Survival for ancient humans depended on the ability to observe, learn and apply the lesson.  Caveman see friend get eaten by bear.  Lesson:  do not go into caves.  Cavewoman notice corn grow from kernel.  Lesson:  plant corn kernels.  So on and so forth….  Through the painful process of trial and error lessons were learned. 

The fuel for that promotion of human life was fear of death or harm to the individual or the group.  It was all about survival.  Once something worked it was ingrained, even ritualized into the evolving culture.  The status quo was born.  (And for good reason, who wants to be eaten by a bear?)  Survival equaled safety equaled success. 



That ancient desire for survival translated into other arenas of life as time rolled on and human communities evolved. 

 In Jesus’ day, success was defined by being physically well (to be sick meant you were punished by God), gainfully employed in an accepted profession (to be poor was to be punished by God), and blessed with many children (no offspring meant punishment by God).  See the pattern here?

 Jesus’ time also had a status quo about God.  Firm was the belief that obeying the law with perfect execution would bring about the Messiah, God reigning among us.  Many different groups (Pharisees and Sadducees for example) and their interpretation of perfection shamed other groups and individuals as if to say, “If only those other people would get it right, then all would be right.”  The old ways of works righteousness were familiar, comfortable and predictable.  The lines were clearly drawn as to who was in and who was out.

 When Jesus arrives on the scene he attracts those on the out.  He offers them grace, not judgment.  The status quo is so upset they kill him. 

 Just like the religious hierarchy of Jesus’ day, we have applied our ancient survival skills to our institutions, thus protecting the comfortable, predictable status quo.  Its human nature and now it’s a study at two universities posted on  The study made creativity, novelty and newness a goal in the problem solving realm.  According to this study when creativity was expressed, novelty made people uncomfortable (even though that was the goal!). The study revealed an assumption: new ideas and practicality are opposites.  Compounding that barrier to novelty is the social cost

The article ends with the suggestion that institutions would be better served if they took time to learn how to accept new ideas, rather than investing time and new monies into innovation alone.  (

 Survival, predictability and safety have become the standard of some religious institutions.  Some do not take into account anything more than making a payroll or paying a mortgage.  Whew!  Made it this month, now let’s work on next month’s stuff (same old worship order, same old sermon line up, same old Wednesday night Bible study).  That kind of thinking burns out good leadership and grows complacency

 Thriving is balancing those creative dreams with a well laid plan.  Wise risk taking, investing in dreamers AND doers, weighing carefully the costs, dismissing thoughts of failures, builds trust, energy and openness.  Most main line denominations are dying; why not go down swinging hard?  We just might be surprised.

–from one pondering prophet to another–