Applying the Laws of Nature to Ministry
Physics - not my favorite subject in high school (or at any time). Even though I did well with math, calculus, and science - this success did not translate to my physics class in any way! However, some formulas stuck with me, such as E=mc2 and p=mv. There was a simplicity about them, even amid the highly complex dynamics associated with them. Over the years in ministry, I found that many of these laws of nature have applications that translate well into the ministry context, particularly to creating and championing a movement. Let’s look at some of these formulas/laws and see how they can guide people and build momentum in the context of church life and leadership.
Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion (p=mv): to catalyze momentum (p), we need both mass (m) and velocity (v). What is important to note is that velocity is defined as “speed with direction.” Therefore, to move people (mass) forward, there needs to be a clear vision (direction) - clarity on where we are going, a focused future. Here are some practical steps to take when it comes to cultivating and communicating the vision with a high level of magnitude:
- Cultivating Vision - as a God Dreams Navigator, I use a primary tool that is extremely helpful; it is called the Horizon Storyline. Check out this great tool to guide you in the journey of architecting, articulating, and activating your vision! It is a timeline process that blends the imaginative and practical, the qualitative and quantitative, the long-term and short-term, and the creative and concrete. Another processing tool to use is called the 12 Vision Templates. It is based on four critical shapes/quadrants (Advance, Rescue, Become, and Overflow) from a Spark and Posture Matrix - with both a point of ignition (spark) axis and a response bias (posture) one. These templates can be adapted and combined to help create and capture your church’s unique picture of the future. For more on this beneficial and practical tool, go HERE.
- Communicating Vision - sharing and spreading your vision is essential to catalyzing movement. Often this can be challenging, especially for those of us who are not wired as creative or intuitive types. A valuable tool to help articulate vision is the Spider Diagram based on six essential facets of vision-based communication: burning platform, golden tomorrow, wake-up call, mind stretch, God smile, and common denominator.
Important Sidebar: Newton’s 1st Law of Motion (Law of Inertia) states that an object in motion will stay in motion, and an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. Rest is vital to staying sane (I do enjoy and need sleep!); however, if we want motion to take place in our churches, the ‘outside forces’ of creating, cultivating, communicating, and championing your vision will need to take place continually. Additionally (and this may sound paradoxical to Newton’s 1st Law, but what is physics without some paradox!), the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (also known as the Law of Entropy) states that everything in a closed system ultimately moves towards an increasing state of disorder, degradation, and chaos - resulting in death. And this is why churches that do not remain open to innovation, reform, adaptation, and change end up ceasing to exist.
Law of Mass-Energy Equivalence (E=mc2): the iconic Einsteinian formula essentially states that energy and mass are the same things but in different forms (c2 refers to the speed of light squared). According to the 1st Law of Thermodynamics, energy is neither created nor destroyed. It can only transfer or transform. As noted above, the equivalent to mass in a ministry context are the people in your church. Therefore, the group of people in your organization has an amount of set energy. The key is activating and leveraging it for positive movement (and converting negative energy into positive energy). So how do we catalyze human energy collectively, creating motion forward? Germane here is both motivating and mobilizing people.
The best way to motivate people is to do so intrinsically, through internal/personal elements. One of the most effective ways to do this is to help people discover, deploy and develop their gifts, passions, and abilities, all towards accomplishing the mission and vision of the organization (it is of interest to note that spiritual gifts are equated to forms of divine energy - see 1 Cor. 12:6 and Eph. 4:16 where the word Energeia is used, see God’s Energy - Reclaiming a New Testament Reality by Christian Schwarz). At their core, people want to make a difference in this world - they will rise to the challenge. All they need is the opportunity, encouragement, and resourcing to do so!
Shifting from motivation to mobilization requires clear pathways for people to express and embody their gifts (as well as to grow and flourish as a people of faith). Here are some essential factors to consider when designing a path: 1) Is it accessible? 2) Are the next steps clear, as well as prompts to take steps? 3) How will content/information be shared and dispersed, and what will the venues be for orienting and training? 4) How will opportunities be presented and engaged in for the application of gift expression? 5) What specific tools, resources/equipping will be provided for the journey, and how will they be dispensed? 6) How will guides/coaches be provided? 7) How will progress be monitored and celebrated?
Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction - resistance happens! Pushback is inevitable. So how do we keep ourselves from a standstill or organizational freeze? Relevant to answering this question, we need to consider two other laws:
- Law of Aerodynamics: It always amazes me to watch a 747 Jumbo Jet, weighing in at approximately 487 tons, take off from an airport runway. How can such a massive amount of weight lift itself into flight? Simply put, the Law of Aerodynamics answers the question. This law comprises fuel (thrust forward and lift upward) and friction (drag backward and weight/gravity downward). You could say that fuel generates the action and friction the reaction. The goal is for the fuel to be more potent than the friction. And this is what happens when a plane takes flight powered by its turbine engines (thrust) and plane/wing design (lift), overcoming gravity (weight) and wind resistance (drag). Similarly, a church needs thrust and lift to overcome drag and weight in place (and to leverage any friction by converting into fuel - remember E=mc2). So, how aerodynamic is your church? What is currently fueling you, and what frictions (and you could add fractions here) are in play as a church? Are you in flight, grounded, ready for take-off, or need to do an emergency landing?
- Law of Innovation Diffusion: This law has two aspects - the manner and the rate of diffusion. How innovation diffuses is through five steps: awareness, persuasion, decision, implementation, and continuation. The diffusion rate is based on the group of people. The innovators who create or innovate make up 2.5% of the population. From there, the rate of diffusion/acceptance decreases as you go through the remaining groups: early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%), and laggards (16%). How you communicate vision and change varies from group to group. The 16% front end operates primarily on a scarcity model - “it doesn’t exist, or it’s never been done this way, so let’s create it or do it!” Without them, there would be no tipping point! The remaining 84%, from the early majority to laggards, need a growing amount of social proof to be convinced (“Does this work and make a positive difference?”). And some (usually from the laggard group) will never accept the vision or change - as someone once said, “they will keep their rotary phone and go elsewhere!”
We live in an age of increasing complexity and uncertainty (which Covid-19 continues to amplify). But amid this ambiguous and volatile season of life, these laws of nature provide the necessary clarity and understanding to help us lead our churches forward with agility, tenacity, and creativity. If we at Chemistry Staffing can help you navigate these challenging times through the variety of ways we serve both leaders and churches, please let us know. We are here for you and grateful for you!
P.S. And no physics class will be required if you ask for our help!
To connect with Allan about finding a long-term healthy fit or to talk about church health, reach out to him via email here.