A book that finds its way into my backpack for repeated readings is Leadership is an Art by Max DePree. He has quite a knack for reducing large thoughts down to succinct but profound phrases. When asked what one of the most difficult tasks of a leader was, he simply said, “the interception of entropy,” a phrase I quote often. “Interception of entropy” has strong biblical basis and many applications for our MSBA churches.
Entropy is a technical term used in thermodynamics, communications, and astrophysics, but it is the same basic concept: that everything in the universe (if left alone) moves toward inaction and degenerates, dissolves, or dies. This applies to everything from subatomic particles to star systems, and from our physical bodies to the body of Christ. We find it as a concept when Paul describes the effect of sin on the cosmos and in our lives in Romans. We find it spelled out in 2 Cor. 4.16a where Paul describes our outer man as decaying. From the moment we are birthed, our bodies age, weaken, stiffen, and break down, a state of affairs I can attest to only too well with my recent back surgery. Earlier this spring I was reduced to short drives, inability to exercise, and constant pain. Thank God Paul goes on to describe the “interception” of entropy in 2 Cor. 4.16b where he says “yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” Since my back surgery the pain is gone, I can now drive to the outer reaches of the MSBA, and work a full day.
Did you notice the passive voice, “being renewed?” I knew from MRI’s of several years ago and more recently what the problem was: herniated disc at L3. But I had tried all of the therapy, the drugs, the exercise, and nothing was helping that had helped in the past; I needed a more drastic course of action, and expertise I couldn’t provide myself. The neurosurgeon expertly plied his trade and now I am on the mend. I now have a part in my own recovery as I rehabilitate my back and recover strength in a prescribed manner that I don’t particularly like (no lifting of anything >10 lbs., no golf, no fishing, no yard work, no twisting, no pressure on my core for X number of weeks till the disc totally heals up inside). I can’t see the disc healing, and I don’t have any pain, so it is frustrating to follow these steps, but for long term recovery I know they are necessary.
So on a physical level, disease, friction, and age will eventually lead to total breakdowns; we must find ways to consciously and deliberately arrest them or get help to do so. On a spiritually personal level we can know for years that we have a sin problem, and we can see ourselves going downhill toward an inevitable end, but we cannot pull ourselves out of it. Salvation is not a grand self-help program, it is a glorious “interception of entropy” when Christ arrests our plunge into eternal death and infuses us with His life (Rom. 6.23). We need to apply this phrase “interception of entropy” to the life of our church as well. On a spiritually corporate level it may be time for our churches to answer some tough questions: have we taken stock of our situation honestly? Is there some area of church life where erosion (i.e., entropy) is taking place and we won’t admit it? Are we using any kind of accountability or metrics to measure that entropy? Is it time to change directions? to change a methodology, to shuffle personnel, to infuse our congregation with something or someone new? to redefine what it means to be a church? On a denominational basis I am hearing this conversation broaden to include declining baptisms, church closings, or an overall direction for the entire body of Christ. Disciples tend to slide, coast, or come to a standstill unless there is a deliberate, intentional training/equipping of each Christ follower.
A body, a life, a church, a part of the entire body of Christ can have its downward spiral halted, but only if there is a deliberate “re”--- a re-newal, a re-direction, a re-calibration, a re-creation, a re-invigoration, a re-pentance. What are you doing to “intercept entropy?” What is your church doing to “intercept entropy?” (Colossians 3.10)