I just recently finished an audiobook – Small is the New Big, by Seth Godin. It’s been out for about a decade, but I found the book to be rather insightful still. There were a few dated references, but if you can listen for some timeless principles, it makes it all worthwhile.
Here was one nugget that Godin gave -(I’m paraphrasing, but this was the general idea)
Never play by the rules. Rules are established by people in power and meant to keep competitors to that power in check and to prevent them from getting power. If you play by the established rules you will certainly lose. Changing the rules is the safest option if you want to succeed and grow.
That’s a whole lot of insight in just a few sentences.
I have some additional thoughts on this.
Take the idea further. Even people who are on your side will struggle with this. Because the established rules provide something important – security and predictability. It’s a basic human need to want to control one’s environment and life. The best way to give the impression of control is through predictability.
In politics, 95% of the campaigns run will have a predictable result – you can see it pretty early on in most campaigns if you know what you are looking at. They are predictable.
However, if some of these same candidates changed the rules, think of the way politics could be different.
Now take the idea to church. Whoa! Church is full of rules – so much so that many people complain about all the rules in church. Imagine what would happen with church if we changed the rules. This is a bit dangerous though to talk about when it comes to church. Some will think that changing the rules means changing everything. Not at all. What I’m talking about are the man-made rules of church. You know them well because you come across them in your own churches. There’s a rule about where people sit. It’s unstated, but there’s a rule. In some churches there is a rule about who controls the temperature gauge. In some churches there’s a rule about how communion is done or how the altar is set. These all may be small, but I tell you what – they are extremely important rules to the people who benefit from them.
So what are the established rules in your church?
Getting back to the main idea though – much of these rules use predictability as an enforcement mechanism. Many people won’t even try to change a rule because they can predict what the reaction will be and the reaction will not be pleasant, so they don’t do it.
Let’s say you are one of those crazy people who want to change this – to overcome the predictability factor. What do you do? My thought is this – make predictability your friend and high jack it. Predict what will happen and prepare for it. It’s like a chess game. A great deal of chess is predicting future moves of your opponent and how you can respond or lead and get your opponent to respond. In essence, chess is won based on how well you can predict your opponents strategy and make moves that don’t even allow your opponent to start carrying out their strategy.
What I’m saying is make predictability an asset. Make changing the rules safer than sticking with the established order.
How? Honesty is a powerful tool. In many cases these rules are established with an interest in keeping the status quo. The problem with the status quo is that it is not permanent, only temporary. If you can look past the current situation to the future (not even far in the future), then you can make predictability your friend.
I’ll give you an example. Let’s say there is one person who has set the altar for years. And everyone knows not to mess with this. But let’s say that you see this as unhealthy. How do you deal with this? By talking about the truth. Maybe you talk about the fact that we need to plan for the future – person x is going to die someday, we don’t know the day, could be today. Then what do we do? Who will set the altar? It still has to be done. Do we want to be left stranded with no one knowing what should be done? I can bet that, even though there will be resistance, you’ve just gained some people to seeing the truth of the situation long-term. You changed predictability from focusing on the status quo to focusing on the long-term. You changed the game from comfort in predicting the short to having to deal with the pain of not knowing long-term, especially when it could have been dealt with in the short-term.
So, I’ll ask it again, what are the established rules in your church? Want to change them for the long-term? What are you going to do about it?