Many parents will soon send their progeny off to college hoping they’ll major in engineering. Fewer parents long for their kids to major in theology or religious studies. But it occurs to me that what the church needs are ecclesiastical or theological engineers.
Engineers are trained and gifted in re-working systems as opposed to technicians who address specific problems. Radiological techs take and read x-rays. AC technicians fix the air conditioning. There are highly skilled technicians and low-skilled technicians but both have more expertise than the average person who tries to install her own ceiling fan.
The church needs more ecclesiological engineers. Wise and hopeful congregations will seek leaders who come in with a solid foundation of the basics – theology, pastoral care, preaching – but who are also creative enough to know how to tweak the way things are done in order to fulfill the greater mission of God’s people.
The greater mission does not involve details like organizing Vacation Bible school or ordering biodegradable coffee cups, although those things are important and they point to the greater mission. But many pastors find themselves doing those tasks – tasks the members should be doing.
Most pastors are technicians. They craft sermons and Bible Studies. They fix problems. They look at information and act on that information. In the church, we find pastors who are highly skilled technicians and others who are low-skilled.
But we need more pastors who are engineers. A church’s DNA can be altered only if someone (or a team of someones) is willing to do the delicate work of inserting new DNA. A church’s systems can be shifted by careful tweaking. A church’s culture can be altered by whip-smart, loving, spiritually gifted pastors.
Unless the engineering is done gently and lovingly, the whole thing comes crashing down.
This metaphor is not perfect. But there are too few churches – and I’m grateful to know some- who are led by engineers/the highest skilled pastors who have clearly altered the DNA, culture, and systems of their congregations.