Journal Entry – Attention to Detail

Photo Credit: modomatic/flickr/CC-BY-2.0

Well, I missed the mark on my journal entry for Emergent Gathering this week.  Rather than reading the instructions carefully, I jumped the gun and responded to the WRONG podcast from Radiolab.  No worries though, sitting on I-95 and then metro delays gave me plenty of time this morning to catch up on what I was supposed to do in the first place.

Leaderless groups, (ants, fireflies, and even humans) are stumbling around this planet and inadvertently creating order.  These groups are forming functioning communities and solving complex problems as a whole, rather than depending on the brightest or most educated (if a firefly or ant can be educated) of the group.  This is the opinion of guests on Radiolab’s Emergence episode (season 1, episode 3).

“What happens when there is no leader? Starlings, bees, and ants manage just fine. In fact, they form staggeringly complicated societies–all without a Toscanini to conduct them into harmony.”

The best example given was a group of folks attempting to guess the weight of an ox.  Now, none of the people in this group were experts in oxen nor were they versed in weighing livestock.  However, many of them had been trained in weighing packages, so the facilitator of this carnival act instructed the participants to estimate how many packages the oxen might be.  No one in the group guess the weight of the ox, BUT when the guesses were added up and then averaged, the group was only off by one pound.  The group as a whole was able to solve the problem, not an individual or appointment ox weight-guessing committee.

So what does this mean for me?  How can I take this information and apply it to ministry, school, my family life, or just in general?

I think that we, a collective we, have become too reliant upon the leaders of our religious institutions, governments, and civic organizations to provide leadership that we just nod our heads and say yes without even thinking that we might be able to offer something of substance for the betterment of the group.

For me in particular, this is evident in the decline of mainline denominations.  We appointment committees and rely upon clergy to do the work of the congregation, absolving the majority of the congregation from having a vested role in the furthering of the ministry of the congregation.  In other words, we feel that it is more important to appoint someone to do the work  rather than taking it upon ourselves to do the work.

Do not get me wrong, I DO think that clergy and a small level of leadership is important in the church (and the same can be said for government and civic organizations).  This idea of bottom up, rather than top down leadership and community building empowers the members of the community to have an interest in the shaping and developing of the community.  EVERYONE is part of the success and failures of the community.

So how does this play out in denominational systems that are set up for top down leadership?  Is this where what Phyllis Tickle calls the “hyphenated” emerge and change the denominations from within?

Check out the Radiolab podcast and let me know your thoughts.