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A Community of Appreciative Inquiry

Written by beyondwords : October 31, 2007

Thanks to John who’s been commenting at Jesus Manifesto and spurring the conversation. John has questions about the emerging church–but I didn’t agree to collaborate here to represent the emerging church, so I’ll just let my posts speak about that to which the Spirit is calling me.

John has quoted several prominent voices on his blog (which seems to be down now so I can’t post a link) in the so-called emerging church, and I told him I don’t have the context for those quotes, so I’m not going to venture a response to them.

But his comments and those quotes got me to thinking along these lines:

Besides being a journalist, I’m also a very part-time consultant with an organizational performance consortium. We did research on various leadership models two years ago, and I learned about the principle of Appreciative Inquiry.

“In AI the arduous task of intervention gives way to the speed of imagination and innovation; instead of negation, criticism, and spiraling diagnosis, there is discovery, dream, and design. AI seeks, fundamentally, to build a constructive union between a whole people and the massive entirety of what people talk about as past and present capacities: achievements, assets, unexplored potentials, innovations, strengths, elevated thoughts, opportunities, benchmarks, high point moments, lived values, traditions, strategic competencies, stories, expressions of wisdom, insights into the deeper corporate spirit or soul– and visions of valued and possible futures.”

A few years ago, I would have assumed Appreciative Inquiry is non-biblical. We’re supposed to start with what’s wrong, Sin and the Fall, and apply the principles of Penal Atonement through Christ’s work on the cross as the solution. A few verses of Scripture seem to reinforce the validity of this approach.

But the full sweep of Scripture, not least the continuing pattern of returning from Exile, the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and even Paul’s methods of evangelism, all start with what’s good about God’s creation and us, his creatures. And then, since we’ve all suffered and contributed to what’s gone wrong with God’s plan, we give the good news about how Jesus is reconciling and restoring us and his creation.

Of course, as forgiven people being transformed by Jesus, our appreciative inquiry has the redeemed wisdom of the Holy Spirit. We’re not taking one step forward and two steps back in our own strength, as the old cliche goes. We are conducting Redeemed Appreciative Inquiry.

So, I wonder if some of the concerns John and others have about the emerging church are due to misunderstanding the methods of redeemed appreciative inquiry. To build relationships and share the gospel in the context of community, we must start with what’s good and what we have in common before we share what God is doing to move forward in his purposes. Of course we don’t leave people there, struggling in their own strength. We introduce them to Wisdom fulfilled and engage them in a new way to be human in Jesus.

We could be called a Community of Appreciative Inquiry.

for further reading . . .

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