Welcome to the Candour blog. In this format I will have less to say and invite more interaction and conversation around the ideas expressed.
The first task of leadership is to define reality, but what reality are we defining?
As I travel around the Church I’m finding there are three different understandings of time that are shaping the reality (realities) we live in. This is what makes planning for the future so difficult. It is a bit like being lost and asking an Irishman for directions: “if I were you, I wouldn’t get there starting from here”.
Where is “here” and what happens if our “here” is an unreality presenting itself as a reality?
The three different views of time is a framework that may be helpful to work some of these issues through. For those who want to think on a theological level we need to engage with Biblical time view where chromos and kairos intersect; God the eternal present intersects with now.
The “present past”
The “present past” is like walking backwards into the future. Those who have this view, consider the future by looking to the past. This approach to time can be evident when a congregation grapples with what to do with its buildings. This “present past” viewpoint can mean restoration and perseveration to some past ideal. Yet, when I look at the history of the Church it was built with an eye to the future. As time passes we can attribute a value to a building that was never there in the first place. All too often when a church considers its buildings, they live in the past believing it is the present. A building that was fit for purpose in one period of time may not be so in another period of time. People who live in the “present past” build monuments.
- Have you noticed that when people tell stories of the past (good and bad) it as though they are living that experience in the present?
- What are the strengths and weakness of this view?
- How is this view represented in the Church today?
The “present present”
Those who have this view are sometimes confused and not sure what “all this” means, let alone what to do now. Those who live in the “present present” are busy. They are full of activity with little or no thought to “why are we doing this?”
For those in the “present present”, time is cyclical – an unending treadmill of now with little hope of a future. Priority is given to policies and procedures because these are the only things that give value to the “present present”. This view could best be described as those who can’t see the woods for the trees. This view of time is disconnected with time past and time future leading to action without meaning. The key activity of “present present” is management.
- What happens if our understanding of time is locked into the “present present”?
- What evidence do you see of this behaviour in the Church today?
The “present future”
Those who live in the “present future” understand that the power of now is the determiner of the future shape of things. The future exists not as a “far off dream” but only as a result of the decisions, commitments and actions that are made in the present. I believe the “present present” is the timeframe from which Jesus taught of the kingdom of God: a future reality that is present in the actions of the kingdom of NOW.
Those who live in the “present future” are the true visionaries. They not only dream, they do. They do what needs to be done in the present and it comes into being. People who live in the “present future” join movements.
- What would it take for the Presbyterian Church to become a movement?
- How well does our Church treat visionaries?
As with all frameworks there are always exceptions. While I have typecast each perspective, there is a place for all three. The question we need to ask is…
“What order of preference should these perspectives have in driving the behaviour in our Church?”
The Rt Rev Andrew Norton is the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. Andrew has a passion for leadership developed during 28 years of ministry and his work in the business community as an executive leadership coach.