by Samuel Rowen
It is important for missionary strategists to take note of the ebb and flow of people in urban areas, and to realize that things will not continue the same forever.
A painting I once saw in Sao Paulo, Brazil, showed a dense forest of bodies, with crowding so great that people were being pushed into the ocean to drown. The common image that rises before one’s eyes when the subject of urban growth in this century is raised, is one of unremitting expansion at an accelerating rate until population goes from shore to shore without brakes. Many of the projections published give the impression that the rate of increase is speeding up each year, and that cities will continue to flow outward as long as there is space. The photos of Mexico City, of the urban megalopolis of the Western world, and of the cities of Japan add credence to this image. However, the statistics do not show such a uniform and ever-increasing movement.
Daniel Vining, Jr. (Scientific American, April, 1985) discusses the relative growth in terms of "core" and "peripheral" urban areas. Core areas are those of the inner city, where there is a dense population. In most urban areas of the Third World, the core areas have not disintegrated as have many in the U.S., but continue to attract large numbers of people. However, the rates of growth are quite varied according to the influence of a number of identifiable factors. Vining’s study related the experience of 46 countries on all continents, though lack of reliable statistics from the years 1950 to 1970 did not allow a complete coverage of Africa.
The factors that cause urban areas to grow at a rate much higher than the national average are evident. People in the city typically enjoy a higher standard of living than those in rural less developed countries (LDCs). They enjoy not only higher incomes but better housing, better health services, more adequate transportation, education, and the general excitement and variety of activities that cities provide. In many countries there are also other factors that push people to the cities. People move as commercial agriculture takes over or plantations expand, buying out small landholders who can no longer earn a livable wage. In this and similar ways there is a continued stimulus to move.
With the increase in the number of people, there are greater markets for products, so industrial investment also increases in the urban area, near markets, near the source of supply, and at the place where skilled workers are available. All of these factors increase pressure on the political system to increase investment in the urban infrastructure-roads, electricity, telephones, water, and sanitation services. These further increase the advantages of the core over the outlying periphery, and so even more people are drawn to the cities.
There comes a time, however, when such growth is too much. For instance, Cairo has reached such a high concentration that the advantages have diminished. The transportation system has become so clogged that walking is faster than riding a bus, and much faster than driving and trying to find a parking place.
As the urban dweller’s economic level increases to a certain threshold, from $2,500 to $3,000 per capita earnings annually, the problems of the core become such that the area around the core becomes more attractive. Core population increase begins to drop, while the near periphery continues to expand. An example of this is Caracas, Venezuela. The limited space in the valley which the city occupies has been filled and wherever possible the waves of population have washed up the mountain sides, either in squatter settlements or high rise apartments. The result has been that as better roads reach into other valleys, other urban areas become attractive for industries, so both to the east and west of Caracas there are cities that are increasing in population at a higher rate than the core.
In some countries another factor appears to have stunted the core growth. Santiago, Chile, and Lima, Peru, are cases where there was an economic slump during the 1970s that decreased the attraction of the city. These countries already had a relatively large industrial base, and in the case of Santiago, Chile, the recession of the late ’70s and ’80s signaled a radical reduction in employment opportunities in the city. Expansion decreased rapidly.
A further factor is evident in the communist countries, where people’s movement is controlled at the local level. In these countries, though similar to the LDCs, they have been able to limit the growth of cities and in some cases even reduce the population. Ho Chi Minh city and Pnom Penh are two examples where people were forced out of the cities to work in the country, thus limiting the urban growth.
Governments are forced to make some hard decisions if urban areas are not to become unmanageable. Either they can make the decision to invest in outlying areas so that the whole country develops together, or there will be continuing pressure on the core. However, since those in the core have the political clout, they apply pressure to upgrade the services in the core, which may exacerbate the problem.
It is important for missionary strategists to take note of the ebb and flow of people in urban areas, and to realize that things will not continue the same forever. The huge capital invested in church buildings of the inner cities of the U.S. should make people think twice about investing in real estate instead of in human resources. Church planting strategies should aim more at people, at providing "koinonia" with smaller and less expensive facilities. The church should always be in a position to fold her tents and migrate when necessary. -James H. Emery, Missionary Internship.
Success in business is determined not by an I executive’s skills alone, nor by the visible features-the strategy, structure, and reward system—of the organization. Rather, the organization itself has an invisible quality—a certain style, a character, a way of doing things—that may be more powerful than the dictates of any one person or any formal system. To understand the soul of the organization requires that we travel below the charts, rule books, machines and buildings in the underground world of corporate cultures."
In this way Ralph H. Kilmann ("Corporate Culture," Psychology Today, April, 1985) applies the concept of culture to organizational life. He says, "Culture provides meaning, direction and mobilization, a social energy that moves the corporation into either productive action or destruction." The birth of a new organization is accompanied by a burst of energy. The corporate culture forms rather quickly in the light of the organization’s mission. Everyone is captivated by this dynamic drive and energy is directed toward the organization’s goals.
A culture may be very functional at first. However, with the passage of time it becomes an entity in itself. Energy and resources are directed toward sustaining the life of the organization. Even when the culture of the organization becomes dysfunctional, members of the organization "learn the ropes" and work toward the maintenance of the organizational culture. Even when new "top" executives enter the culture and vow to bring about change, they find that the culture is often bigger than they are.
Mission agencies exhibit many of the characteristics Kilmann mentions in his article. Most of the agencies began with great dynamism and energy when a vision of a task was borne by an individual or group of individuals. Over time the organizations grow and develop a distinct lifestyle. When a mission agency gets caught in a rut it seems almost impossible to escape. Kilmann offers not only a way of assessing the corporate cultures that have emerged in mission agencies, but also a sense of hope about how these cultures can change and be renewed.
Organizations develop norms of appropriate behavior. They consist of such things as whether or not it is proper for a member to disagree in public with the "boss." The norms are not necessarily written, but they become known by the members of the corporation. People who violate these norms soon find themselves in cultural conflict." The need to be part of a family gives leverage to cause people to comply with the norms.
Conflicts become intense when there is a gap between the desired norms and the accepted norms. The courage to question the accepted norms requires the courage of a prophet. However, the prophet is not without honor, except in one’s own culture. People outside the organization may find the individual’s ideas and behavior appropriate, but inside the organization this kind of behavior is problematic and "counter-revolutionary" forces quickly come into play.
The author has developed an instrument to measure the gap between what the culture is and what it should be. It is called the Kilmann-Sacton Culture Gap Survey. Over 400 norms were collected from more than 25 different kinds of organizations. These were reduced to a final set of 28 norms which were derived statistically and clinically. An organization can be evaluated in terms of these norms. The manner in which an organizational culture has become dysfunctional can then be assessed.
The purpose of the organizational cultural evaluation is to close the gaps. Kilmann notes, "Without a supportive culture, every action by top management will be discounted by the groups below-even top-down efforts to change the culture." Organizational renewal is related to understanding how corporate cultures become dysfunctional and the processes of cultural change.
Single Parent Families
Since 1970 there has been almost a 100 percent in-I crease in single parent families ("The Atlanta Constitution," May 15, 1985), according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau. Single parent families now constitute 25.7 percent of all family situations. In 1980 it was 21.5 percent and in 1970 it was 12.9 percent.
Premarital births, separations, and divorces were the main reasons for the growth in one parent families. There was an increase in the percentage of males heading the single family households, but females still lead over 90 percent of these households.
Increasing studies indicate the psychological scars that children bear when they come from home situation: providing poor or inadequate parenting. When one out of every four homes has children lacking adequate pa rental models, it means that a proportion of the missionaries of the next generation will be coming from these kinds of home experiences. There is no indication that the trend is about to slow down or reverse itself.
The problem is not simply that the missionary pool will include large numbers of candidates who grew up in single parent homes. There will also be more single parent applicants. There is the problem of how this will impact the preaching of the gospel. A Japanese pastor remarked that the spread of the gospel in his land will be accelerated when there are sufficient models of the Christian family to be seen by his people. If the glory of God is to be declared among the nations, it will require strong Christian families. The present situation is not too promising. Will the day come when single parent homes will be in the majority? A reversal in this trend is important for the future shape of missions.
Popular education means education for the people. It comes "out of a Latin American reality of stucturally induced poverty, but has much to share with education all over the world." Francis O’Gorman discusses the underlying assumptions of this approach to education ("Popular Education in Brazil," Occasional Essays: Latin American Evangelical Center for Pastoral Studies, XI:1,June 1984).
In listening to the proponents of popular education, it is easy to transfer many of the same concerns to the development of leadership in the church. A peasant from Northeastern Brazil expressed the need as: "Our struggle is that the poor should see with their own eyes, hear with their own ears, speak with their own mouths and walk with their own feet."
Popular education represents a threat to the establishment in that it attempts to break the dependency relationships of society. The outcomes are aimed at bringing about a shift in the concentration power. Ross Kinsler makes a similar point in his article about theological education by extension (TEE) when he asks if TEE is service or subversion. He concludes that it is subversive, because it is trying to subvert the power structures of the church away from the hierarchically clergy centered church to a people-of-God-centered church.
O’Gorman says that popular education was "catapulted into the ’80s by an effervescent and disquieting socio-political awareness that the world, as it is lived by the oppressed poor, calls into question the world presented by the dominant powers in society." From the Base Communities of Paraiba, Brazil, in February, 1982, the following comment emerged.
There are two ways of getting to know life; from books and school, and from daily life. The knowledge of the "great ones" is a knowledge which we learn in the family, in school and in their organizations. The knowledge of the poor people is a knowledge which we learn in the family, in school and in the community. In the family, in school and in the organizations of the "great ones," as well as in our own family and school, the rule is: one commands and the others obey, one speaks and the others keep silent. We do this so often that we end up thinking that this is the normal way for things to happen. And everyone begins to act this way. But in the community things are different: we learn to liberate ourselves by thinking together, deciding together, and acting together.
O’Gorman notes that "popular education is for and by the common people." The language of the article is politically charged. This should not cause excessive concern because all of community life, whether in society or in the church, is political in nature. In looking at the church as community, it is important to assess the political dimensions of that life together. Shortly after the apostolic age, the church took on a form of political life with power residing at the top and the masses expected to be responsible to the decisions that flowed down. The attempts by the church to recover the understanding of the priesthood of all believers have not been too successful. The Reformers, though giving strong verbal assent to the doctrine, never altered totally the political structures of the church.
Education is still the key to power. However, education is still controlled by schools. Unless one has the right schooling labels, it is difficult to see oneself as having control over one’s life. The emergence of popular education in Brazil has some important lessons for the church, if it wants to break the existing power grip and return to the priesthood of all believers.
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