Wednesday, May 21, 2008

We read a book in class this last semester entitled The Equipping Pastor by R. Paul Stevens and Phil Collins (not the singer). The book focused on applying systems theory to a church. Systems theory is normally used in family therapy. It focuses on bringing healing to the whole family when problems arise in one person. Why? "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts." (intro, p. xvii). So, I thought I would share a little about why systems theory could benefit the church.

Why is an understanding of “system’s theory” central to the dynamics of how people in a church become mature and productive ministers?

Systems theory is at the core of faith development and productivity in the church because it places the emphasis on the process of the church becoming One Body (Romans 12:5) and sees the whole (the One Body) as more important than the individual parts. Like exercise, systems theory seeks to improve the health of individual parts by improving the health of the whole. Systems theory sees the role of a pastor as an equipper. He or she equips the members of the Body to perform the ministry (Ephesians 4:12). More can be accomplished when the Body reaches out as a whole than when one part tries to go at ministry alone. In order for the church to distance itself from this type of Western individualism, the church must reclaim the interdependence needed for a healthy Body. Systems theory seeks to do just that.

Systems theory focuses on the interdependence among members of the One Body to each other and to God. As a result, relationships are at center stage in systems theory. Three essential components, each related to relationships, are given in chapter one as being parts to a healthy system; wholeness, synergy, and isomorphism (p. 4). The first is wholeness; the idea that the Body is made whole when the distinct parts come together. The second component is synergy. Synergy is the power attained when the different parts work tunefully together. The third is isomorphism. This is about sharing something in common (e.g., vision, mission, purpose); much like the koinonia (fellowship) the early Christians shared after Christ’s resurrection (Acts 2:42). When these components come together in a healthy way, they have the potential to create a vibrant and healthy church.

Your thoughts on systems theory?

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