Capstone 2-3: “Decisive Moments” and Trajectories of Transformation

Dans les champs de l’observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits prepares.

(“In the fields of observation, chance favors the prepared mind.”)

~ Louis Pasteur ~ Lecture at University of Lille ~ December 7, 1854

Intuition and Intention, Perception and Preparation

The idea of intuition fueled by preparation is nothing new. What Pasteur commented on 160 years ago related to science was reiterated 60 years ago in the arts by photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. The thing that Cartier-Bresson was known for was clicking his camera at the exact right second to capture “the decisive moment” – something that showed the essence of the subject’s identity, or perhaps a turning point in someone’s decision-making process – but in a way that helps the viewer intuitively sense what is likely next. His influential book, Images à la Sauvette, images “on the run,” was published in 1952. Providentially, his “photos on the fly” book is about to be republished in French and English editions this December, making it available again for the first time in 60-plus years. Check out some of Cartier-Bresson’s iconic photos and see what you think about what he saw when he thought … and what clicks. I have reflected over the years about this idea of a decisive moment, and wondered how it applies to skills of strategic foresight – futurism. One skill futurists practice involves “scanning the horizon” for long-term trends that are driving social changes that will last for, say, 50 years or more. This is an important approach because change is inevitable, but transition or transformation is intentional. So, the better we understand what processes of change are occurring around us, the better possibilities we have for choosing options that are preferable and productive. But this is not an exact science because many of the “tools” we futurists use are our own knowledge and perception. We are uniquely wired to capture a cultural gestalt while on the go, and consider how some snapshot we are seeing relates to a cluster of other snapshots that show a common theme. That’s part of how we figure out trends: compare the new input with what’s in our multi-dimensional mental archive. It’s its own kind of perception and processing. But it does seem to find a parallel to photography, and especially to the idea of the decisive moment and the kinds of questions it raises.

  • Does what I am observing indicate that there’s been a change in the trajectory course in culture?
  • What caused the turning point for that change?
  • Has it hit a tipping point where a threshold was reached for sustaining long-term change?
  • Regardless of whether it is a trend, a turning point, or a tipping point, how intense is the response (qualitatively) and how immense is it (quantitatively)?
  • How might this change alter the course for people and issues directly interconnected with it, and for those more distant but indirectly connected?
  • What might emerge next because of this change now?

I feel like a great part of such processing has to do with our intentional preparation as much as with our intuitive perception. Certainly, the photographer who is acclaimed for a holistic ability to take in an entire situation in an instance and sense the significance at the moment of clicking has a strong intuition that has been fortified by practice. It’s also been shaped by and slanted toward whatever arenas of human endeavor are of particular interest to him or her as photographer.

Points of Passion and Moving Into Research Mode

Similarly, the futurist who seeks to contribute to a particular area of passion needs to be aware of the whole horizon of trends that are driving cultural change, but also steeped in the situations of his or her interest or experience. For me, that arena of concern turned out to revolve around spiritual abuse, malignant ministries, and sick organizational systems – and the types of personal push-back and social dissent against them. That wasn’t my onset point, but it seems to have become the bulls-eye of the target I’ve been providentially aimed at all of my adult life. I started studying social change and protest movements 40 years ago, was accepted into a program on international relations to focus on Soviet and Chinese systems 30 years ago, moved from organizational development interests in general to church planting in particular 20 years ago, and started thinking about writing on my findings 10 years ago. Over that entire period, I’ve also experienced instances of abuse of authority by people in roles of spiritual influence. That added a sense of reality and urgency to understanding how such systems work. I didn’t have control over abuse situations that entered my own history, but still, I do see there has been positive and redemptive Kingdom purposes in it. Things started shifting around and sifting down in January 2008. That month marks when I began research writing about spiritual abuse as I processed my own experiences: what happened, where it came from, why it caused soul trauma and spiritual damage. Then I started generalizing as I tied this in with the experiences of others: what tactics manipulators use to turn us into their martyrs, how our blind spots keep us in servitude, where such abuses lead if no one ever challenges bullies in the pulpits. After coming to tentative conclusions from my own experiences of spiritual abuse, I found that prominent abuse situations in the North American church that had floated around my peripheral vision eventually became a central focus.

Tracking Mars Hill Church

Mars Hill Church is one of those situations that eventually dominated my attention. I’d been aware of Mark Driscoll’s influence since 1997 and the Young Leaders events on emerging ministry models, and I’d made occasional observations about him and about Mars Hill ever since. But the scrutiny began in earnest about a year ago when radio show host Janet Mefferd interviewed Mark Driscoll and raised the nasty little issue of Mark’s then-alleged plagiarism and failure of source citation – accusations that have since received abundant documentation plus public acknowledgments by some of his publishers about corrective steps they have (or haven’t) taken. I’ve ended up with a refined set of questions about abuse from tracking the public unveiling of what apparently has been the real Mark Driscoll all along, and the resulting demise of Mars Hill Church. The next few posts summarize what I’ve been learning from this period of intense observation, and what lessons I think the church in North America especially needs to embrace. I hope my findings will make sense, and that if they don’t seem satisfactory, then I hope they at least raise a sharper set of questions to create a more prepared mind for observations by those who are attempt to “read” the culture of Mars Hill Church. I’ll start with the general setting of spiritual abuse in North America, from which my more recent observations of Mark Driscoll/Mars Hill were made, then get to specific issues of concern, and end with how this all illustrates a “parasitic paradigm” system. Tentative segments in this mini-series include:

  • “Decisive Moments” and Trajectories of Transformation.
  • Trends, Turning Points, and Tipping Points in the Spiritual Abuse Survivors’ Communities (2014). Part 1 – Setting the Stage. Part 2 – New Observations, Analysis, Interpretations.
  • A Lawsuit Against Mars Hill Church Could be a Just Cause Because …
  • Seven “-Ologies” in Mars Hill’s “Parasitic Paradigm.”

In these posts, I expect to focus on my processing of information, interpretations, and conclusions – not on re-documenting every point. (For details of documentation, see the Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll Research Guide series table of contents post.) Also, to honor those who need to see the “forest” before they can examine the “trees,” I start this mini-series with the overarching framework of perception (decisive moments and trajectories), and work from there to the big picture of trends in spiritual abuse, and then on to organizational issues for Mars Hill, and end with the personal issues for Mark Driscoll and a series of “decisive moments” that track that trail. For other relevant posts on futurism, change, and transformational trajectories, and how they fit with our personal stories:

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