The Starfish and The Spider: Introduction
The church that Jesus built was simple, reproducible, and flexible. You could kill one of its leaders and more would pop up in his or her place. Often times the persecution that came against the church would serve to strengthen it instead of kill it. This strengthening happened because in the way the church was structured, it was more like a starfish– You can rip of the arm of the starfish and not only would the arm grow back, but the starfish’s ripped arm would become a starfish of its own. There was power in being a simply structured organism that others fail to see.
This is where the book “The Starfish and the Spider” comes in. The authors begin the book detailing the quest to find the “Grandma Cell.” The quest for the Grandma Cell was one scientists went on to find which cells stored certain memories in the brain. They believed they would find that the memory of your grandma would be stored in every brain in a very specific place in multiple people’s brains. But what they found shocked them. Instead of the Grandma cell being stored in one place, they found memories stored in chains of cells distributed haphazardly across the brain. Not only were memories stored in more than one place, but more than one type of memory was stored in the same cell. It was a mess. The question was, “Why?”
The answer, as it turned out, was resiliency. Storing memories across different brain cells seemed inefficient in light of how we build computers, but memories stored this way across the brain protect it from memory loss. There’s not just one cell in the brain you could eliminate to take away someone’s memory of Grandma. You’d have to eliminate all the cells in the pattern. We think there is great safety in hierarchy, but sometimes simple, flat, even messy structures are the wise way to build something.
The book “The Starfish and the Spider” is about what happens when no one is in charge. Often times the hierarchy we think protects us makes us more vulnerable. It takes a look at a broad range of businesses, movements, and organisms that have no formal leadership structure and looks at how they succeed, even though no one believes that they will. As we’ll see, the things the authors learn as they go on their journey will have broad implications for how we “do” church.
More on that tomorrow…