Bill Easum

I just finished one of the best books I have read in the last several years.  The book is Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership, by Joseph Jaworski (Berett-Koehler) At first I wasn’t sure about the book. It begins with the simple telling of Jaworski’s personal journey (Joseph is the son of Leon Jaworski and is the founder of the American Leadership Forum). His is a story about how isolated events in his life seem to come together around one grand design and create what he calls “predictable miracles. He calls this “synchronicity.” He uses C.G. Jung’s definition: “The seemingly accidental meeting of two unrelated causal chains in a coincidental event which appears both highly improbable and highly significant.” Keep in mind that this is a secular book.

About the time I was going to quit reading the book for lack of interest, it grabbed me and never let go. By the time I got to the end I was shouting, “Yes!,” “Yes,” this is what most pastors need to read. This book is written on the premise that we are in control of God’s future and that our mental models determine much of our future by either making us open or closed to new frontiers and possibilities. This secular book explains why Isaiah has God saying, Behold I am doing something new. Can you not perceive it? Because of our mental models, we can not hear or see what God is able to do through our lives.

The more I listen to pastors talk about “controllers,” “church bullies,” the inability to break through the barriers of traditions, the restraints brought about because people are more in love with fear than with Jesus, and the most common of all “they’ll (meaning the laity) never go for this because “we’ve never done it that way before,” the more I know this book could have a profound impact in the lives of many pastors.

Although the book is very secular in nature, its heart and soul resonates with what I see in most spiritual giants today – they deeply believe that they can create God’s future. They believe deeply that God can and will do something great through them if they will simply put themselves in the middle of what God is doing. They believe that by telling the Biblical story of transformation over and over, they can re-create the environment around them and in the lives of others. Such a confidence radiates out from them, grabbing those around them, helping them also believe that they can make a difference in this world.

Every pastor ought to read at least pages 170 through the end of the book.  The first 169 pages are the prelude to the heart of the book. I can’t tell you how I leaped for joy when I read the few remaining chapters. When I read the quote from John Gardner, in his speech title “Rebirth of a Nation” I shouted, “Amen.”

The author constantly draws on the organizational thought of Arie D. Geus, C.G. Jung’s understanding of synchronicity, Francisco Varela’s The Tree of Knowledge and The Embodied Mind.), Robert Greenleaf’s Servant leadership,” Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline, David Bohm’s work in Quantum Physics, Martin Buber’s I And Thou,, J.S Bell’s proven theory that the everything in the world is open and therefore subject to being changed based on the actions of every living creature, Joseph Campbell’s concept of “yielding to the design of the universe, which speaks through each of us,” Rollo May’s understanding that freedom loses its foundation without its opposite – destiny, and the groundbreaking scenario planning of Royal Dutch Shell. The book is undergirded by the various fields of Quantum Physics, Systems and Chaos Theory, Neuroscience, as well as numerous references to eastern and biblical images. Spiritual leaders who can extrapolate the theological meaning of this secular book will find new ways to dream so that set even the most entrenched church person is freed from their enslavement to tradition and the past.

For example: using his line of thought, there are no such things as bullies, or controllers, or people who can constantly stop things from happening in church. We create them by the way we respond or not respond to them. They don’t exist except as each of us allows them to exist. Listen to this quote from the book.

“Part of the transformation that occurs in this circumstance, Varela said, is a declaration and a commitment that can only come from someone who has changed his {her} stance from resignation to possibility. “Too many of us are simply resigned to what is instead of passionately dreaming of what could be. Too many pastors are resigned to the fact that the way things are the way things will always be. Too many pastors have simply given up trying to change the mess in which they find their church.  Too many pastors are surprised when they hear of a church that does things differently. Many assume that they must be watering down the Gospel or simply be mavericks who can’t be trusted. I get too much email asking if it is really possible for permission giving churches to exist.

God calls on each one of us is called upon to take a stand. We either are where we can hear or we turn off the phone. Like Martin Luther, “Here we stand. We can do no other.” And when we do, things always change. No singular action ever takes place without changing the course of the future. We may not like the way things change, but they do change. Our actions do make a difference. We do not have to sit around and watch our church go down the drain. We do not have to remain silent while we see church leaders grow old with jealousy and pride. We do not have to sit by and watch the “sea of prunes” setting molding in the pews on Sunday morning and wonder why in the world they are there in the first place. We can make a difference. God can change lives and society through us.

This book is the embodiment of John 14:12 where Jesus says:

“I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”

I’ve always wondered why we do not take this verse seriously. Now I know.  Our mental models will not allow us. Too many of us see the world as a machine instead of an organism. Machines never change; they just need oiling or re-tuning; but in time they all just wear out and rust. Our industrial, modern day mind set causes us to resign ourselves to a life of religious boredom, going to meetings, listening to people share the same anger over and over, and, when the time comes, retire from “church work” or we “burn out.”  On the other hand, those whose mental model of the universe is that of an organism, know that nothing is in concrete, not even traditions, making God even more awesome because God is the only unchangeable, or as Tillich says “The ground of all being.” Everything has the potential to be transformed, even the bully or controllers, or even the pharisaical bureaucrats who run most denominations. There is nothing that can not be transformed. Only God remains unchangeable and that is what always brings order out of the chaos of constant transformation.

The author ends the book with what his story has taught him are the three most important elements in bringing one into the flow of what life is about.  I see these three keys as the “flow” that is at the heart of all legitimate prayer, these three elements are important.

1.  A fundamental shift in the way we think about the world. Our mental model must shift from one of a clockwork universe that is fixed an determined to one that is open, dynamic, interconnected, and full of living qualities. In such a mental model we sense that we are creating the future every moment.

2. A fundamental shift in our understanding of relationship. Each of us is much more than one player in a grand scheme. We live in a world in which “relationship” is the organizing principle of the universe. In such a world when one acts the whole of life shifts because everything is in relationship.

3. A shift in the nature of our commitment. The new form of commitment comes from our willingness to enter a “state of surrender” in which we know that what we need at the moment to meet our destiny will be available to us. Of course our destiny is to create a new future.

When these three shifts take place, doors seem to just open for us, a sense of flow seems to develop, and we experience the gathering of like minded people who are on the same journey and in the same state of surrender. That is why when Christians make a decision to act on something, what they need to do it usually shows up as in the case of starting a contemporary worship service.

The argument of his book is like what I have heard so many spiritual giants pray – “Lord put me in the center of your will. Let me be part of whatever you are doing.” I’ve learned that great giants seldom feel the need to invoke God’s presence. They know God is there. Like the Latin phrase says, “Invoked or not invoked, God is present.” The key to synchronicity is when we earnestly surrender ourselves to whatever God may be doing at the moment, whether or not we like it. It is in this surrender that we become one with a universe in which everything is up for grabs and just one person can change the future.

I will be refining this article over the next few weeks and then using it as an upcoming article in Net Results. I would your feedback. Suggestions, comments, criticisms, questions, clarification, etc.