Pete Steinke: Being a Bishop in an Emotional System

“Every few hundred years in Western history there occurs a sharp transformation…. Within a few short decades, society rearranges itself–it’s worldview; its basic values: its social and political structures; its arts; its key institutions. Fifty years later, there is a new world. And the people born then cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived… We are currently living through just such a transformation.”

— Peter Drucker

“The Israelites’ wilderness was a liminal experience. Murmuring is a key characteristic of liminal experiences.”

— Pete Steinke

Steinke goes on to say, paraphrased…

Anxiety affects twice as many people as depression.

We become anxious when our lives are disrupted, when we experience change, loss, separation… When we feel trapped. Restricted movement. We resort to victim thinking. We become suspicious of the novel or strange, startled by what is weird, foreign…

Fight or flight kicks in. Our hearts race. Anxiety renders us less flexible and resilient. It is brain-numbing. It results in narrow ridigd simplistic thinking. When we are anxious we are less responsive to insight, reasonableness and love. We seek immediate relief. We abandon relaxation, fun, playfulness, taking turns, smelling the roses…

In short, we get stupid.

But leading at times like this can be exciting. Anxiety can always be a motivator for change. Piaget: People always learn through disequilibrium.

Steinke discussed military studies that showed those who kept their heads were most resilient in stressful situations. Green Berets outperformed general infantry because they managed their anxiety and used it.

According to Turner, when people are in the margins, they begin to search. Liminal systems are the place for religious search. This is good news for religious leaders. Being a bishop at this time is not a bad thing.

The church may morph from a club or business model to a mission-focused entity. Many congregations see themselves as the mission. Are we in the mission business or in the congregation business?

As Reggie McNeal says, “Jesus did not say, ‘I have come that you might have church, Nd more abundantly.'”

In The Present Future, leadership and spirituality author Reggie McNeal wrote, “A growing number of people are leaving the institutional church for a new reason. They are not leaving because they have lost their faith. They are leaving to preserve their faith.”

Putnam: Today there are more bowlers than ever, but there are fewer leagues. We may end up with more bowlers in the church.

Leadership has a critical role: People can cope with tectonic change if they can put what has happened into a coherent narrative. We can focus on mission, keep our heads, and provide the story that gives us direction.

The Great Commission is tied to Genesis 12. Abram is called to go to a place he does not know, and to be a blessing. Perhaps we are too.