Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The David Strategy

I saw Malcom Gladwell’s David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants at the library recently and decided to give it a go. Gladwell is a Canadian who has developed global popularity with books such as Outliers, Blink, and The Tipping Point.

David and Goliath follows in a similar vein as Gladwell looks at the biblical story of the shepherd lad David, who manages to defeat the over-sized Philistine champion Goliath. Gladwell offers that “[Goliath’s] size was also the source of his greatest weakness…the powerful and the strong are not always what they seem.”  David was able to use the apparent inferiority of his size and weaponry to his advantage. Gladwell's "take" on Goliath is that despite his size he was a sick man, afflicted with an illness which compromised his sight and mobility.

Gladwell suggests that there are many examples of the David's of this world prevailing, and then he offers them. As I read the book it struck me that mainline denominations such as the United Church and many of its congregations are at the “tipping point” of their life cycles. We are trying to figure out whether we are able to shift from being the ponderous, myopic Goliaths of our Canadian society to becoming more nimble, more able to respond to the challenges of today’s culture wars in which religion is far less prominent. 
Recently we have been  invited to look at a couple of documents which have issued from the Comprehensive Review of the United Church, a process which invited congregations and individuals to comment on the changing nature of our denomination and offer thoughts on where we might go next. Will this review make a difference? Just having the conversation is an important starting point to move beyond both denial and despair.
We are people of faith after all, and the story of David and Goliath is a metaphor of faith, not just a tale of military strategy.
Do you have hope that our denomination will become more responsive, more nimble in the days before us? Is it possible for a church Goliath to become David-like, or will we simply have to die on the battlefield and give way to some other expression of Christ, who is "of the house and lineage of David?"

1 comment:

Judy Mcknight said...

I believe our denomination has been in the forefront and led the way in showing the changes needed to ensure the Church continues, effectively, in this world ... and we can continue to do so... we do need to invite others in to dialogue with us however, and be open to the leading of the Spirit, which just may take us in completely different directions from our traditional past.