Addressing Change: The Parable of the Emu and the Caterpillar

Posted: July 1, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

ImageI remember once riding a motorbike in the bush on the outskirts of Kalgoorlie. Alongside the track on which I was riding was a fence and on the other side of the fence an emu began chasing me. This emu may have been confused and upset at the sound of a motorbike, but instead of running away from me, it was running alongside me, constantly crashing into the fence that was clearly getting in the way of its efforts to attack the offending machine.

The emu and its futile efforts remind me of organisations (and I include the church) that struggle with the idea of change. Sometimes the fences are so secure and our view of the world is so narrow that change becomes a painful and frustrating exercise. The result is that change management involves re-educating emus, re-building fences that have been damaged, or are in the wrong place, and learning how to deal with offending motorcycles on the other side of the fence.

Compare this story with that of a caterpillar that has movement built into its body. There have been some fascinating discoveries recently about the way caterpillars move. (You can see a great video of this movement here). It seems that their internal organs move, followed by their legs. As they make their way up a leaf or branch their body maneuvers across all sorts of barriers in a very natural way, and every part of their body, led by their guts, move together to overcome the obstacle.

Too often organisations operate like emus bashing themselves against fences in a futile attempt at resolving problems, instead of being like a caterpillar that has change built into its system, starting with the internal organs. My observation of the way Jesus launched the church is that it is more caterpillar-like than emu-like. But over the years we have changed.  

It seems that for us to address the issues associated with a changing world and changing society, and for the church to survive in this new environment, we need to think of ourselves as being more like a caterpillar. Rather than change being something foreign and difficult, a caterpillar church sees change as a natural part of its existence.  A caterpillar church doesn’t see bumps as obstacles but part of the branch that we have been created to climb. A caterpillar church is constantly moving – gut first.

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