Friday, July 01, 2011

The dangers of a single point of failure

I put this on Facebook yesterday, but it bears posting here, where I can excerpt a larger part of it. The author is comparing the redundancies built into an airplane with the common model of church:

Many churches, both large and small, seem to engineer their ministries around the antithesis of redundancy--singularity. A single leader becomes the focus of nearly everything that happens, and I’m not just talking about on Sunday morning. I’ve seen some churches become paralyzed when the senior pastor is on vacation or even just out of the office. He is expected to provide guidance on every decision, every committee, every tiny detail of the church’s life and ministry...

The danger of singularity is increased by the recent trend toward video-based multi-site congregations. Rather than mitigating the risk of having a single teaching pastor, it actually compounds it by making more people and congregations dependent on one person. Now if that one pastor leaves or “fails” many more things are put at risk.

But whenever I’ve discussed this inherent danger with those operating video-based multi-site systems they invariably mention the efficiency and effectiveness of their model. Who can disagree? Utilizing one highly gifted person to impact thousands of people in multiple cities is unquestionably efficient...

But who decided that efficiency and effectiveness were the highest values for ministry? Building airliners with multiple engines, fuel systems, computers, and flight controls is very complicated. And all of those “redundant” parts add a lot of weight to the airplane. More weight results in burning more fuel to move it through the air. Burning more fuel costs the airlines more money to operate the airplane. Those higher costs are transferred to passengers in the form of higher fares. It might be possible to build a very inexpensive airplane with only one engine, one pilot, one computer (powered by Windows 7), and charge only $9.99 per passenger--but would you want to fly on it?

<idle musing>
He pegged one our idols here in the US: efficiency. I would argue that effectiveness doesn't happen—at least not if you are looking for changed lives instead of increased attendance and head knowledge. It certainly is efficient, though! Of course, if you are trying to build a community, it isn't effective...
</idle musing>

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