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First & Second Order Paradigm Change

Change results in “transformation.” Transformation is a new paradigm, a new worldview. Transformation is systemic. It is global. It is not just affecting the Church, but all of the entire social and cultural systems of the planet.

Transformation is intentional and planned. It isn’t just a “new world order” political change, but is also mystical and spiritual.

A key article explaining the transformation process was published in an obscure education reform journal Outcomes in 1991. Outcomes promoted Mastery Learning, a Skinnerian model of education based on operant conditioning methods (also known as Programmed Instruction) that evolved into what was more widely known as Outcome-Based Education (OBE). Education reform was built on the SAME systemic transformative model that is being implemented in the Church today.

Because the same model for transformation is being used, there is much to be gleaned from this article discussing “Paradigm Change: More Magic than Logic” by John C. Hillary. Below are some key excerpts from this article, with commentary that will assist in making the application to Church Transformation.

A bold pronouncement opens Hillary’s article: “A new ‘problematique’ has unraveled the old order and we find ourselves in the open space between old and new eras. . . . Fundamental assumptions about reality are shifting, and we struggle to discover or invent ways to cope with — if not take charge of — change. . . . [W]e need leaders more than ever. . . . ” [emphases added]

Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock, is cited. Toffler is the official guru of Change, and his ideas about Change undergird all subsequent “transformation” efforts. He suggested creating “visions” and “imaginations” for the future. “Transformation” is all about envisioning and re-creating the future.

The next paragraph begins with the classic statement about Change: “Changes in fundamental assumptions about reality link with a shifting and realigning of purposes, cultures, and core processes. . . . [O]ur predominant world view has been called into question by contemporary issues and problems.” [emphases added]

Hillary utilizes a model of First-order Change and Second-order Change, borrowed from others (Levy, et al), to describe this transformation process. This model is helpful to understanding “transformation” in the Church. According to Hillary,

First-Order Change is:

“First-order change does not challenge or contradict the established context of ‘organization.’ People are not usually threatened either personally or collectively by this type of change.” [emphases added]

Second-Order Change is:

“The deeper changes that frustrate leaders and threaten followers are planned second-order changes. . . . These changes intentionally challenge widely shared assumptions, disintegrate the context of ‘organization’ and, in general, reframe the social system. This, in turn, generates widespread ambiguity, discontinuity, anxiety, frustration, confusion, paramoia, cynicism and anger as well as temporary dysfunction.” [emphases added]

First-order Change, according to Hillary, happens in the context of “Core Processes” of an organization. This is superficial and “does not call into question the existing culture, mission/purpose, or organizational paradigm.” In education reform language, “Core processes” referred to the basic operation — the arena of the cafeteria, bus scheduling, building maintenance, etc. These could be changed without creating a paradigm shift in the overall structure and function of the local school.

Likewise, First-order Change in a church could mean changing the hours for services, renovating the building, choosing new choir robes, scheduling nursery workers, etc.

But Hillary’s focus in his article is on Second-order Change, and this is where “transformation” is happening in the Church. Second-order Change challenges the existing CULTURE, MISSION/PURPOSE and ORGANIZATIONAL PARADIGM. Hillary notes:

Change calls into question the status quo and disrupts the alignment among organizational attributes.” [Meaning the items in caps in the paragraph above, which he also refers to as “domains,” ed.] . . . The most disruptive changes — second order changes — . . . call into question the entire context of organization. . . . Paradigm change is therefore not only traumatic in and of itself, but also challenges other attributes and disintegrates the relationship among all domains. The eventual outcome of such change is a ‘transformed’ or ‘renewed’ organization.”

This is a classic model of Change, which creates a crisis, deconstructs the old model, and substitutes a new “transformative” model. Tomorrow, Lord willing, Herescope will examine “orchestrating planned second order change.” In particular, can you identify which type of “Change” your own church is undergoing? Is it superficial First-order Change, or is it dangerously encroaching on the Planned, Intentional Second-order Change that Hillary is talking about? And, what methods are being used to shift your church’s paradigm?

The Truth:

The Bible contains many warnings about deception. The Church Growth Movement has been employing the methodologies of Second-order Change for at least three decades now, getting more sophisticated as time goes on. Much of this paradigm shifting towards Church “transformation” is done by methods of deception and coercion. Pastors and leaders are being trained in these methods. But people in the pew have little knowledge or expertise. All they know is that the music is changing, worship styles are different, or that new programs, curriculums, ideas and projects are being introduced in a manner which is compulsory. “If you don’t like it, you can leave,” parishioners are told.

Just what are these pastors/leaders being trained to do? Stay tuned. . .

“Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abominations to the Lord.” (Prov. 20:10)

“Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.” (Prov. 20:17)

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.” (Prov. 21:2)