My 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 Thought. Dr. 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.