By Tom Ehrich
Let’s hear it for “desperation.”
Not the “losing hope” kind, but the recognition that a situation is urgent, dire, maybe dangerous.
The tech-blogosphere has been busily dissecting Microsoft’s recent unveiling of yet another phone app, a tablet device (“Surface”) and the acquisition of Yammer (networking app). Several in-the-know types dismiss the moves as “desperate.”
I should hope Microsoft is desperate, as Apple steals its thunder and the Windows franchise looks vulnerable. I should hope they care enough about their enterprise to see signs, hear alarm bells, study sales figures, plot trends, and deduce that something needs to change.
Desperation, after all, is a powerful motivator.
It’s certainly better than head-in-the-sand, everything-fine denial, which is what troubled enterprises usually pursue.
I see desperation working its magic on faith communities. Almost 50 years after the world changed and mainline churches decided not to change with it, the consequences can no longer be ignored. Except for a few large churches and recent startups, congregations are in deep trouble. Membership down, participation down, giving down, average age up, debt up, budget deficits up, leadership conflict up.
Enter desperation. Enter the motivator that is leading the older generation that has clung to power to stop resisting change and to begin welcoming younger leaders and fresh ideas. Enter a palpable enthusiasm for trying “turnaround strategies,” as I call them. Enter a new assertiveness among clergy.
Some of what lies ahead will seem desperate. I hope so. For it will mean leaders are paying attention. They are seeing reality and letting go of the bickering and change-quashing that have marked church councils. Not because they have given up hope, but because they claim hope. And they are willing to take bold steps forward.