The Drive for Discipleship – Setting the Stage

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking quite a bit about the state of the church in America, focusing of course on the United Methodist Church in particular. Reports such as the Council of Bishop’s Call to Action report have driven some of this thinking, but most of it comes in my context as the pastor of a struggling mainline congregation, trying to empower and help persons become “…disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” My context isn’t unique, for I work with many other persons in ministry engaged in similar struggles. They are serving established (over 50 years old) traditional congregations which have a long history and a high resistance to change. The motivations guiding congregational life are all over the map, rooted somewhat in faith, but driven also by family history, church woundedness, and identities more rooted in equating the church with the building they meet in, or experiencing the community of faith as more of a country club than an organization called to bring forth God’s kingdom here on earth. These churches are filled with good, well meaning people, who are doing the best they can to be church in the world, but the motivators that used to work in the past to lead to congregational vitality seem empty and useless in these current context. For the most part, people aren’t motivated to become disciples of Jesus Christ, and it shows in the empty pews and declining budgets.

It’s in that context that I viewed Dan Pink’s speech to the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (RSA). This organization produces a series of animated shorts on YouTube featuring contemporary thinkers, and Pink’s presentation on human motivators culled from his book “Drive” fascinated me:

My reflections on how this relates to the church is far broader than I can deal with in a single post on a Saturday night when I need to be getting ready for tomorrow, but there are some questions that this presentation raises for me:

  • Have our church models of motivation been influenced predominantly by the Industrial Revolution which was seeking to motivate folks toward mechanistic tasks, which in the church can be equated with church attendance (showing up), and following a list of simple rules?
  • Is discipleship a mechanistic enterprise, requiring only mechanistic thinking, only requiring rudimentary cognitive ability, or is discipleship something that requires creativity, requiring a difference set of motivating factors?
  • If discipleship requires more complex cognitive skills, what would autonomy, mastery, and purpose look like in our congregations? What are the basic needs that need to be met in order to allow the church to offer autonomy, mastery , and purpose as motivational factors?
  • Does Pink’s research and though processes have any bearing on how we do church today, or is this simply another business theory that has little applicability to the church?

Take time to watch the video above. His TED talk is similar but roots out some other things for thought as well, so here it is as well:

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