How Can the Church Approach
Meaningful Structural Change?


The future of the Church does not have to be bricking up the neighborhood churches.


Yesterday’s post introduced holacracy—a movement that is restructuring how organizations work together.


I suggested that the concepts may be exactly what the world of Church is struggling to find.


But how do we get there?


Holacracy is finding success in the business world because a few savvy entrepreneurs were willing to step away from titles like CEO and the accompanying vertical structure. They saw it hampering innovation. Fostering innovation makes you stand out among competitors.


In other words—there is incentive.


The Church talks about innovation but remains unprepared to invest in the concept. No incentive.


Tradition and constitutions define rules. (Holacracy has a constitution, by the way.) Leadership roles of bishop and pastor are guaranteed as long as congregational money lasts and people get along. Successful leaders keep people happy.


In recent years, the money is failing. When money is in short supply, tensions rise. People are not happy.


As congregations fail, church leaders have rewritten the rules to make sure money lasts longer for their benefit.


It is OK for congregations to fail, if the denomination benefits from failure. This isn’t made up. It is actually stated in training resources for church leaders. Don’t waste time helping struggling churches. Create a triage list. Spend time and energy on those showing more promise.


Self-survival is the only incentive. It is not survival of the fittest. The higher ranks of the Church are every bit as challenged as the congregations. Rather, it is survival of the most powerful. Service and Mission are off in the distance.


The Church of the near future is likely to be composed of denominational offices and the 40 richest congregations—a quarter the current size of our regional body. The roster of pastors will be similarly cut, although those remaining will be well paid. Affluence is the measure of ministry. All the buildings will be new or renovated.


One problem, pews are not likely to be full. The people of the 120 abandoned congregations spread across five counties will not drive to attend worship no matter how grand the parking lots or plush the pews.


The loss of neighborhood churches will challenge the ability of the surviving churches to effectively deliver in mission. They will have isolated themselves from the poor, needy and diverse. They will become social clubs for Christians who can afford the dues.


Failure to recognize the destructive nature of self-centered use of power sparked the Reformation. A refresher course every 500 years may be the ticket!


Just as in 1517, power feeds on money. The powerful will not easily revise their roles if it means ceding power and status.


This is likely to be the Church’s undoing.


Change is not going to come from clergy, seminarians or consultants. They remain heavily invested in vertical church structure.


I suggest we start by looking at what we already have. Examine that word in the ELCA constitutions that eludes us.



What does it mean?




With that question in mind, take a look at this TED talk.

photo credit: Brick Filled Window via photopin (license)