In light of the email from CHC announcing Tom's new book, I visited Tom's blog and from there add him as a friend on Facebook. After adding him as a friend I saw he had received a comment from Mike Todd of Waving or Drowning which I am an occasional reader of already. Once one Mike's site I saw a reference to Pernell Goodyear, who spoke at Up/Rooted a few months back. So I surfed over and read down his blog. On his blog he had a reference to some research on community conducted by M. Scott Peck that I found very relevant to the issues of apathy and disengagement that I think plagues the church I attend.
First, read the 4 stages of community:
- Pseudo-community - An initial state of "being nice". Pseudo-community is characterized by politeness, conflict avoidance, and denial of individual differences. Let's be honest - most of us can't keep this up for long. Eventually someone is going to speak up, speak out, and the dam breaks.
- Chaos - In the stage of chaos, individual differences are aired, and the group tries to overcome them through misguided attempts to heal or to convert. Listening suffers, and emotions and frustration tend to run high. There are only two ways out of chaos: retreat into pseudo-community [often through organization], or forward, through emptiness.
- Emptiness - Emptiness refers to the process of recognizing and releasing the barriers [expectations, prejudices, the need to control] that hold us back from authentic communication with others, from being emotionally available to hear the voices of those around us. This is a period of going within, of searching ourselves and sharing our truths with the group. This process of "dying to the self" can make way for something remarkable to emerge.
- Community - "In my defenselessness, my safety lies." In this stage, individuals accept others as they are, and are themselves accepted. Differences are no longer feared or ignored, but rather are celebrated. A deep sense of peace and joy characterizes the group.
Since this stalemate between pseudo-community and emptiness settles in a longterm lodging within chaos a new category emerges that sits outside, yet alongside the progress which is the disengagement. The members divorce themselves from any sort of dependence on the community, and instead of being forced to fledge for the growth of the community, their belonging a apparition, since they are present only in body.
This ties into our lack of focus on the authentic mission of the Kingdom of God, since one can not be deeply involved in the sacrifice it takes to follows Jesus' lifestyle as an island. The dependence that is necessary to force forward the nurture of the community is the weakness one realizes when they have over expended their personal physical, emotional, and spiritual resources in serving the least of these.
The challenge to leadership is to find ways to compel membership to "fish or cut bait" by enlightening them to the destitution their independence has led them to.