Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Formation, and Evangelism Director Charles B. "Chip" Hardwick as he travels throughout the church. God is on the move out and about in the world, working to redeem all things in Jesus Christ. As we join this mission, by the power of the Spirit we see God on the move. This blog contains glimpses of how Chip finds this to be true in his comings and goings.
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Last week I spent one of the most fascinating days I’ve experienced in quite some time. San Francisco Theological Seminary (pictured below) included me in a conversation of dreams and hopes for the Center for Innovation in Ministry that they are developing. The most famous participants might have been the grande dame and sound-bite-queen Phyllis Tickle, whose books include The Great Emergence and The Age of the Spirit, and Brandan Robertson, an almost-graduate of Moody Bible Institute whose Revangelical blog has led to speaking and writing opportunities all over the country. Joining them were pastors, seminary trustees, Christian leaders, and denominational officials like me.
The conversation included wide open dreams as well as tactical advice. While the Center is still taking shape, my hopes for it are quite high. I’ve continue to be convinced about the necessary-but-not-sufficient nature of theological education (click here for an article in the Presbyterian Outlook written with my colleague Rev. Sarah Sarchet Butter and here for an earlier blog post), and many seminaries are addressing more holistic leadership development in many ways. None to my knowledge, however, are specifically tackling innovation as a critical area.
Many aspects of the church are seeking ways to innovate. The Next Church and the Fellowship of Presbyterians (two organizations mobilizing largely centrist-progressive and centrist-conservative Presbyterians), as well as the denomination’s Presbyterian Mission Agency (where I serve) are all drawing attention to innovations across the country and world which are bearing fruit. However, none of these organizations have specific expertise in innovation, and the scope of each makes it difficult for us to bring a sustained focus on innovation in a way that a dedicated Center (or Collaboratorium, as I’ve begun to think about it in my mind) could do.
The effort might have three emphases which would be valuable to church leaders. First, what are innovations which are currently going on in society and in the church which can help congregations to thrive? Second, what are the basics of change management which will help church leaders to navigate congregational preferences and politics to implement the innovations? Finally, what are the habits of the mind which help congregational leaders develop innovations on their own?
P.S. I can’t resist posting some of the best quotes from the day before closing this entry:
“If the Catholics in the 1500’s were as neurotic as we Protestants today are about numbers, they’d have shot the Pope and moved the whole thing to China.”
Author, Theologian, and Cultural Constructionist
“The Church has moved so far away from its original pupose that to move back to it seems innovative.”
Presbyterian Mission Agency
“The world for which you have been so carefully prepared has been taken away from you, by the grace of God.”
--Walter Brueggemann, quoted by participant
Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary
“There’s nothing like telling someone ‘This is what I see in you’ to help them live into Christ’s dreams for them.”
--Jana Childers (paraphrased)
Dean, San Francisco Theological Seminary