My wife has a phrase she uses to describe what she does as a mother (and as my wife). The phrase she shares with others is, “All I do is manage chaos.” With our three children’s educational, recreational, and relational schedules, along with her vocation, in addition to my duties and obligations as a lead pastor, our church commitments, and our pursuits to connect with other individuals and couples—we are constantly running. Thus, you could understand how my wife could utter the phrase, “All I do is manage chaos.” But, truth be known, she doesn’t just manage our familial chaos, she’s incredibly gifted in that God uses her to order our chaos.
I think many pastors and church leaders feel a lot like my wife when it comes to church matters—they are simply managing chaos. A simple definition of chaos is, “A lack of order; or, a state of extreme confusion and disorder.” Living in, or even feeling like you are managing, chaos is not fun. Chaos can be overwhelming and exhausting. Chaos can leave us frustrated and discouraged. Chaos can lead us spiraling further into a dark hole of hopelessness and despair.
What if I told you that not all chaos is bad? In fact, when we begin reading the very first chapter of the Bible, we learn that God started with chaos. In verse 2, after God created the heavens and the earth, we read “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths….” And we know what happened from there—God brought order to that which was in chaos. Therefore, not all chaos is bad chaos.
In fact, if God started with chaos to bring about order, then chaos is part of the process of any life, organization, or church on their journey to order, functionality, and flourishing. What does it look like to image God in bringing order to chaos? Think O.R.D.E.R.
To bring order to chaos you’ll need to know the overall objective. In other words, you need to know and be able to see the big picture. God was able to bring order to chaos because He knew what the finished product was supposed to look like. If churches are going to bring that which is chaotic into order, functionality, and flourishing, then they are going to have to understand what the complete picture is supposed to look like. If you don’t aim at anything you will hit nothing every time.
To bring order to chaos you’ll need reason. In other words, you will need discernment and judgment to know the kind of framework and environments you need for the objective—for the mission, life, and discipleship—to flourish. God brought order to chaos because He had thought through the kind of environments He needed to place the sun, moon, and stars; the kind of environments He needed to place birds and sea creatures; and the kind of environment He needed to place animals, bugs, and people. In short, God knew what He wanted to create and thus had analyzed the kind of environments that were needed in order for life to function and flourish.
To bring order to chaos you’ll need to be able to make decisive decisions. Because God knew what the big picture looked like and had reasoned what He needed to do to accomplish the big picture, He was able to make decisions with clarity and decisiveness. One of the things I have seen, over the years, that holds back churches from bringing order, functionality, and flourishing is the ability to make decisive decisions and to stick with them. Keep in mind that the decisions you make today should be sustainable for tomorrow. In other words, decisions that bring order to chaos are ones that are based upon the overall objective and what is needed to accomplish it.
To bring order to chaos you’ll need to empower others. God enlisted humanity and empowered them to fulfill His objective. In verses 26–28 we see God’s overall objective being extended to mankind. He had created mankind in His image and tasked them with being fruitful, multiplying, and filling the earth as well as subduing the ground and exercising dominion. As man fulfilled what God had empowered them to do, they would have been used to fulfill God’s main objective—to create a people for Himself that reflected His glory throughout planet earth. To truly establish order, functionality, and flourishing, you’ll need to empower!
To bring order to chaos you’ll need to rest. On the seventh day God rested. And He was able to rest because He had brought order to that which—at one point–was in chaos. The clearest sign that you have brought order to chaos is the ability to rest, enjoy, and celebrate what has transpired.
Maybe you’re a church planter, a church leader, or a pastor, and things in your opinion are out of control and chaotic. And you feel as though the church is stalled and spinning its wheels. Let me encourage you—don’t fret! Take a deep breath and go to work just like God did and bring O.R.D.E.R. to chaos. And in the power of both the Logos and Spirit of God, you too can look back on God’s work and see that what He can do through you is very good! So, don’t manage chaos…O.R.D.E.R. it!