>Learning Church

>Can the Church be anything other than a “Learning Organisation”? It would seem so as the metaphor of the “learning Church” is one that has become something of a buzz word – presumably because the Church was something other than a “learning church” – like a “teaching church”, or an organisation that had stopped learning.

Membership of the Church is called “discipleship” which has learning at its heart. We are disciples of Jesus – called to learn his way(s). Disco is the Latin for “I learn”.

It was Peter Senge who promoted the idea of “learning organisations” in the 90’s. He wrote of organisation “where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to learn together.” (Senge, 1990, p.3). Senge was writing as a generation was coming to terms with the accelerating pace of change which would leave the unlearning organisation extinct and the unlearning person behind.

George Lovell writes: “To be effective and to experience vocational fulfilment in this changing context, clergy … must reflect critically, imaginatively and systematically, on their own and with others, on the work, ministry and mission in which they are engaged or contemplating.”

In a really stimulating training session yesterday at Woodchurch High School, Andy referred to our age as the “exponential age” in which the pace of change virtually goes off the scale. We’ve seen nothing yet! He showed us the way technology is shaping change (shifthappens uk) and referred to some of the implications of the new technologies highlighted by Mark Pemsky.

Pemsky refers to students as “digital natives” who think and process information so fundamentally differently from ourselves. The way they relate to one another is fundamentally different and would have been seen as science fiction even 10 years ago. The way these digital natives think, and the way their brains have developed is likely to be different from us – born to a different age – and from virtually a different planet. We can enter their world but we enter as “digital immigrants”.

What has all this got to say about Church and about belonging? Digital natives do belong together – but not as we know it. They have a culture – but a culture that as cultural immigrants we find it hard to penetrate. What does it say about mission and how we might begin to bridge that generation gap? It brought to mind the beautiful work of Vincent Donovan who with tremendous love, humility and respect shared the gospel with the Masai thinking that the principles he adopted may have something to teach us about how we relate to this new age from which so many have become alienated. Interestingly Donovan, way back in 1972 – an age ago – wrote this:

“Never be afraid to ask questions about the work we have inherited or the work we are doing. There is no question that should not be asked or that is outlawed. The day we are completely satisfied with what we have been doing, the day we have found the perfect unchangeable system of work, the perfect answer, never in need of being corrected again, on that day we will know that we are wrong, that we have made the biggest mistake of all.” (p197)

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