SYSTEMS THINKING FOR A HEALTHY CHURCH - I Corinthians 12:12:27
What is systems thinking and how does it relate to ministry? Before I answer that question, lets define what is a system. A system is an organized collection of parts that are combined to accomplish an overall goal. For instance, a watch is a system. It is comprised on a number of elements such as: 1) the movement which is the engine; 2) the crown which is the mechanism that allows for the winding of the movement and adjustment of functions like date and time; 3) the rotor which is the oscillating weight that winds an automatic watch when worn; 4) the hour marker which is a hour indicator which is applied or painted on the dial of the watch, just to name a few of the elements. However, if something goes wrong with the watch it is important to look at each element and how they relate to each other to determine what may have attributed to the cause of the watch no longer working. Thus, systems thinking is the ability to look at the whole instead of the parts and the relationships among a system’s parts, in order to make the necessary adjustments to cause the system to function in at its optimum capacity.
How does this relate to a Biblical perspective? Well, let us look at the Body of Christ. We are a part of a system. The Body of Christ is the system and those of us in the Body of Christ are a part of the Body of Christ. I Corinthians 12:27 says “ Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” Within the church, we have many offices, positions, ministries, etc. made up of individual functions in different roles. There are times when ministries and those holding offices and positions in the church began to become dysfunctional, unproductive or just need new vision or new direction.
Therefore, a system thinking approach would be beneficial in moving the ministry in a different direction in order to become more productive and fruitful. It will allow leaders to see the patterns and situations within the ministry in a new light and respond to them from a new perspective. It is easy to reelect a new president, or a new ministry leader; but the problem may or may not be the president. It could be something else within the system that is the underlining problem.
Every part of the body of Christ is important. Paul says it quite well when he states in I Corinthians 12:21-26, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
So let’s not get rid of one part without looking at how each part is interacting and relating to each other within the systems (ministry).