I have been thinking in recent weeks about the role of leadership in transitioning and in particular a kind of transitioning that requires a paradigm shift of crafting a new culture. For example, how does a church that has largely been ingrown and maintenance-driven become outward-focused and mission-driven? How do you lead a church that has been static and on “ecclesiological birth control” to experience a movement of reproduction through individuals, gospel communities, and eventually daughter churches?
Those are significant questions been asked by many people today, and I don’t pretend to have the answer. Yet, I would like to hash out something that I am calling triperspectival transitioning for crafting a new culture. Triperspectival transitioning (TT) is a leadership approach built upon the three perspectives/offices of Christ’s mediation, namely prophet, priest and king. These perspectives are intended to serve the purpose of helping church leaders through times of transition. Through the various phases of transitioning, the various perspectives of prophet, priest, and king play a pivotal role in shaping or crafting the new culture leaders are hoping to birth.
I have laid out TT in a seven-phase process where each perspective carries the lead role (at least) twice. Here is a simple diagram that shows the seven components:
Another way people have explained triperspectivalism is situational, existential, and normative. The flow of the TT process unfolds in along each perspective. As leaders, you are looking to craft a new culture from what is (situational) to what you believe it should be (normative) by shepherding your people through change (existential).
Usually, the three perspectives are laid out in the following manner:
Prophet » normative (lead communicator, casts vision, directs focus and purpose)
Priest » existential (lead counselor, cares & understands people best, gets to the heart)
King » situational (lead catalyst, implements vision via systems/processes, administrates)
The TT process for crafting culture adequately addresses where you are (situational), where you want to be (normative), and how you will get there (existential). Here is how the phases break down according to perspectives:
Phase 1: Conception/Creation » ALL
Phase 2: Communication » Prophet
Phase 3: Cultivation » Priest
Phase 4: Collaboration » King
Phase 5: Calibration » King
Phase 6: Clarification/Concentration » Prophet
Phase 7: Celebration/Commendation » Priest
Summarily speaking, every perspective leads in the conception or creation of the culture you are seeking to craft. Though one might assume the prophet would conceive the vision, it is not always so. However, the prophet leads out in phase 2 with the communication of the vision. The priest follows up by cultivating what has been communicated by leading in counseling and personal interaction, gaining an accurate pulse on the response and reaction in the TT process. The king builds on the work of communication and cultivation and presents a system or process for implementing the vision. By gleaning from the priest, he understands who, how, and where to assimilate people to fulfill the vision in a collaborative effort. Over a period of time, the new culture begins to be owned by more than the leadership, and the vision begins to be communicated on secondary and less formal levels.
As more people are assimilated and engaged in the collaborative process, kingly leadership must bring alignment and calibration according to the vision so that alternative cultures or shadow purposes are not pursued. Because it is highly likely there may be discouragement, fear, or confusion in the culture shift, the prophet brings renewed clarity to the vision and focus in concentrating on the vision that has been embraced. As the new culture is being crafted, the priest celebrates small wins and commends the people as they embrace the change or process, recognizing how difficult it has been (at least) for some of them. Together, lead perspectives of prophet, priest, and king compliment and balance one another to provide a healthy process of transitioning and crafting a new culture.
Notice how a missing perspective would affect the TT process:
» If in your leadership you have prophets and priests but no kings, you will have sufficient vision and support, but you will not legs or follow-through to get you there. (phases 4 and 5 will be lacking)
» If in your leadership you have priests and kings but no prophets, you will have support and system, but you will not have the vision to direct you forward, lacking clarity and purpose. (phases 2 and 6 will be lacking)
» If in your leadership you have prophets and kings but no priests, you will have the vision and the systems to accomplish that vision, but you will not have the support of the people to follow your lead. (phases 3 and 7 will be lacking)
Furthermore, since we are looking to transition and craft a culture, it is instructive to consider how the perspectives play a “critical” or “catalytic” role in the process. Let me explain.
In a healthy culture, the priest is lead counselor, but the catalyst is the prophet because he will be communicating vision to help people see what they do not already see, thus creating the impetus for transitioning and embracing change. While the prophet is the lead communicator to what should be normative, but the priest plays a critical role to ensure that every person understands and embraces the change to make it normative for them. The TT process, appreciating the balance and wisdom of each perspective, is able to address weaknesses and blind spots in crafting culture so that the transition is sufficiently assessed.
The benefit of seven phases in the TT process is that it reveals specific areas in crafting the culture that you made need to develop more than others, and knowing which perspective serves each phase the greatest will allow you to determine the right person to lead at any given point. While I have presented the TT process in a rather linear manner (phase 1 to 7), it will overlap (organically) and look considerably messier when it is fleshed out.
The purpose of thinking through the TT process has largely come from evaluating effectiveness in shepherding God’s people through changes and learning from the mistakes I have made. We all have blind spots. We all are going to be faced with judgment calls that in hindsight we would do differently. But I believe that frontloading the critical process of leadership roles in processing necessary change or crafting a new culture will go a long way in shepherding people with greater care and oversight as those whom God has entrusted to our care and are called to lead on mission.