42 minutes | May 26th 2020

72. The Edge of Chaos, Part 1: Why Your Church Needs Disequilibrium

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“The edge of chaos is a condition, not a location.  It is a permeable, intermediate state through which order and disorder flow, not a finite line of demarcation.  Moving to the edge of chaos creates upheaval but not dissolution.  That’s why the edge of chaos is so important.  The edge is not the abyss.  It’s the sweet spot for productive change.”That’s a quote from Surfing the Edge of Chaos, which looks at organizations as “complex adaptive systems.”  These systems—in order to remain healthy and vibrant—require periods of “disequilibrium.”  Seasons when death seems to be knocking on the front door.  And it is these seasons of disequilibrium and death that make the system stronger in the long run.In this episode, Jason Coker and I unpack the concepts of equilibrium and disequilibrium, and begin to look at his particular church and the role disequilibrium—and near death—played in his church's eventual revitalization.THIS EPISODE'S HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:Jason Coker is the pastor of Oceanside Sanctuary in Oceanside, California, and a lecturer at California State University, San Marcos.Human beings tend to prefer to live life in a state of equilibrium, when everything is safe and predictable.We need disequilibrium to grow and thrive.These concepts come from Surfing the Edge of Chaos:  The Laws of Nature and the New Laws of Business, by Richard T. Pascale, Mark Milleman, and Linda Gioja.We prefer equilibrium over disequilibrium.  But we need disequilibrium in order to grow and thrive.Surfing the Edge of Chaos uses the concept of “complex adaptive systems” as a way of thinking about how to navigate organizational challenges.In a state of equilibrium, the system is at its weakest.A system actually needs disequilibrium in order to thrive and grow and to become stronger and healthier.“Prolonged equilibrium dulls an organism’s senses and saps its ability to arouse itself appropriately in the face of danger.”Four principles (from Surfing the Edge of Chaos):Equilibrium is a precursor to death.  When a living system is in a state of equilibrium, it is less responsive to changes occurring around it.  This places it at maximum risk.In the face of threat, or when galvanized by a compelling opportunity, living things move toward the edge of chaos.  This condition evokes higher levels of mutation and experimentation, and fresh new solutions are more likely to be found.When this excitation takes place, the components of living systems self-organize and new forms and repertoires emerge from the turmoil.Living systems cannot be directed along a linear path.  Unforeseen consequences are inevitable.  The challenge is to disturb them in a manner that approximates the desired outcome.Jason suggests that death is actually necessary.Markus and Jason discuss how Jason’s church experienced a long period of equilibrium before entering a period of severe disequilibrium in the 1970s, lasting all the way into the 2010s.RELEVANT RESOURCES AND LINKS:Jason CokerOceanside SanctuaryBooks mentioned:Surfing the Edge of Chaos:  The Laws of Nature and the New Laws of Business, by Richard T. Pascale, et.al.Beyond Thingification: Helping Your Church Engage in God’s Mission, by Markus WatsonPaperbackKindle E-bookAudiobook
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