Faith Communities and Learning Organizations LO21930

AM de Lange (
Thu, 17 Jun 1999 11:33:42 +0200

Replying to LO21901 --

Dear Organlearners,

Dennis Campbell <> writes:

>With the decline of most mainline Christian denominations the
>reality that a congregation, or a denomination, has got to become
>a flexible, fluid, lean, learning organization is clearly apparent.

Greetings Dennis,

First we must establish it as a fact that most mainline Christian
denominations are declining in numbers. We will have to look at the
whole world rather than one or two countries like the USA or UK. To
get reliable and comparable data is a nightmare. For example, the
regaining of regilious freedom in a country causes an increase in
numbers for some time before it falls again. Furthermore, fringe
Christian denominations have become mainline denominations and vice
versa, depending on the evolution of humankind's culture as a whole.
Consequently we have to rely on our perceptions based on minor reports
coming erratically from here and there.

It is my carefully formed opinion that Christianity is on the decline,
bearing in mind the inflation and deflation among various
denominations, mainline and fringe alike. This opinion makes me sad as
a Christian. I believe that the biblical based values of Christianity
is an asset rather than a liability to humankind. I shudder to infer
that the number of people striving for these values (such as love,
freedom, fairness, honour and service) outside Christian denominations
are also declining. But I must be careful not to assume or give the
impression that all Christians and only Christians strive for these
values. Many people confess to be Christians, although Jesus Christ
warns that he does not know them. Furthermore, I have met many people
from other religions (like Hindu and Islam) who strive for these same
values as Christians.

Thus I continually ask myself "Are the numbers of other historical
mainline religions also declining"? Here it is far more difficult for
me to form an opinion carefully. There are a number of reasons. For
example, as a Christian I am a stranger to these religions and thus
often find myself ignorant or prejuced to them. I have the notion that
their numbers are also declining relatively to humankind as a whole,
but not as much as with the Christian religion.

This leaves me with two possible conclusions. On the one hand all
religions are beginning to phase out as a relic of the past. On the
other hand, new religions are appearing which are not yet identified
as religions. The first possibility implies that the act of believing
and faith as its outcome are dying out. The second possibility implies
that we have to refocus on exactly what a religion is. For example,
many ***-isms like rationalism, humanism and modernism have many
religious facets to them. After carefully considering the two
possibilities and talking with many people over the entire spectrum, I
am of opinion that the second possibility holds.

The consequences of this possibility are staggering. The mainline
religions are declining because of gradually becoming replaced by a
much greater diversity of religions. This means, assuming that the
principle of causality holds, that some force (simple or complex) is
responsible for this diversification in religion. In other words, the
diversification in religion corresponds to the diversification in
other major walks of culture such as science, technology and arts.
These cultural diversifications also correspond to the diversification
in nature. Thus one cannot close one's inner eyes to the possibility
that all these diversifications in reality (nature and culture,
physical and spiritual) have one common cause.

The increase in diversity is very interesting. Diversity concerns but
one of the seven essentialities of creativity, namely otherness
("quality-variety"). Diversification implies a growth in this
essentiality. So what about growth in each of the other six
essentialities in the walk of religion? Is there, for example, a
growth in wholeness ("associativity-monadicity"), a gradual shift from
the local and exclusivity to the global and inclusivity concerning all
religions, historical mainline and postmodern sideline? Again, how
will we observe, speculate and falsify on this issue? Finally, what
should a Christian's response be to such a development? I am of
opinion that there is indeed a growth in wholeness. Its back action
for Christianity would be to help it heal from its innumerous schisms.

Dennis, I agree with your inference from the declining numbers of the
mainline Christian denominations that Christian congregations,
whatever the denomination, have to become flexible, fluid, lean,
learning organisations. But I do not agree with you that it is
"clearly apparent". My reason is as follows. Christianity, like all
other religions (mainline and sideline, historical and postmodern)
will have to respond to the "increasing complexity of reality".
Unfortunately, most people still shut their inner eyes for complexity.
Sadly, the majority of the relative few who now study complexity
formally, do it with major deficiencies in the seven essentialities.
For example, wholeness is seriously impaired by reductionsim and
fragmentarism so that those who study complexity in economy have
little care for complexity in, say, chemistry. There are not many
complexities -- complexity is monadic.

>Congregations that are thriving on the edge of the millineum are
>those that are willing to transform from year to year, month to month,
>day to day. I'm sure this is probably true for other organizations as

I do not know whether you have followed the short-lived topic which I
introduced, namely "Searching for the right word". Only Fred Nichols
and Winfried Deijman have responded. But I believe that some others
have been thinking about the topic.

Basically, what I have written is that we have two choices, either
/_\F <> 0 (free energy has to change)
/_\F = 0 (free energy remains the same)
When /_\F <> 0, it means that something happens to our
potentialities, good or bad. But when /_\F = 0, it means
that we are indifferent to our abilities.

It makes me think of the parable told by Jesus of the talents.
For two of the three servants the case /_\F <> 0 applied. But
for the third servant the case /_\F = 0 applied, resulting in
eternal darkness. It is for me as if Christianity is shifting from
servant to servant, each time with lesser talents. Is Christianity
already at that stage where the third servant who received the
least talents did nothing with it?

Anyway, I have been in close connection with nature the past
thirty years, especially with arid and dessert regions. I know
exactly what you mean by "flexible, fluid, lean, learning
organization". You will find no better example than in the
succulent plants of the dry regions. They are CAS (Complex
Addaptive Systems) par excellence.

Many Christians have the following great worry:-
If I transform and adapt myself as the creative course of
time proceeds, will I eventually become someone who
Christ will say to "I do not know you"?
My answer is very simple -- NO. Why?

The same forces according to which we have to transform
and adapt to for life in general also applies to our lives as
Christians. We cannot expect as Christians to have a
different deal than other people. God the Father treats all
humans the same. These very forces are a grand gift from
Him to help us to become more and more like His only
begotten Son.

What He expects from us, is to learn how to organise
these forces. That is why He sent his Son on a mission to
become a human with the specific title of "didaskalos"
(rabbi, teacher) -- to guide us in our learning how to become
friends of God. The concept of a Learning Organisation is a
magnificent tool for doing so.

Again, I want to stress that this problem of the relationship
between faith and transformation is not peculiar to Christians.
As my connections with people from other faiths grow, I
become increasingly aware that many of them have exactly
the same problem:
If I transform and adapt myself as the creative course of
time proceeds, will I eventually grow out of my faith and
thus disqualify myself.
his is why I am so excited about the topic "Faith Communities
and Learning Organizations" -- let us have a dialogue on our
faith problems despite our differences.

I cannot solve their problem because they have to do it
themselves. But I can surely point out to them that it is
indeed a very important problem, precipitated by the transition
of humankind's creativity from the adolloscent age to the adult
age. I can also tell them of my own experience -- that it seem
to be a hot problem without solution until I made the paradigm
shift from creativity to "deep creativity". Lastly, I am willing to
offer my help, promising that I will honour their choices and
not trying to make converts out of them.

Best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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