revolution that is coming, and one that understands we will need every possible kind of church, worship style, and creative evangelism to help us live into our future. I dream of a church which is filled with people less likely to criticize and more people willing to roll up their sleeves and find solutions to our mission imperatives.
For in what you are trying to do, I see that wonderful and sacred mystery we call church. I see in you and in your work the Holy Spirit which brought all things into being. I see in you partners worth entering the arena with, and I see partners who will stay in the arena with hands joined.