Evolution is Good

Hidden in every new idea are the seeds of its demise.

This is one of the lessons from the book The Evolution of Useful Things by Petroski, and it’s as good a lesson for non-profit organizations as it is for industry:

  • It used to be true that plastic bottles were a life-changing shift from glass bottles.  No breakage, etc.  But then the very plastic that was so resilient became an environmental problem.
  • It used to be true that the Big Mac clamshell packaging was considered ingenious.  Big Mac stayed in tact.  The grease was absorbed in the polystyrene.  There was a handy side to hold fries.  But this packaging became “an environmental nightmare” by the late 1980s.
  • It used to be true that video stores were handy means of renting movies.  Then Netflix mailed movies to your house.  Now we don’t even need the postal service.

The Church is slow at evolving.

  • It used to be true that church women’s groups were formed as an outlet to promote the leadership and gifts of women because those women could not serve as official leaders of the church.  But today, most church boards (in congregations that allow the ordination of women) are predominantly female.   Note:  A very nice church lady once came to my office years ago complaining that “all the women leaders” were coming elders now so how was she supposed to get Circle Leaders?
  • It used to be true that pews were created to seat worshippers in a way that made sense.  But now I see pastors with screwdrivers lurking around the sanctuary wondering . . .
  • It used to be true that Pastors stood in pulpits to preach both for symbolism and acoustics.  But now, some pastors find it more intimate and authentic to step away from the pulpit.

We can expect all the cool things we now laud as new and fresh (screens?) to evolve as well, and we would be wise to let that happen with minimal drama.

It’s okay.  Evolution is good.

Image of the inside of St. Barbara’s Church in Goreme, Cappadocia in Turkey where the priest stood to lead worship in the 11th Century.

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