If we can’t…we may as well pack up and go home

We sit around talking about how the systems we work within are stifling and stubborn; fixed and inflexible.

We sit around talking about how these might be different and we dream of a future where everyone is equal and we are honored, respected and loved.

We sit around talking about models of leadership that might release others into work and happiness, fulfillment and life.

We sit around talking about newness, freshness, imaginative approaches but…

Once the talking stops so does the dream and we settle back into the system because it works and its not so bad and it is all we know.

Ensemble means ‘together, at the same time’. It means to be alongside and to be considered collectively; not one thing before another, not one thing above another; parallel. One might even suggest a connection in the concept between para and semble.To be in semblance with something is to draw beside to be called beside; parakletos?

Collaboration may seem like a buzz word but let us not forget that to be in collaboration with someone is to co-labour with someone; to share the tasks of life, to share in the burdens and joys of reality. We, as Christians, desire to be called co-labours with Christ in the promotion and construction of the Kingdom of God. It is here that the rubber hits the road. If we do not collaborate, come alongside, work together, be one in the task then we may as well pack up and go home.

But we want to; we seek it; we sit around and talk about it but…

Once the talking stops so does the dream and we settle back into the system we find ourselves in.

I have too many books wanting to promote collaboration and models of leadership that will sustain this interrelationship, this polis. Each time I open a book, full of hope and possibility, I am hit by disappointment when they buckle under the question:

But is it workable?

Here is the enemy. This one question, asked too soon, or even at all, cripples and asphyxiates the dream. This is the Genesis question which causes the fall.

One personality, one charisma will always come to the fore in any group and to squash it is counterproductive. Leadership, direction, decisions are needed to drive a community forward to proceed in life and work.

Ensemble does not deny leadership, it encourages it in every member, it seeks to destroy the cult of leadership, the worship of personality.

This, surely is not workable! No one can be of like mind and so there will be fractures and disagreements.

If we cannot live together with a difference of opinion; if we cannot imagine one person never attaining the wisdom and discernment to lead; if we cannot see a development of this in a person; if we cannot stand alongside someone as they make their first tentative steps into sharing in the experience of being depended upon, the power to impact another human being; if we cannot reject the worship of personality and be humble and honest to our equality in the eyes of God; if we cannot imagine the transformation and growth of any person, we may as well pack up and go home.

Ensemble does not deny the need for direction, it encourages the joy of discovery as we travel together.

This, surely is not workable! We cannot venture into the unknown without insurance, assurance of a successful journey.

If we cannot step out into the unknown without the foreknowledge of safety; if we cannot step out of the boat without a solid and provable promise that the water will hold us; if we cannot admit that failure is not the end and that any death of esteem or ‘faith’ can be conquered and redeemed, we may as well pack up and go home.

Ensemble does not deny the need to make decisions, it encourages rigorous discernment and deep listening to strive towards action.

This, surely is not workable! The task will be wrought with disagreements, unattainable togetherness. It will take time and resources, energy and you can’t please everyone.

If we cannot exist together allowing others ideas and suggestions to shape us, to conquer our own desire and hopes for the future; if we cannot imagine a place where our own, personal, deeply held convictions cannot be challenged, changed, adapted; if we cannot imagine a place where the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest; if we cannot imagine a time when there will be no pain, no tears, no wars, where the weapons will be made into tools for creation, we may as well pack up and go home.

But the work needs to get done!

No the work does not need to get done. The work is not a means to an end; it is the end! The Kingdom of God is not a product, it is a way of working, of living, of relating, of creating. The Kingdom of God, as a community, is not a static thing to be achieved but the way in which you exist and move and have your being.

Maybe I’m an idealist, out of touch with reality or maybe I’m willing to see the reality that’s behind the broken and weakness of this world; the reality of God’s redemptive power, resurrection hope. The Kingdom of God is not a distant dream but is breaking through now. The more we wait for the final product the less we participate in the joyful process and celebration now!

But it isn’t workable! Show me a community that does this successfully.

A product does not produce itself; it’s the process that makes the product. The sooner we end this way of working or setting out on a journey the sooner we’ll realise that the intention and way in which we set out is where we judge something. If we cannot hope that our dreams and imaginations can change the world only when they are enacted in reality; if we cannot hope that the time is now and the possibility is here; if we cannot stand in front of the fear of failure and pain, disappointment and despair; if we cannot battle against all the voices that say this is an infant who’ll amount to nothing before its taken its first steps, we may as well pack up and go home.