One of the things I look for in people is their ability to embrace a both/and reality, an ability to hold two things together that most people keep separate. For example, one of the things I have always appreciated about Mike Breen and the organization he leads, 3DM, is that they very intentionally embrace two things that are often kept separate in many people’s thought and practice: God’s power and strategic thinking.
It seems that some people are very serious about our need for God’s power to accomplish God’s mission, but they tend not to worry too much about structure, method, or strategy. They think if we can just get people in a room and see a few miracles, the world will be changed.
Others are always thinking about how to better organize things, thinking strategically about structure and method, but rely very little, if at all, on God’s power as a factor in their practice of mission. They think if we can just get our method right we’ll change the world.
But what if we really need both?
Jesus told a little parable about wine and wineskins. “No one pours new wine into old wineskins,” he said, “Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.”
It seems to me that for one group it’s all about new wine (God’s power), and they assume the wineskin take care of itself. For the other group it’s all about building a better wineskin (strategy), and they don’t seem to think it’s that important to actually have wine in it. One group has new wine, but it’s being wasted because it’s running out all over the floor. The other group has a wonderfully functional wineskin with no wine in it.
When we hear this parable, we often emphasize the unfitness of the old wineskin to hold new wine, and focus merely on getting rid of our “old wineskins.” We forget that Jesus said that new wine needs a new wineskin. It would seem that even when God is doing a new thing, moving in power, doing what only He can do (new wine), we still need appropriate structures in place to make sure it is sustainable, portable, and reproducible (new wineskins).
I think it’s clear that we need both. We need God’s power to do God’s mission. He has to do it. We can do nothing without him. We need to own this deeply, and put ourselves out there in ways that require his power to be working through our weakness. But we also need to use wisdom and strategic insight to create elegant, sustainable, reproducible structures for God’s power to flow through.
Embracing God’s power and strategic structures allows us to maintain momentum and really build a kingdom movement. That’s what I’m after, and that’s why I appreciate anyone who can embrace this both/and reality and teach others to live in it.