Free and Independent

“It is often believed that people with different training have difficulty communicating because they have learned different specialist languages. But we have found a bigger problem – that they are actually trying to achieve different things. Different disciplines often have different core values, and have grown together as social groups precisely because of the shared values within each discipline. In order for a new interdisciplinary team to become effective, that team must develop shared values and culture. This can take a long time – years if not specifically addressed. Managing such teams is extremely challenging.” (Radical innovation: crossing knowledge boundaries with interdisciplinary teams by Alan F. Blackwell, Lee Wilson, Alice Street, Charles Boulton, John Knell)

If unity is part of our work (and I believe it is) and also foundational for establishing a better world (and I believe it is) then we should understand what it means to develop shared values and beliefs. This means that as we work with others, as we approach problems, we should try to be honest about why we do the things we do.

For example, if I believe that long term and accelerated growth depends upon minimizing and reducing the role of centralized governance, would I support causes that strengthen centralized solutions? What can and should be done uniquely at “headquarters” vs. what can and should be done uniquely in the church, community and most importantly in the family? Answers to these and other questions depend upon our core beliefs about life, God, His will, His plan and His help.

Doing the hard work of unity is messy because we believe things differently, but just like with a family, we expect it to be both messy and worth it.

More and more I’m beginning to believe that our success depends upon us getting out of the way, despite our natural desire to see and feel impact. We get out of the way by encouraging new thinking, personal revelation and less dependance on “headquarters” and more trust in the Lord. We communicate less about behavior, more about truth. We point people to the Lord and to the scriptures for their answers. We become less focused on measuring those things that can easily be measured (behavior) and more focused on creating conditions where what matters most (faith, love, and trust) naturally grow.

If we aren’t careful, we will build things that, years from now, will look like we didn’t really want people to be free and independent; what we really wanted was conformance. I’m not sure that’s going to be a good example of love for our children and maybe a bit embarrassing for us, in retrospect. We want everyone to be more independent than that.

One thing that I think it does make sense for us to do generally is share true accounts of people that are thinking anew, trying things and succeeding or failing without dependence on “headquarters” for every decision or direction. This achieves 2 things: (1) It sends a message that it’s okay to try new things that meet real and pressing needs of those you serve independent of what is officially prescribed and (2) It can spread ideas that might work in multiple areas of the world. I think this is good because this kind of testimony or witness can lead to enquiry:

“We have now clearly set forth how it is, and how it was, that God became an object of faith for rational beings; and also, upon what foundation the testimony was based, which excited the enquiry and diligent search of the ancient saints, to seek after and obtain a knowledge of the glory of God: and we have seen that it was human testimony, and human testimony only, that excited this enquiry, in the first instance in their minds—it was the credence they gave to the testimony of their fathers—this testimony having aroused their minds to enquire after the knowledge of God, the enquiry frequently terminated, indeed, always terminated, when rightly pursued, in the most glorious discoveries, and eternal certainty.” (Paragraph 56, Lecture Second, Lectures on Faith)

For me the dominating questions become: “What is God’s plan for the success of His children? What are the attributes, capacities, even the character of His sons and daughters when they are successful here on earth?” We all have in our minds an “image” of what success looks like and to the degree that this image is accurate and complete, we align with God. But if the “image” is erroneous, we might find we’ve climbed a ladder set against the wrong wall.