Okay. Let’s review.
Early this summer I published a research paper entitled, “The Religion Singularity: A Demographic Crisis Destabilizing and Transforming Institutional Christianity,” in which I described an emerging phenomenon in which the total numbers of denominations and worship centers (local faith communities) worldwide is growing and splintering considerably faster than the total number of Christians, driving relentlessly downward the average number of Christians per denomination and worship center. This, in turn, will render both institutions unsustainable in their current forms by the end of this century. Ultimately, denominations may die out due to their lack of capacity for experimentation and change. However, local faith communities may be able to transform themselves into a new expression of Church. To do that, they need to develop the capacity to experiment with new ways of being Church without sacrificing the heart of Christianity. So how do they develop those capacities? That was the topic of last week’s blog post, in which I outlined the seven practices I call Vision Guided Experimentation. Today, we explore the first practice, Minimum Viable Belief (MVB), which underpins the practices that follow it.
Where there is no vision, the people perish.
This verse from Proverbs is the reason why the first practice of Vision-Guided Experimentation is so important. Minimum Viable Belief (MVB) is all about vision. It’s about getting to your faith-based community’s “Why of Why’s” – the seminal belief from which all other organizational beliefs and values stem – so that you can make its vision so clear, core, and compelling that it becomes the primary motivator and compass for all members of the community, so that it both motivates them to get up in the morning and keeps them going all day no matter what frustrations they face.
Minimum Viable Belief is the overarching, transcendent, and seminal reason for your faith community’s existence, driving every other practice. It is a transcendent vision about how that organization wants to change the world, a vision so meaningful to the members of the community that they would rather fail in the service of that vision than succeed in the service of anything else. In the Christian tradition – as well as some others – we define this as a sense of call: an clear and overriding sense of what God desires for a faith community or a faith-based organization (or an individual) to do or to be.
Minimum Viable Belief is also about creating a organizational culture that is experimental, creative, and flexible, and yet grounded, focused, and faithful. MVB allows the community and its members to navigate around massive and complex obstacles while continuing to tack towards its ultimate goal. It empowers startup communities and organizations to be sufficiently self-directing, self-correcting, and tenacious that they can survive the departures of their founders and their transition to their community’s full scale.
A problem most faith communities have is that most of the time we never get past asking ourselves the question, “What?,” as in, “what programs should we offer?” And if we are going to do any tweaking of anything we do, it comes up here. Once in a while we dive a little deeper, asking, “How?,” as in, “How do we get this approved?” Unfortunately, we seldom get to “Why?,” as in “What is our motivation for doing this in the first place?” I say unfortunately, since just asking Why once is not enough: we tend to have a different Why for every What. Rather, we have to keep asking Why until we get to the “Why of Whys.” Exactly how you get to that transcendent Why is what this and the next blog post are about. [Read more…]