Context is Key to Evolution

Transition TeamMy good friend and colleague, Dr. Jim Lockard, has begun a new blog that is worthy of mention: New Thought Evolutionary: Exploring the Emerging Leadership in New ThoughtDr. Jim goes into detail regarding the evolutionary influences that impact how New Thought leaders are challenged to evolve their ministries or become irrelevant. He explores the question of whether or not the “church model” will continue to be the delivery system for spiritual teachings and efforts to evolve humanity.

I think this is a good question to consider and then to go exploring. I have a sense that our current ministry practice has an expiration date–maybe 30 years more or less. The times are a-changing and unless we evolve our practice of ministry, the church model (the way we DO church) and the context of what we teach (translational / transformational), we may succumb to downward trends presently impacting 80% of church organizations in North America.

My take on the evolutionary process that pertains to both ministry as an organization and its leadership is all about an evolution of context. Think of context as the field within which ministry and leadership arises. Context influences our perception and meaning making. For instance, if I believe that the source of my discomfort is “out there” in the realm of circumstances, my efforts to manage situations that look and feel against me will be about predict and control. The context for my perceptions and meaning making is: Source is external to me.

Now let’s shift the context and see what happens to our perceptions and meaning-making. If my context shifts to I am Source unto my own life, then when I experience discomfort I inherently know that it is arising from within me. The trigger in this context is seen as an ally or a partner in my spiritual journey, rather that an enemy. Context dynamically steers how we are BEING with what we are HAVING.

The movie below is Gregg Braden speaking to the power of heart-centered coherence as a tool for shifting “the field” (context). His final words: “Change the field that the atom is in and you change the atom.” Heart-centered coherence also enables us to access states of consciousness independent of our emotional circuitry. When this occurs, we have the ability to change contexts. Changing the context of how we perceive and make meaning is key to transformation.

The “field” with respect to ministry and  New Thought leadership is CONTEXT. Change the context your experience is in and you change your experience. It could be said that evolution is all about evolving the context of your perceptions and meaning making. That is how we access higher dynamics of consciousness–by shifting context.

If our current paradigm of ministry (church model) is not working or out of synch with the emerging evolutionary influences, then the context for how we lead and do ministry is inadequate or otherwise misaligned with what could be characterized as 2nd Tier imperatives (using Spiral Dynamics terms).

When our context is rooted in 1st Tier imperatives, the source of discomfort in addition to well-being is perceived to be external to us. Leadership becomes driven to manage problems through predict and control strategies. A 1st Tier context portrays the challenges and opportunities of ministry as problems to solve rather than evolutionary drivers. Conditions must be a certain way in order for our world to actually work for everyone.

Second tier imperatives, in contrast to 1st Tier, are all about BEING. Asking ourselves these questions: “Who and what have we come here to be as a ministry and who have we come here to be as leaders?” helps us to acquire a context of BEING as opposed to a context of HAVING.

I will always reiterate that current ministry practices rooted in a 1st Tier context will be unsustainable due to being out of synch and detached from a transformational context for evolving our organizations, leaders, and communities.

At a recent training I conducted, a ministry leader mentioned that his center, which was dealing with a sense of not enough, was about to launch a congregational survey that would invite respondents to share how the ministry might serve them better. The belief was that if they could receive input regarding programs and services the congregation valued and additional ways the ministry might be of service, this would translate into greater support for their ministry.

He made this comment to me after I had stated that such surveys actually are problematic because they reinforce the context and the myth that states: When people feel spiritually fed and served by their ministry, they will give more. On some level this might be true in the short term, but sooner or later, many people discover that the church is not the sole source of their spiritual nourishment. In fact, the church cannot be all things to all people in the context of “our mission is to serve you.” When the context for supporting the ministry is whether or not people feel served or fed, our ministry practice is grounded in 1st tier imperatives where the focus is on finding the fix or the solution “out there”.

Now consider this: What if our context for ministry practice is not about serving others or feeding them spiritually, but rather supporting personal transformation? What if our mission evolves from service to others in the context of their needs, wants, and desires (translational) to supporting people in their transformational journey to grow and evolve into who they have come here to be?

While on some level, this might look and feel the same, in terms of ministry practice and leadership intentionality, when the ministry has as its mission to change and transform lives, serving the congregation is not about fulfilling peoples needs so much as it is about supporting them through the discomfort of making the momentous leap–from 1st Tier to 2nd Tier. Transformation requires the ability to be with our discomforts because they are portals to our integration and healing.

For me, 2nd tier ministry and a transformational context is the key to evolutionary New Thought Leadership. The clear vision of what 2nd Tier ministry looks like has yet to come into view. Only the first steps are clearly defined. In the words of my friend and mentor, Ken Wilber, “You cannot get into 2nd Tier consciousness and ministry practice until you have achieved shadow integration.”

There are two hallmarks or guideposts for shadow integration: First, you no longer take yourself personally, and second, you move from triggered reaction to triggered compassion.

The video below contains some testimonies of folks from Unity Spiritual Center who have just complete our second Q Process Workshop. We now have 60% of our entire congregation moving into a transformational context for their spiritual journey.

The majority of our community is now shifting away from translational ministry practices / teachings and are eager to engage the evolutionary process. I will keep you posted as to how this tipping point is actualizing our efforts to take the ministry to the next level.

Blessings, Gary











4 thoughts on “Context is Key to Evolution”

  1. Some of this comes up in the SOM accredited class, “Beyond Limits”. On completing this class with a group of 15 students they each made comments similar to these folks from the Q class. There is not a doubt in my mind that this is the way to go. Is the next step to make Centers for Spiritual Living a teaching center without a Sunday service? If the Sunday service is to remain should attendees, at some point be broken up into small groups for opening hearts and self-compassion et al on the path to self discovery and transformation. I guess I’m asking, What do we do with Sunday?

    1. I think that ministries will find creative and innovative ways to retain the “Sunday” tradition so long as they are in synch with emerging demographics. As Traditionals and Baby Boomers age out, it will become necessary to find alternatives to the Sunday tradition that can foster individual and community transformation. I think that new organizational models are on the horizon that will offer alternatives to how our organizations are currently structured. There are so many tipping points emerging on many fronts. These are interesting times.

      1. there is no reason why they (Sundays) cannot (continue and be relevant). The premise that it is inevitable that they are “doomed” is short sited both in understanding the real possibilities of our teaching and in terms of understanding the dynamic desires of human beings.
        If a leader is anchored in Yellow and the purpose of the community is not to “fill the needs” of the members but is rather to be a container of evolution and personal transformation (aka a place of Becoming) – Then Sundays can serve as the inspirational recharge point – synergy building place. Message and music serve to inspire and engage and services include collective practices that focus on healing humanities shadow, beginning with our own, as well as a place where the interchange of community social capital is built and exchanged.
        Theological relevancy is the key – if its possible to have a thriving community with theological relevancy at levels; red, blue, orange and green – and if as the collective culture shifts from those centers to second tier, then why can’t theological relevancy shift as well? Short answer, it can. and It is.
        It’s easy to see that New Thought never fit in the theological paradigms of Red and Blue…and while we grew in the 50’s and 60’s in Orange, and the people attracted to new thought shifted mostly to Green…I would propose that our Theology is actually more Yellow than anything else. The theology – not necessarily how its been expressed or how the various New Thought organizations have organized, structured and promoted it, but the theology itself. Which, if that were true…would go a long way to explain why we’ve struggled at Green – rather than just saying “Sunday Church model is just outdated and not popular anymore”
        Perhaps, just perhaps – we are just barely beginning to come into our own as a movement. As I’ve said before; certainly new creative forms of ministry will emerge – as is the nature of our creative thinkers and evolution itself – but as I see it such innovation is neither at odds with a thriving Sunday Model or is it a suitable replacement. At second Tier – evolution itself will be different.
        Think about it….
        CD’s replaced cassette tapes (first Tier evolution)

        Second Tier: iTunes, iPods, MP3Players and SmartPhones did not replace CD’s nor did it kill the CD business as predicted and feared by the industry leaders – it enhanced and GREW the music business – which is bigger now than it has ever been. And no matter now good music can sound with new innovations in headphones, recording and listening devices – people will still go to concerts.

        Yes, innovations of our teaching and delivery systems will take place, but I proposed that if our Theological Relevance is anchored in second Tier – these evolutions will enhance and grow our Sunday models – not replace them.

        * this assumes we are dealing with healthy communities to begin with. No doubt there is a lot of work on that front to begin with.

  2. Good stuff Gary.
    There is a basic flaw that keep getting made when attempting to connect attendance trends in Protestant movements to changes that need to be made in New Thought movements…None of the studies done on traditional church attendance take Theological Relevancy into account as a possible contributor to the decline, instead they all assume that the “model of church” must be outdated. Any basic researcher would know that correlation does not equal causation. It is quite possible and probable that it is the theological model that it outdated and a more relevant cause for the measured decline.

    Thankfully this blog entry points us in the right direction. That is that the Theological Relevance of New Thought communities needs to be squarely anchored in 2nd Tier consciousness. If our churches/communities exist as places of becoming – where you are supported in becoming who you are here to be, then I see no reason why the “model of church” (a place of social connection, inspiration, support and transformation) will be going away anytime soon.

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