Posted by: riverchilde | May 17, 2011

Crowd-sourcing the church

Are military officials reading Parker Palmer and Clay Shirkey now? (If they aren’t, they should be!) It seems that the U.S. Navy has taken the best ideas of cooperative learning, open sourcing, creative problem-solving and popular culture to find new ways of combating Somalian pirates. Who knew the U.S. government could be so creative and open to outside ideas? (And who knew that “crowdsourcing” was even a term, much less that it had its own website?) This quote by the naval research offices innovation chief (what a cool-sounding job: innovation chief!) about sums it up: “We live in an echo chamber…The challenge is, you always want to have an audience that’s diverse in background, diverse in thinking. It’s those intersections where you see creativity occurring.”

I never thought I’d hear myself saying this, but the church could take a few lessons from the government (although I think there’s something in there that reflects the model of checks and balances in Martin Luther’s doctrine of  two kingdoms if someone wants to tease it out–and put a decent and concise summary of the doctrine on the Internet while they’re at it). The idea of “crowdsourcing” is clearly a concept that resonates with people in our post-modern society. Nadia Bolz-Weber, founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado, understands and communicates this well. In her address during Luther Seminary’s Book of Faith Jubilee, she said, “My people are producers, not consumers.” So “church” is crowdsourced in a variety of ways at House for All, some of which work, and some, she admits, that don’t. But “liturgy means ‘the work of the people,’ ” she reminds us, and so the people provide the liturgy.

I think of God’s word to Pharoah of “Let my people go!” Today, perhaps God’s word to the echo chamber that is the church is “Let my people in!” Maybe we need a class in crowdsourcing at seminary?



  1. I like that idea! Maybe we could start with a few students doing it as a shared independent study next year, and pilot it that way? Let me know if you’re up for it!

  2. Sounds intriguing, Mary! Do you know of any other students who might be interested?

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