24 November 2007

Unity or Swarm? (Musings on a thought in process)

Swarm_bees I recently wrote a post dealing with the idea of Swarm Theory (see here), and how it pertains to the body of Christ.

The idea of Swarm Theory is that the sum total of the individuals is greater than that of the whole. Individuals all have a function, but it is understood in the context of the need of the whole colony.

It also appears that the interaction of the individuals in making a decision is key to the well-being of the colony.

I made the suggestion that maybe we need to think of the body of Christ less in terms of modern management theory, managing a bunch of people meeting together in one place, and more as a colony. With all the emphasis that the writers of the New Testament put on the collective that is the body of Christ, the current mindset about leadership in the church seems a little thick-headed. Most of it is centered on the individual, and not on the group (or swarm).

What got me thinking about this topic again was this blog, Daily Reflections, by Al Fritsch, S.J. It is written from an ecumenical perspective, and is fairly typical of the ecumenical mindset, especially as it pertains to the goals and purposes of Christianity. It is not that it is wrong or liberal, it's just that I don't think they get it.

The reason I say that is, I attend an Ecumenical church here in France. We have people from the UK, US, Nigeria, Kenya, Canada, China, Germany, and France (and elsewhere). The common thread is that we all seek to follow and worship Christ. I don't know if there is any other common thing or sense of unity that would bind us together as a group as we are now.

This is what Fritsch has to say:

A sense of unity is needed everywhere in the world, from the unity of family, to that of citizens working together, to our country and to our world. Division is part of the breaking away that began in the departure from the Garden of Eden. On the other hand, God is One, yet there is diversity in unity. We are being challenged to recreate that unity in our broken world while respecting our individual uniqueness. It is all the more reason to have a mission of ecumenism where conflicting and divided factions can overcome their differences and, while diverse, can be united. This is a far greater challenge than that of hoping to be monolithic, or only allowing one person to speak for and be the "family" or the "country." We do not want the autocrats or the domineering type, only those with a singleness in purpose and yet distinctness in person. Is this not the need of a healthy democracy, a cooperative team, and of a functional family all wrapped into one?

I can appreciate Fritsch's sentiments, but what is he saying in his post?

The concept of unity is prevalent in Fritsch's post, but he doesn't say much about how we achieve that unity. Rather, is the unity of the body of Christ what we are to focus on? This theme assumes that we can achieve an organic unity, and if people turn their minds to the task of unity, we will soon have a bunch of people that are moving toward a common goal through related and relevant tasks. I am not convinced.

The point with Swarm Theory is that the focus is not on the goal (e.g., unity), but on the process of how that goal is achieved. We are not called so much to achieve unity, but to have unity. The focus is on the process and not on the goal.

In fact, I don't think unity is the right word. Which is why I like the word swarm. A swarm can have a life of it's own, but at the same time it is made up of individuals, acting on their own volition, in concert with the community.

What does this process look like in the life of the church? The process is, then, that as the life and ministry of Christ is spread out through the community of Christ's people through and by the sought-out presence of the Spirit, we become a group of people who act responsibly, which then brings wholeness and Shalom to the group (swarm). The focus isn’t on me, it is on the body of Christ. The life and ministry of Christ, as evidenced by the working of the Spirit through the gifts and fruit of the Spirit, works itself out through the lives of the individuals in the body of Christ (colony).

We become more conformed to the image of Christ, and as we are transformed, we seek to act in concert with the community to seek the goal of the body of Christ. The goal is eschatological, but lived out here and now.

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