by Jeff Lawson, Life Church, 5/12/16.
A few years ago my church sent me to Dallas, Texas to attend a Catalyst Church Conference. I remember thinking at the beginning of the week that I felt more like I was at a Spring Break party in Florida than I did at a church conference. Folks were texting all through the events. Beach Balls were bouncing around the room. Lots of interaction, even while the speakers were on the stage. I felt it was so sacrilegious.
By the end of the week my feelings had changed. I saw that these young people were worshiping Jesus in ways that were more comfortable for them. It was without a doubt genuine and I remember feeling that I wish I could understand more what I was experiencing.
I wish I had been able to read Dr Bob Whitesel’s book, Organix: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church (Abingdon Press) prior to attending the event. If I had read this work, I am certain that my experience would have been much more complete.
In my opinion, Organix paints a picture for the Modern Leader to better understand tomorrow’s Millennial Leader. I would highly recommend this book to be read by all pastors and then re-read together with their leadership team.
By using an acronym with the word Organic, Whitesel teaches the reader the difference between the modern leader and the millennial leader. Early on Whitesel explains his use of the ‘x’ in Organic instead of a ‘c’. He says, “There is a millennial propensity to alter the spelling of words to create distinction with like-sounding letters.” Whitesel intrinsically breaks down the differences in a very astute way each chapter. He also begins each chapter with a brief true to life story that helps the reader dig into the important differences (which was extremely helpful for me).
O stands for ‘Others’. Whitesel says, “Among tomorrow’s leaders there is a passion not for themselves or their own accomplishments but for helping those most in need.” This spoke loudly to me. My generation is quick to write a check to make a problem go away. Tomorrow’s leaders are more ready to roll up their sleeves to help to solve the problem long term. Whitesel says, “A key to knowing the needs of others is to experience life with them.”
R stands for the Rx in ‘Prescription’. Whitesel says, “An R with a slash through the right leg is a Latin abbreviation for ‘recipe,’ which has come to indicate a recipe or prescription for health.” This is a bit of a twist on the idea that healthy organizations produce healthy people to the idea that when you have healthy people, you will find a healthy organization. The shuffling of words is subtle, yet true. The first idea is true sometimes, but more times than not, the second option is more reliable. This chapter talks about small groups. Whitesel introduces the idea of MissionalNets which are a gathering of two to five small groups that can produce quicker and easier results when one small group tries to tackle a mission alone. It also encourages fellowship among the different small groups in a church.
G stands for ‘Graffiti’. Whitesel says, “While modern leadership often disciplines itself to keep colors and lines in their place, millennial leaders create a leadership collage of colors, symbols, and statements.” He opens the chapter early by a profound statement that I have found true, “Millennial leadership is not for the fainthearted or the small-minded.” I laughed out loud at the statement with my previous experience with the Catalyst Conference mentioned earlier. It doesn’t always make sense, but we must ask ourselves, does it always have to make sense? After all, God says, “Your thoughts and ways are not like my thoughts and ways.” We must get over ourselves and embrace the idea that we don’t always have to be in control of everything we experience.
A stands for ‘Recycle’ with their triangle symbol. This in my opinion was the most creative and thought provoking chapter. Whitesel helps the reader to see that we are not only to be concerned with recycling precious natural resources, we must also be mindful of people and that they are just as precious as a resource. Many people have been cast away as useless because of a past mistake, but with a quick glimpse of the Bible we can see that God regularly used murders, prostitutes, thieves, and adulterers, to name a few. This does not mean that we are to gloss over sin, but it does not show that sin means that you must be doomed to everlasting ministry purgatory.
N stands for ‘Networks’. With the popularity and growing use for the internet, networks are growing by the thousands. In my own life, I have dozens of people who are close friends who I have never met face-to-face, but because of our work together online, we have daily contact and interaction. 30 years ago prayer requests could take up to a week to go from the mission’sfield to the local church, now it happens instantly.
I stands for ‘Incarnate’. Whitesel describes it this way, “Incarnation describes how God sent His Son, Jesus to earth in the flesh and in person in lieu of sending a surrogate or just speaking through a prophet as He had done in Old Testament times.” This chapter shows the idea of tomorrow’s leaders as not depending on someone else to send, to teach, or to minister, but to take matters into your own hands and jump in and be involved. There is much power in being present and able to witness face-to-face.
X stands for ‘Measure’. Whitesel says that the ‘X’ is the Jerusalem cross and “Represents four types of measurement observed in Jerusalem which at their core point to Christ’s work on the cross.” This chapter helps the reader to better understand how tomorrow’s leaders measure spiritual growth and its relationship to effective leadership. It is not close to accurate to measure a church’s health by empty chairs on Sunday morning. There are so many other factors involved.
Organix: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church answers so many questions. It is a book that I will refer to again and again. I am very thankful for the insight that I gained from reading it.