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Are You Using the Right Map?

Posted: February 6, 2015 by Rob Voyle

Imagine you and your congregation are lost in the rain forests of Brazil...

And a learned man from your group says, don't worry friends I have a map. I have spent many years and dollars getting educated and preparing this map. Its a beautiful map. With this map we will find our way home...

Unfortunately its a map of the rain forest Washington State USA. Now the man is quite right it is a beautiful map and it has lots of trees and clearly there are lots of trees in Brazil, and there is lots of rain and there are lots of streams everywhere.

So yes there are many indicators that you are mapping the right things. You have those little aha moments that convince you that you are on the right path, yes there is a river, and there is a river on our map.

Two things can happen:

You will become increasingly lost and confused. You may become angry with yourself because of your inability to read maps and vow that if you ever get out of the forest you will go and get extra training in map reading...

Or by chance you may continue walking down hill and follow the streams until they reach a river and by chance a village on the river. Not being aware of the unconscious strategy you were using you are now convinced that your success was because of the map and your incredible map reading abilities...

Too often in the church and in life in general it seems to me that we borrow maps from some part of the world and try to use them for other things and wonder why it all unravels. There may be some helpfulness in some of the maps but in other ways they may be fundamentally flawed and ultimately lead us down an unhelpful path.
Faulty maps can be detected by the way they are:

Fear based rather than love based.

Designed to prevent bad things from happening rather than ensuring good things happen.

Eloquently descriptions of the causes of problems rather than elegant descriptions of how to achieve solutions to problems.

Incongruent with our ultimate purpose and values.

Here are some maps that I think are fundamentally flawed:

The annual performance review, which gets prettied up and re-presented as Mutual Ministry Review.

Conflict management: We have not been entrusted with a ministry of conflict management, we have been entrusted with a ministry of reconciliation.

Premarriage counseling designed and motivated by a desire to prevent marriage failure rather than ensure couple enrichment.

Family systems theory, especially when applied to program and corporate sized churches.

The veneration of Spirit inspired innovators that have been boiled down into tradition, rules, and laws in a "one-size fits all" mentality that preserves the temporal innovation yet denies the Spirit and the spirit of innovation.

And then there are all the personal, cultural, maps that abound in our society such as the:

The map of revenge couched in terms of justice, or the map of revenge honored as a sign of strength.

And I wonder, in this so-called Christian culture, whatever happened to that hardest map of all: love your enemies...

And I wonder too if I have the wrong map...

So what are we to do?

Instead of studying and using old maps what if we came up with a map to create maps. Granted there is, as with all ways of knowing, a paradox in the idea of having a map to create maps, however here is my basic way or "map" for making maps.

It has to be based on love and compassion. My beloved Kim calls compassion the "temporal manifestation of eternal loving kindness in the world." If I am making a map it needs be a compassionate map.

It needs to be an open map. Open to the Spirit, open to possibilities, open to the wisdom incarnate in us all.

It needs to be a courageous map, rather than a fear based map. In many situations I need courage to be compassionate.

It needs to be a map that ensures that good things will occur, rather than is designed to prevent bad things from happening.

That sees history and the past as a wonderful treasure trove of resources to build a better future. It is a map that looks on the past from the perspective of what did I learn to do rather than simply what not to do.

And some of the tools of the map maker, beyond a solid analysis of what is, include: paradox, asking crazy questions, absurdity, a huge bunch of laughter, and a profound curiosity and openness to what shall be...

And the proof that we created a good map. Where would we end up if we followed the map?

For me I know I am using the right map if I and the people I am playing with are:

Free to laugh, love, and live from the very depths of their being.

As the season of Epiphany unfolds I trust the light is continuing to shine on the maps you are making and using.

Rob Voyle

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About the Author

Rob Voyle

Rob Voyle

The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

Rob's Approach to Training

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