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A New Pope for a New World

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The pope has changed in Rome and not a moment too soon; for the world has changed, as well. Pope Francis' first act after being introduced to masses that welcomed him was to kneel and to humbly request their prayers. Such humility is a soothing, if not shocking, sight in the actions of any leader today.

But the new pope did something else; something insightful and timely. When he was first told that he was selected as pope, his first decision was the name he wished to be known by. His choice was Francis. This is quite significant since Pope Francis is himself a Jesuit, a member of the largest order of priests within Catholicism. He chose the name of the leader of another order, some would say the rival order, of the Franciscans -- after Francis of Assisi. This was certainly an act of gracious bridge-building. He chose to pick up an olive branch before raising the staff of Peter.

What is the chief skill needed to not just survive, but thrive in today's changing world? None would argue that things are rapidly changing, arguably more than at any other time in history. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up and, in some cases, keep together. Washington D.C. alone proves the point, does it not? The late business and management specialist, Peter Drucker, saw it all coming:

Every few hundred years in Western history, there occurs a sharp transformation... Within a few short decades, society rearranges itself -- its worldview, its basic values, its social and political structure, its arts, its key institutions. Fifty years later, there is a new world. And the people born then cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born. We are living through just such a transformation.
Peter Drucker, 1993 (from Post-Capitalist Society)

More recently, Dr. Robert E. Cooley, seminary leader, international board consultant and futurist put it this way:

We're going through a massive paradigmatic shift in all of culture right now... We can't accept the fact that culture is stable... The world is in turmoil. We are living in a period when we are neither out of the past nor into the future.
Dr. Robert E. Cooley

The shift in culture is demanding that we rethink the most essential skills needed to navigate it. In America, for example, history thus far could arguably be divided this way, into these three periods:

The Agricultural Age (approx. 1776 - 1890)
The Industrial Age (1890 - 1989)
The Informational Age (1990 - 2008)

In order to thrive in the Agricultural Age, you had to know how to cultivate. In order to succeed or even get by in life, most people had to play a part in growing some kind of produce or livestock.

Success in the Industrial Age involved knowing how to create or sell a product. As factories and industries emerged, numerous products were invented and mass-produced. The workers during this period knew how to create products that could be sold and used.

In the Informational Age, however, the tables changed significantly. Information itself, long held in the private and controlling grasp of proletariats now became the chief commodity. Because of this the essential skill was (and in many places still is) knowing how to communicate. New, better and faster means of technology emerged to make information more engaging and accessible.

But now, it appears that we are moving into yet another epoch of American history. This time, however, globalism has made that move something felt by more than just one country. Much of the world is experiencing it. We are moving out of one age and into another. Can you sense it?
We now live in a new flatter world; at a time when we are not just connected by technology, we are hyper-connected by social networks. As some have suggested, I think you could call it ...

The Imaginational Age (2009 - ?).

This new period is leading not only to new systems and new ways of living life, doing work and sharing information, it is significantly changing the systems by which we do so. It will require us to use parts of our brains that perhaps have been otherwise disengaged. It will call for new depths of imagination.

Now before you accuse me of getting all "Disney" on you with the word "imaginational," hear me out. We now live in an age and environment of such rapid change and opportunity that no one mind alone, no single brain, no sole person -- that is -- can effectively and independently navigate the challenges nor the opportunities we face. No -- it now takes a team, a collaborative blending of ideas, intuition and inspirations. Our world, and the opportunities and problems we face, have become increasingly complex, now requiring teaming efforts, ideas and strategies as never before.

In yesterday's world, you could have gotten along by your ability to cultivate, create or communicate. Many did, but no longer. In order to succeed in the Imaginational Age, there is a new essential skill you will need. With it, you and your church or any organization of which you are a part will be at a significant advantage. Without it, you will be limited. The new essential is this: you will have to know how to...

Collaborate.

The time for teams and teaming in leadership is not coming -- it is here! It has arrived! The question is: have you? People in churches, businesses and other organizations are no longer responding the way they used to towards hierarchical maneuverings and manipulations. They are tired of being pushed; they instead want to be drawn and inspired with the sense that they are a part of something greater than themselves, that they have a share in building the Kingdom of God. The early actions of Pope Francis may just show how in touch he is with the new world.

The Defined Team

The word team itself comes from the Latin root deuk, which means "to pull" or "to draw." In a real sense, teams are groups of people who pull together to reach a common goal. They are the people pulling not only for their church or organization, but pulling for each other, and pulling for their shared potential in life and service.

Teaming is not only an important skill for Christian leaders and workers; it is fast becoming the skill of the age. The Association of American Colleges and Universities recently commissioned a study to be done to determine what the most needed skills for today's graduates, the skills they will need in order to thrive in the current world and economy.

What was the top skill on the list? What do you think it was?

Innovation?

No.

That is important, but was actually Number 5 on the list.

Number 4 was being able to organize information.

Number 3 was oral and written communication.

Number 2 was critical thinking and reasoning.

And Number One on the list was... teamwork skills!

That's right. To be specific, the report cited "teamwork skills and the ability to collaborate with others in diverse group settings." Smart businessmen know this, as do smart popes, clerics and pastors. In other words, to thrive in the new world you don't just need to know how to work, but how to work .. together

(This post is adapted from a new book by Robert Crosby - The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration)