Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Soul Nugget #8 -- On Cogs and Mechanics

A machine is made up of all sorts of parts, gears, and cogs, which all mesh together, serving the one purpose for which the machine was created. Usually the point of a machine is to produce something. With a machine, there is always an end goal which it is trying to accomplish. If a machine does not fulfill its purpose, it is considered "broken," and is either trashed and a new one replaces it, or it is taken to a mechanic who knows how to fix it.

The church is like a machine, and there are two kinds of people who make it run: cogs and mechanics.

Cogs are positive thinkers who have utmost faith in the machine -- that it works and achieves the purpose for which it was created. Sure, the machine may be flawed (no machine is perfect, is it?), but overall, the machine does more good than bad. They happily accept their role in the machine, meshing together with the other gears and cogs, because they are optimistic about the effectiveness of their system. If the machine seems to not be fulfilling the purpose for which it was made, the cog's response is typically to "work harder" and telling the other gears and cogs to pick up the slack. They believe in staying the course by completing their role in the system and getting others to do the same. Why? Because they believe in the effectiveness of the course.

Mechanics, on the other hand, are improvers. They make their living off of fixing broken stuff. They look at a machine, and it could be running fine without much of a problem at all, but the mechanic's mind is constantly looking for a problem and/or ways to improve the effectiveness of the machine. As a result, they come across pessimistic. Sometimes, they take one look at a broken, obsolete piece of machinery and decide to trade the whole thing in for an upgraded version of the machine. Mechanics are big picture thinkers who will look at a machine and ask, "Is this machine achieving the goal for which it was made?" If the answer is no, the mechanic will try to improve the machine on a systematic level. His response is not just, "work harder! Persevere!" His response is, "How can we make this machine more efficient and effective in accomplishing its goal?"

I've noticed that in the church, cogs and mechanics tend to butt heads sometimes. Cogs point to the mechanics and say, "You arrogant Mechanics are always trying to fix what ain't broken! It's easy to criticize when you're standing so far off, but you don't know what it's like to be in the middle of the action. The church is not about grand schemes and strategies, it's about the gritty, day-to-day lives of people and building relationships. It's just about loving God and loving people. Why do we have to complicate things so much?"

Mechanics fire back, "Well, you Cogs are just part of an obsolete system! You have become entirely irrelevant! Times are changing, and we have to change as well. Look, it's really simple: all we have to do is change this part, move that gear, tweak that gizmo and there you have it!"

I think we need both Cogs and Mechanics in the church. Without the cogs, the machine couldn't run. You need someone who will buy into a system and run with it. However, the mechanics are necessary too, because machines get old and break down. Can you imagine what Indiana Wesleyan University would be like today if they still tried to run the entire university using typewriters? In the same way, the church needs to be changed and adapted on a big picture level if it is going to remain functional, efficient, and effective.

I am a mechanic. I naturally see things through a critical eye, not to cut down and discourage, but so that we can improve the machine. I'm watching as all the cogs are spinning and turning, working their butts off trying to make a system work, only to watch as the end result does not meet the goal for which the machine exists. I see people coming into the church, getting saved, but staying at a shallow level spiritually for the rest of their lives. I see teenagers graduating from high school, then going to college only to have their faith pulled out from under them like a rug, and because their faith was not deep enough, they could not withstand the storm. I see all these things and I can't help but think, "What could we do to improve things on a systematic level?" Most of the cogs aren't to blame; the system is. And so if you are a cog and I have stepped or am going to step on your toes at some point, I sincerely apologize, it's nothing personal. I'm just being myself.

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