God’s Kairos and Systems Theory - A #TrusteeTuesday reflection
By F. Timothy Moore (MDiv ‘89)
Can you picture what you were doing six months ago—February 2020? It may take a moment, because we have been transported not by chronological time from then to now, but by the times, what the Greeks called kairos, and it may be hard to remember what normal felt like.
COVID-19 has upset the equilibrium in our society and has exposed the inequities and injustices that normal times tend to conceal. The resurgence of Black Lives Matter in the wake of George Floyd’s death captured not only the anger at the racial injustice that plagues our nation, but also the general anxiety that this pandemic and its economic hardships and inequities have spread across our society. No one is untouched by these disruptive forces. They have caused a dis-ease among all of us.
Systems theory says that organizations desire equilibrium, which is why it can be hard to initiate change when times are stable. These disorienting times have opened up an opportunity. Millions have been forced to do work and school and church in ways they could never have imagined. Floyd’s murder has enabled people to see what previously they had not. Millions are open to learning about systemic racism and white privilege as never before. The NYT bestselling list is a who’s who on anti-racism and white bias.
While we are in the midst of difficult times, I am more hopeful than I have been in a few years. I hear people saying that they do not want to go back to the way things were. Reformatting worship online has made people willing to discuss fundamental questions about what makes worship meaningful. The impact of Black Lives Matter has opened our society to making foundational changes to the systemic racism that has disadvantaged generations.
The winds of change, however, will not blow for long. Forced into a state of anxiety, systems will look for a new equilibrium as soon as the storm passes. Change is exhausting and people are already tired. Resistance will attempt to stall, hoping tired people will give up and let this moment pass.
Will leaders seize the moment, or will they let it slip away? Leaders in churches, businesses, colleges, seminaries, and governments should already be actively imagining where to guide their organizations and institutions. Those that settle for technical changes—continuing to offer YouTube worship after sanctuaries are open and lively again—or symbolic gestures—tearing down statues—will miss a rare opportunity to initiate adaptive change.
Can you articulate essential questions regarding your organization for this moment? Will you build collaborative networks that can create consensus? Are you preparing to facilitate discussions on what we are learning during this period? Can you envision changes that will make a lasting impact?
Where do you want your church, your business, your school, your community to land at the end of this kairos time, before we go back to chronological time?
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