Planting, Replanting and Everything In Between

Darryl Dash has a couple posts up about the concept of replanting churches when they cannot be renewed and why renewal often fails. In these Darryl uses the analogy of GM trying to learn from Toyota how to build cars properly by having Toyota involved in a joint-venture where they re-organized a GM plant in California based on Toyota’s production model to illustrate what church replanting might look like.

In a different sector of the blogosphere, Andrew Sullivan linked the other day to a a couple pieces on why the US financial system, and network TV, like the Mayan empire are doomed to collapse (no, really). The argument here is roughly that as societies or industries evolve they add ever greater levels of complexity to their systems. Initially the marginal returns on these increases in complexity are tremendous (think of a primitive agricultural society adding irrigation) but with each additional layer, the margins shrink while serious change becomes ever more difficult. The only option in these cases is wholesale collapse of the system (achieving the needed simplicity in the system).

If we return to GM’s inability to learn much from its joint-venture with Toyota, the reasons that GM did not adopt Toyota’s techniques probably had something to do with the many layers of complexity and entrenched cultures and interests within GM. Ironically, the government of all organizations may be the ones to finally force GM to get itself down to fighting weight – that’s how tough it is to force simplification on a complex entity. It seems then that turning around a church, like turning around a business (such as GM), or an industry (such as old media), or even an empire (such as the Mayans) often demands a simplification of entrenched complex structures and sometimes only a total collapse can accomplish that.

Insofar as old churches often hold buildings in prime locations with no debt and other financial/real estate resources, total collapse is wasteful for the church. In another way though, re-planting represents a sort of failure of an existing church to recognize how it must adapt to some changing reality in its neighbourhood. Is it possible that churches can be saved before they reach the collapse stage and need replanting?