Tim Keel‘s new book, Intuitive Leadership: Embracing a Paradigm of Narrative, Metaphor, and Chaos left me a little unsatisfied. Not because it’s not a great book, or that Tim’s not a terrific writer who is right about everything he says. If I knew a pastor who was dissatisfied with the conventional model of church, or had a friend who wanted to do church in a way that fits with– rather than fights with– our culture, or if by some miracle our church was given an intern, I’d make sure she or he read this book, twice. No, I think I’m disappointed because I recently met Tim, and found him a fascinating font of wisdom, insight, innovative thinking, and intriguing perspectives. So I was looking forward to 250 pages of groundbreaking thinking, and instead got a more entry-level treatment (apparently) aimed at a conventional and skeptical pastor in a conservative church. I guess the thorny old issue of ‘audience’ and ‘book sales’ rears its head once again (and I’m sure I can be blamed for demanding a distillation of someone else’s work and wisdom, rather than doing the research and creative thinking myself).
By the end of the book, Keel offers a compelling taste of a different way of being Christian, and of doing church. Of a move from the departing age of organization to the coming age of creativity, and intuition. But he doesn’t address the most important practical matter of how people can disengage from the systems and organizations already in place. How does a professional clergyperson free themselves from the very command-and-control structures that Keel so correctly decries– how to turn off the money, salary, position, praise, benefits, and pension? And how does a parishioner give up their comfy seat and weekly entertainment for a more demanding engagement with God and others? It seems to me that what holds pastors back from engaging with this stuff is that they’re not sure how they’ll live, or what they’ll eat, on the other side (and I can certainly empathize). And what dissuades most congregants is that they don’t want to be creative, or intuitive, or engaged (ditto). The rewards are there, but they are less tangible, and the return on investment has a longer term than we’d like.
So Tim’s not wrong, he’s righter than right. But I’m left longing for more of his cutting-edge thinking, and wondering how fast any of us can change. As long as ‘church’ or ‘Christian’ means ‘conservative’ or ‘control’ for so many people, that day seems far away, indeed.