In my holiday reading, I was reminded of an old quote – attributed to Alert Einstein – in which he says
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
As I return to the business of “re-imagining church”, I’m reminded of how uncomfortably close this comes to the activities of churches up and down the country.
Only days before I left for holiday, I was in conversation with someone who couldn’t accept that the form of church and worship that he grew up with in the 1950′s has little or no appeal to the 20,000 or so people of our town who don’t do church. The conversation was like sitting in the passenger seat whilst the driver ignores the steam coming from the radiator and the increasing regularlity of clonking noises from the engine. The levels of church attendence are declining and aging in our town, and yet there’s a reluctance to stop the car, get out and walk.
So here’s the question – Is there a touch of insanity (by Einstein’s standards) in our activities – doing the same old same old, and not taking any notice of the fact that the formula doesn’t work any more?
On the brighter side, on returning to work I was delighted to hear of the “Re-Generation” conference in which our CofE bishops are tangibly trying to engage in the lives and worldviews of our rising generations in order to do what Anglicans (and other Christians and their churches) are supposed to be doing – “proclaiming afresh in each generation” the gospel of Christ.
What will protect us from the insanity of doing the same-old-same-old? Some years ago, when I played a part as a tutor on The Leadership Institute programme for developing clergy as leaders (here) I became increasingly aware for church leaders to be “reflective practitioners”, taking time out from the cycle of plan-do-plan-do, to connect with a fresh take on “the things we do”, drawing insight from the way others approach similar issues to those we face locally. We created clusters of people – initially barely known to one another, and often from very different experiences of church, faith and life. We then (metaphorically) lit the touch paper and watched the creative sparks take light. The results were great to see, often returning tired, middle aged, risk-averse (and often cynical and burnt out) clergy into their once inspired and confident selves.
So the second question is – how can we persuade busy lay leaders in our churches to engage in this kind of reflective, creative energy-giving clusters, to save us from the insanity of doing the same-old-same-old, and inspire us all to proclaim afresh the good news which is God’s gift to the world?
What would work for you?