November 10, 2011

the ambidextrous organization

The Roman god Janus had two sets of eyes—one pair focusing on what lay behind, the other on what lay ahead. General managers and corporate executives should be able to relate. They, too, must constantly look backward, attending to the products and processes of the past, while also gazing forward, preparing for the innovations that will define the future.

We're at a point in Church history where much of our classic methodology is highly questioned. I was once one of the young whipper snappers taking cheap shots at the church, easily forgetting that she was my Savior's bride. I've grown more practical but my love for the Church still leaves me to hope for constant improvement

In my studies at Fuller, our cohort has talked, studied and read a ton on ecclesiological issues. The bottom line is this: conversations of change have to take into consideration that such changes impact people, for they, not the institutions, are the Church. When we take this into consideration we quickly realize that there are many that are tightly bound to the legacy, the heritage of any local congregation. The traditions shape them and mold them even as those younger or more entrepreneurial want to move on.

How might we honor the old, while exploring the new? The truth is most experimentation with church forms that are attached to a traditional congregation are not set up to survive without the "mothership." If you "kill it," you lose your resources. So, it isn't in the best interest of many young Christian leaders to burn down the proverbial house. A balance has to be found.

The Harvard Business Review (follow link above) published an article some time back that discussed the "ambidextrous organization." And I think this concept might give some imagination to the conversation of ancient/future church or at least some practical thought-starters. Here's a few principles I draw from the "ambidextrous" idea in the western church context:

- Both the "old" and the "new" must have value to the whole
- There is only a "new" for the sake of mission; not relevance, reaction or whatever else might compel us
- The "old" has value as it holds within it a legacy, a history and a narrative that informs the whole (if not more)
- Mission brings life to all (the HBR article authors talk about "incremental," "architectural," and "discontinuous" innovations or changes)

What are your thoughts?

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