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To centralize or decentralize...is that really the question by tim catchim

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How many people, with good intentions, try to be missional by decentralizing their ministries, and it just ends up fizzling out? What if centralization comes before decentralization?

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To centralize or decentralize...is that really the question by tim catchim

  1. 1. To Centralize or Decentralize…Is That Really The Question? By Tim Catchim Karl Weick, in his book Making Sense of the Organization, says, “…whenever you have what appears to be successful decentralization, if you look more closely, you will discover that it was always preceded by a period of intense centralization where a set of core values were hammered out and socialized into people before the people were turned loose to go their own ‘independent, ‘autonomous’ ways.”* Weick is pointing out an important ingredient here when it comes to organizing for missional movement. As much as we would like to see the church scattered into every cultural pocket of the city, we cannot successfully de-centralize for mission until we first go through a period of centralization where the necessary foundations for movement are embedded within the community. This is exactly what we see taking place in the life of Jesus, the revolutionary founder of a global movement. For 3 1/2 years Jesus centralized a group of 12-72 people around himself so that he could effectively train them in the foundational practices of movemental life and leadership in the kingdom of God. During that time of centralization, Jesus modeled for them what discipleship, community and mission really looks like. When it came time for the disciples to launch out into a decentralized mission of disciple making and mission, they had the necessary training and tools to lead the movement. C comes before D There is a certain order we need to pay attention to here. You can’t see the kind of movement we see in Acts without first passing through the gospels. And you can’t make it through the gospels without passing through discipleship. The reality is, Jesus did not expect the 12 to know how to be or make disciples, live in community, or be on mission with God until he had modeled and trained them to do it. Trying to catalyze a decentralized movement without laying a good foundation of discipleship is just trendy new-speak. In fact, if you try to decentralize without first going through a period of centralization where the core practices of being and making disciples along with living as an extended family on mission, you will not end up with movement at all. You’ll end up with a fragmented group of disillusioned people with no point of reference for how to move forward. To put it another way: Decentralization before discipleship equals diaspora. Decentralization after discipleship equals movement. Imitation as the Missing Link Most churches find themselves stuck in a stage of centralization, but it is not the kind of centralization Jesus has in mind. Instead of centralizing around the core practices of being and
  2. 2. ©2015 Tim Catchim. The ideas and information in this document are the intellectual property of Tim Catchim and are not to be shared, copied, sold, etc. with other parties without expressed, effective permission. making disciples, and living as an extended family on mission, the church often centralizes around teaching and information. In this model of centralization, discipleship and mission take a back seat to the centralized gatherings that are primarily focused on preaching and the band. If there happens to be any mission minded leaders in the bunch, they typically challenge the church to go and do mission, but in essence they are wanting people to spontaneously go out and do mission on their own initiative. The only problem with this approach is that people tend to do what you do, not what you say. So if you give only give them information, then challenge them to do mission, they will most likely equate mission with giving people information…about the centralized gathering where you receive…that’s right….more information. The missing link in this informational approach is discipleship; specifically, the principle of imitation. In order for me to learn how to be and make disciples, and live on mission, then I need to be invited into a relationship where I can have access to someone who actually lives it out in front of me. I need a model to imitate. My friends at 3DM use this triangle to illustrate the proper relationship between information, imitation (discipleship) and innovation. It starts with information, then leads to imitation, and finally opens up to innovation. Centralization takes place during the first two phases. Decentralization takes place as you move towards the edge and innovate with new efforts at discipleship, community and mission. The order is really critical if you want to see a sustainable movement of discipleship, community and mission take place. Those who take the time, like Jesus, to centralize around a process of discipleship will, at first, seem to be going too slow. It takes time to create a new culture.
  3. 3. ©2015 Tim Catchim. The ideas and information in this document are the intellectual property of Tim Catchim and are not to be shared, copied, sold, etc. with other parties without expressed, effective permission. However, if we want to see a decentralized movement like the one we see in the book of Acts, we will need to see a centralized movement of discipleship like we see in the gospels. There is just no way around this.

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