What Often Hangs in the Balance
James Emery WhiteJames Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.
- 2010 Oct 07
In a recent profile of Nike CEO Mark Parker in Fast Company, a picture was shown of his sketch book where he outlined the "balances" he felt he must navigate as a leader. For Parker, it included such things as:
Micro - Macro
Quantity - Quality
Art - Science
Wholesale - Retail
Premium - Value
Brands - Inc.
While most ministry leaders might not connect with all of those dynamics, most could identity with the following balancing acts that were also on Parker's list:
Short Term - Long Term
Global - Local
Core - New
Physical - Digital
Conserv - Risk
Top Down - Bottom Up
Proact - React
Parker offers a good exercise, and it got me thinking about what a ministry must balance in regard to mission and culture - specifically, those "pairs" of things that we must embrace as a pair - and balance accordingly. That was Parker's point; that there are things that might feel in "tension" with one another that we must nonetheless hold together and keep in balance.
Here are five to think about:
*Contemporary - Ancient
*Relevant - Prophetic
*Evangelism - Discipleship
*Reason - Faith
*In the World - Not of This World
When we swing the pendulum to one extreme or the other, which is often the most comfortable thing to do with such dynamic tensions, we lose the very thing the dynamic tension is meant to produce.
I've found that it is precisely in the crucible of the balancing act that creativity most flourishes and the greatest impact is achieved. So rather than attempt to dissolve the back-and-forth pull between the two dynamics by emphasizing one over the other, or deny the tension altogether, we must embrace it and let it drive the mission forward.
Consider the balance between being relevant and prophetic.
If I am only relevant, then I may gain acceptance, but will have little to offer that is not already in place.
If I am merely prophetic, then I will truly be a lone voice in the wilderness. Very lone.
So what is the goal? To live in the tension of being both relevant and prophetic; to live and act and speak as one who is both in the world, but not of it.
Oops. That lands me right smack dab in the middle of another dynamic tension.
But that's the point. The very heart of following Christ faithfully and effectively is a balancing act between just these tensions and more, such as faith and deeds, truth and grace, orthodoxy and orthopraxis.
So what are the tensions of your life, your church, your ministry, your organization? Get out your sketchbook and write them down.
Then, once written, ask yourself: are you attempting to ignore them, deny them or dissolve them?
Because it is what hangs in the balance that is the point of it all.
James Emery White
"Cobbler to the Gods" by Ellen McGirt, Fast Company, September 2010, pp. 66-74, 114.