Man, Movement, Machine, Monument

John Ohmer, new rector at The Falls Church (Episcopal!) writes:

[Richard} Rohr [the well-known Franciscan writer] points out the “Four M’s” that happen over time to churches (and other organizations, for that matter), a pattern or cycle that goes something like this…

1) a Man or woman starts something…a leader or a pioneer sees or starts a different way of doing things. You can think Martin Luther (Lutheranism) or Steve Jobs (Apple) or of course Jesus (Christianity), but you can also think smaller: someone in your extended family, or a work colleague of yours.

If the man or woman succeeds in his or her leadership…if others begin to get caught up in the person’s mission, it becomes

2 ) a Movement. The person’s ideas spread beyond just him or her…and the idea or event become a cause; people feel they are part of something that is dynamic, creative, and purposeful, and they get involved in it, cheerfully and eagerly and with energy.

If enough people are swept up in a movement or idea for long enough, however, the movement tends to become

3) a Machine. It seems to be human nature, to mechanize – structure, organize, routinize – what up until then had been a dynamic, free, unstructured movement…to build a machine that ensures that X is done at Y time.

4) a Monument (or worse mausoleum). The machine itself – the thing or structure that flowed out of the movement – becomes the object of attention. It – the structure itself, belonging to it, participating in it – becomes the focus.

But, Ohmer says: “eventually, around those monuments, or within them, agitation levels rise, because something inside the human spirit says ‘this isn’t what we are all about!'”

He suggests that this is happening now within the Episcopal Church. What are your thoughts?

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