Ambles through Willow Creek’s Reveal Part 1-Preamble

SUMMARY. This mini-series of “Reveal Part 3” goes through the Willow Creek REVEAL book chapter by chapter, using a “paradigm and cultural systems analysis” to address points about the deepest level information processing styles apparently used by its authors and advocates, as well as their critical values, theology/philosophy, strategies, structures, and methodological model for “being/doing church.” For these posts to make the most sense, I’d suggest reading the series on Taxonomies of Emergence, Parts 1-5, so you have a chance to go through tutorials on the processes of observation, analysis, and interpretation. Here is a list of the “Ambles” posts, which are perhaps best read alongside or after you read the related portion of the REVEAL book. There are no summaries for these posts … this is another case where I don’t want to give “spoilers.”

  • Ambles through Willow Creek’s Reveal Part 1-Preamble.
  • Ambles through Willow Creek’s Reveal Part 2-Foreword, Preview, Back Cover.
  • Ambles through Willow Creek’s Reveal Part 3-Where Are You?
  • Ambles through Willow Creek’s Reveal Part 3 Addendum-Assessing Ministry in Emerging Cultures.
  • Ambles through Willow Creek’s Reveal Part 4-Are You Really Making a Difference?

Do you ever wake up some days, knowing exactly what you’re supposed to do with the morning … or perhaps even the whole day? This is one of those days for me. I’m out of my home on a “staycation,” staying for a few days with a friend who lives oh, less than 25 miles away. Something about being away from the home office, the usual routine, the phone and email let you breathe deeper, think clearer, move slower. It’s a nice change of pace!

Well, this morning I wafted into consciousness, knowing this was the day to begin my working through of Willow Creek’s “Reveal” self-study book. But how to do that? Well, coffee certainly must be an essential part of the process. Most definitely! And then grab a pencil to write in the margins. And how about some crunchy foods, umm, yeah, roasted cashews and almonds – some of my preferred form of concentration enhancers. Guess I’m ready.

So – how exactly am I supposed to go about this? So very many ways to experience, review, critique a book. Where am I now, compared to nearly nine months ago when I wrote my preliminary questions for a Reveal self-study and what I expected to be watching for? What is my current sitz im leben and how might that make a difference? In other words, assuming this series of posts holds some kind of providential timing, why now? What was that pregnant pause all about? And how now? Who have I become that changes the ways I look at this series?

I hope I’ve become at least a bit more seasoned, wiser, and kinder. It’s been quite an unusual year thus far … In these intervening months since that first post on Reveal:

  • It looks like I’ve basically blogercised my way up to being able to do a more in-depth analysis of a church model’s paradigm, possible trajectories, and how they help/hinder their own transition into the future.
  • In December 2007, I also concluded a five-year stint at a seeker-sensitive church, where I served as a consultant on generational dynamics, postmodern cultures, and paradigm shifting to maintain a legacy for the future. I’ve since invested a lot of time in reflecting on experiences related to that role, and whatever constructive impact (or lack therefore) sprang from my efforts. The leaders there knew up front that I was not at all a fan of the seeker-sensitive model, but they wanted a strategic foresight perspective for understanding how best to move forward through a leadership transition that not just preserved the church but poised it for a more preferable and intentional future. Now, that’s a commitment I always appreciate and am willing to put myself out in order to help empower. I did what I could, and perhaps the fruits of those labors will only be seen in future decades …
  • I’ve been welcomed into a decentralized network of missional practitioners and thought leaders; this is far closer to my overall holistic paradigm and systems models for being disciples and doing Kingdom work.
  • In my vocational work, I’ve continued a very large project begun a year ago to help a friend develop or describe tools for his complete, integrated process for mobilizing volunteers into meaningful ministry.
  • I’ve participated with a house church that better fits more my perspective: it’s a “shadow team,” really. It serves as a safe place to “process life” together with other disciples of different ages and stages in life, all of whom already have ongoing ministries. So, gathering is not designed to be the place of ministry to draw in others, but to equip, empower, and encourage us for our everyday discipling of self and others.
  • I’ve assisted nearly a dozen people in four states/provinces to work through issues related to situations of toxic/abusive leaders at a worksite or church.

This surely is a far, far different place from which to consider Reveal than where I was at the end of 2007! Well, actually, probably that’d be better interpreted as being farther down the same road that I’ve been on for a very long time – hopefully more agile in my perceptive, reflective, and interpretive gestalting than back then.

Anyway, there are still a lot of different ways I could approach these days. After a significant amount of thought and prayer – not necessarily in that order – and through much reflection with pulling a Brother Lawrence and practicing the presence of Christ while cleaning my host’s kitchen – I think the order of the day is thus:

1. Be both as generous and as rigorous as possible. We live in an era of enormous paradigm parallax within the Church of North America – there are extreme distances between the paradigms that support our vastly different methodological models. Like it or not, EVERYONE will have to make significant adjustments in order to survive the third paradigm shift in the last 2,000 years of Western civilization. For some, those changes will ask for a cost higher than they are willing to pay; it will send them into severe culture shock or perhaps even worse. Those unwilling to be humble and flexible should not expect to survive or find sustainability. This is a time of rough waters. We need to be gracious with one another, even while recommending better navigation practices…

We are all being stressed by the global shifts in paradigms, even if our paradigm is one moving into cultural ascendancy. So, it’s kind and reasonable to appreciate in all current paradigms whatever aspects are pro-biblical and theological sound; practical and aimed at helping move the Church forward into the Kingdom; and help plow, sow, and water for sustainability. It’s equally kind and reasonable to ask lots of questions, challenge what has probable gaps or excesses, and attempt to show the logical conclusions in terms of systems of various assumptions and presumptions. We cannot help each other move toward the future well otherwise.

2. It is okay to surmise assumptions without having to be overly suspicious about motivations. In paradigm profiling work, you have to “backcast” – attempt to reverse engineer what underlying processes and procedures, assumptions and values, strategies and structures inherently led to this or that set of surface behaviors and apparent attitudes. I should assume transparent sincerity of motives on the part of paradigm leaders, until and unless demonstrated otherwise.

3. This is meant to be an amble, not a scramble. I grew up in the foothill regions of Montana. One of my favorite pastimes was taking all-day nature walks. Within a mere mile from our house, I could be in the midst of several eco-systems and the overlap zones between them (i.e., ecotones). These were not about brisk walks in the woods, but about a slow-paced, interactive walk that featured active engagement with the environment. What could I observe? What had changed with flora and fauna since the last season? What things were new, what were now missing? What patterns could I perceive?

Similarly, I feel like I am to have a series of ambles through the Reveal report. This is about seeing what strikes me as of interest, and trusting that the heightened awareness is providential, regardless of whether it seems on the surface to be extremely strategic or not. Also, in this kind of approach, it’s about the overall weight of evidence from thinking, feeling, questioning, imagining, relating, reflecting … I know I could do a complete paradigm analysis and interpretation, but for whatever reasons, this is supposed to be about big-picture thematicals not detail fanaticals, about existing in their place not fisking their paradigm space.

So that’s the preamble to this series of ambles. I always try to reveal my own biases, and hopefully this background helps you picture the perspective I’m viewing this all from.

During this series, you’ll be welcome to comment, but I would appreciate it if you could keep within a similar spirit. I’m not interested in fanning a flame war over Willow by hosting a roasting of Reveal. I’m not saying the price of entry for posting a comment is that you must say something nice before you point out something you think is naughty. I’m just expecting a tone of civility, and the exercise of restraint, as the wise Virtual Abbess would say. Also, hopefully comments will be relevant to the range of paradigm strengths and challenges at Willow Creek, and/or about how paradigms and methodological models for being/doing church have affected you.

And with all that in mind, heigh-dee-ho, and away we go!


One thought on “Ambles through Willow Creek’s Reveal Part 1-Preamble

  1. Brad!

    What a great way to begin this process. Well done! I am looking forward to this amble staying out of the brambles.

    And thank you for the kind words and link … it is good to be able to contribute in my wee ways ;^)

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