The movement of the new paradigm church can be measured by where it finds itself in certain stages. Notice, first, that the church is not to be a static establishment of the status-quo, but a fluid move of God in the people that is ever evolving, morphing into the Vision of God for the church within humanity. Secondly, I know that to be “measured” in the old paradigm church was not necessarily a good thing. Effectiveness was always “measured” by numbers of people infected, programs inflicted, and cultures imposed upon. To be “measured” in the new paradigm is not the ends of effectiveness, but it’s a means. Measuring is necessary to perceive where, exactly, we are in God’s worldview. We need road signs so as to know if we are on the correct road, and/or in fact moving, according to God’s Vision for the church in humanity. The stages of movement can be categorized as four. Where we are in our movement (or not) is measured by the people’s characteristics and leadership style.
Stage One – People are excited and confident about God’s Vision, but competence is low because of their inexperience in this new paradigm. Leadership should be almost exclusively visionary. Leaders should give lots of direction and example in Vision casting, but hardly any explanations of how, what, when, where, and why, and rarely should they expect consensus.
Stage Two – [The critical stage] People are losing excitement and have no confidence in the Vision being cast. Competence hasn’t improved because what they experience is opposition from the status quo and the guardians of the old paradigm on all sides. Here is where new church launches (or newly revitalized churches) find themselves at a crossroads. Usually we tend to take the fork which carries us back to Stage One because we liked the excitement and confidence there. Not everyone can live strictly out of Vision. Many need something tangible that reinforces the Vision being cast (at Community UMC, where I pastor, it was the influx of “new people” that tripled their previous numbers, the physical completion of Phase One of the Vision – the remodeled fellowship hall – and the support from the NC Conference and Duke Endowment for the initiation of Phase Two – the child care center). Leadership must be consistently visionary, here. Direction toward God’s worldview (especially concerning the church), practical discussions about the vision, and being poured-out with and in the people are key. This is about God and God’s grace enacted through the church.
Stage Three – Excitement, confidence, and competence are building, not out of child-like naivety as before, but because of experience; not only positive experiences but also the negative – completing the sufferings of Christ – make the Vision a lifestyle. The uncomfortable “unlearning” of churchianity in Stage Two has given way to the learning (or learning again) the definitions of church, Christianity, and disciple. Leadership is conversational and by consensus; permission is given for the people to be the Church of Christ; measured by “being,” not “doing.”
Stage Four – Excitement, confidence, and competence are maximized by experience; not so much the practical and tangible, but the experience of a lifestyle lived in Resurrection Life – the Vision of God for the church within humanity. The church is the expression of God’s worldview; a matter of who’s we are, not what we do, but who is doing it in and through us. Leadership is working itself out of a job, as it were. Delegation of authority (which is counter-intuitive to the old paradigm) frees leaders to continue to press forward, never satisfied, in God’s Vision. Leadership understands that the Vision is never fully actuated, but is always a movement in which we flow. You can’t catch up with God, or it was never God you were chasing.