Post-modern Ministry, More Like a Labyrinth or a Maze?

Post-modern Ministry, More Like a Labyrinth or a Maze?

It took me a while to understand. There is a distinction between a maze and a labyrinth. Some of my confusion may have come from watching the cult classic film of the 1980's with David Bowie, entitled Labyrinth. To begin with, even the first paragraph of the Wikipedia description for the movie confuses the two terms. Each experience- that of walking a maze and that of walking a labyrinth- have risen in popularity in this post-modern time. Folks eagerly anticipate the corn maze or the sunflower maze at a local apple orchard in spring or fall.  Retreat centers, outdoor ministry sites, and even churches have installed a labyrinth or found inventive ways to create them. My home church has placed a labyrinth made of colorful blue and green flags on the town green this week as part of our town's celebrate Earth Day event. 
A maze confuses, a labyrinth does not.

Our goal in this time of challenge and change as we anticipate the new thing that God is doing is to move forward and set a path for walking into the future that is more comparable to a labyrinth than a maze. We should do our best to minimize confusion. On a labyrinth walk, we can see that the path before us provides a way forward. If we give ourselves time to perceive the path ahead of us, it will lead to the center, a place where folks often experience the Divine or some moment of inspiration.

In a maze, we can become increasingly confused, disoriented, discouraged, and complacent. ''Get me out of here!", the frazzled walker will plead.

On a labyrinth, we faithfully follow and trust that our steps will be purposeful to deepen our experience and understanding. In a maze, we may encounter an experience of the same barriers we encountered earlier, without having gained a greater sense of direction. It may take several attempts at making progress to gain ground in moving toward and discovering a new path or your destination.

The concept of sustaining while disrupting coined by Lovett Weems Jr. and F. Douglas Powe, Jr. in their new book, Sustaining While Disrupting, offers insight, ideas, and hope for the way forward that can be thoughtfully prepared and carefully discerned like following the labyrinth's path not the sometimes confused experience of walking through a maze. (Leading Ideas Podcast here.)

Like a labyrinth journey, these times call for walking with intention as we seek inspiration. It’s beneficial to walk into the center each time with a new intention in mind and to walk out each time inspired by the experience of finding and spending moments of being centered. It's equally valuable to give yourself over to the time it takes to move forward at a pace that demonstrates progress, and that doesn't rush to the end or conclusion.

Like a labyrinth journey, sustaining while disrupting means that we discover or discern new insights and new ideas to further our journey and make our way forward toward new or renewed vision for our mission and ministries.  The path when carefully prepared, faithfully executed, and thoughtfully traveled, will not intentionally confuse or mislead the traveler as they endeavor to journey.

A maze does have a purpose! It's a puzzle and there are certainly folks who enjoy solving a good puzzle. I do. Puzzles can intentionally challenge and confuse to engage the skills of the problem solver. If we experience these times as a journey through a maze, it may indicate that our congregation could benefit from accompaniment, new tools or resources and a distinct point of view. It may mean that the church needs to look beyond the barriers and 'dead-ends'.  It could reveal a need to take more intentional time in focused discernment or it could, like Peter's dream in the book of Acts, mean that we need to clear a space for the Holy Spirit in all of our certainty, planning, and plotting.

Where will the journey through these times lead your congregation? Does God have a preferred future for your church? If you're seeking support or accompaniment in charting a future path for your congregation or need resources and tools for walking faithfully through these times, remember that the team of the Center for Transformational Leadership is here to assist you.  We can suggest tools and resources, offer guidance for consultations, work with you to obtain coaching services, and we offer programs that educate, enrich, and enhance the mission and ministries of our local churches.

PS- Want to walk a nearby labyrinth? Check here for opportunities local to you.


karen ziel.jpg
Karen E. Ziel

Karen works in partnership with the team to guide congregations in self-assessment and discernment, and to provide or suggest effective programs for clergy and lay leadership development.  Contact her to: Connect your congregation with the tools and...

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