I posted my thoughts on an article about the problem of averages. You can read it here. As I have thought through how the US Air Force approached the problem of the sharp increase in crashes. Even when they had 17 crashes in a single day, they believed it was pilot error because the planes were found to be in good working order. The trouble was, though the planes were functioning, something was fundamentally different.
As they had transitioned from the age of prop planes to the age of the jet, there was an assumption that because the fundamentals of flight hadn't changed, pilots and the way they flew didn't have to change. The controls were still the same, the principles of lift, drag, airspeed, pitch and yaw still held true. The problem was, a jet simply went so much faster that a pilot had to be able to have an unobstructed view of his instruments and be able to make split second control changes. The high speed of jets also left much less margin for error as any error could quickly compound itself. The bottom line was, something fundamental had changed around them but the air force leadership didn't see it and kept doing things the way they always had.
I couldn't help but think through the parallel to the church today. The fundamentals of the Gospel have not changed. We still preach the same Word, believe in the same God and hold the same hope but something fundamental has changed around us. Our culture has shifted in an incredible way but many churches haven't changed. We are now in a place where the churches does not hold the level of influence and authority it once did. At the same time we have entered and age where information travels faster and wider than at any other time in history. These realities mean that we need to re-evaluate how we do ministry, becoming more agile and flexible in how we do while remaining committed to the fundamentals of our faith.
Just as the air force found that the principle of "individual fit" in the cockpit drastically reduced their crash numbers and became a guiding principle for equipment throughout the armed forces, so to, I believe our churches should adopt the same approach. As I wrote in my previous post, this can be applied to how we search for leaders and draw up job descriptions. I believe it applies to how we do church as a whole. Every church is different because every church in a different place and context. As time moves on, the people in our churches and the neighbourhoods around them will change as will the broader culture. The question is, will we recognize our new reality or will we continue to do things the way we always have and lay blame on those charged with executing the status-quo?