Seth Godin has a post up about moxabustion, which is the practice of burning an herb on a patient’s skin in hopes that the heat will penetrate their bodies and help heal them. Superstition is a dangerous thing in medicine, and Seth points out it’s a dangerous thing in business, too.
I think it’s also a problem in church leadership. Oftentimes we have "street smarts" that were developed in a completely different era, based on observations of a culture that doesn’t exist anymore. And yet we persist in trying to incorporate those street smarts into church leadership in a completely different culture. It works sporadically, at best. It’s essentially superstition, and usually succeeds in wasting a lot of time and money, causing a lot of anxiety and false optimism. It can cause a lot of false pessimism, too: because things look upside-down. What looks like failure in the old model might just be the beginnings of success. Paradigm-shifts are difficult, though. So is giving up superstition. But it needs to be done if we’re going to move forward.
We can’t just ditch tradition, though. That continues to be attempted by some, usually with mediocre results. G.K. Chesterton said that honoring and paying attention to tradition was giving our ancestors a vote, even though they were dead ("Don’t deny them a say in how things go just because they happen to be dead" is a loose paraphrase). So it’s trickier than throwing old stuff away and embracing every new thing. It’s discerning what insights we can glean from our ancestors, and also discerning what insights no longer function.
We can’t cling to the past, nor can we recklessly embrace all things "future". We have to thoughtfully embrace those elements of our tradition that continue to give life, and gently discard elements of our tradition that are simply superstitions couched in churchy language. It’s a tricky task to accomplish, but well worth the time and effort.