The N-I-H Syndrome

In the early days of computer software development, nearly everything was proprietary. Everyone kept their methods and internal structures secret, and rejected most of what anyone else was doing. If we needed something we did not have, we designed it and wrote it. There was no way we were going to try to migrate someone else’s software into our environment. No one else did things are way, and it wasn’t worth the trouble to convert it. We called it the “Not Invented Here” syndrome, or NIH for short.

Unfortunately, many ministries today are still stuck in an NIH syndrome of sorts. They have their methods and practices. And since the leaders are expected to know what they are doing, it is very difficult for them to deal with some of the newer possibilities that are emerging, such as “spiritual formation” and “inner healing.” It is tempting for them to dismiss these areas as “not invented here” in order to protect the status quo. The problem is that most of Western Christianity has lost its way, and we need help. Protecting the status quo is not working!

My friend Sam Stalcup came up with a wonderful analogy for this problem. Imagine a hospital that only does appendectomies. If you feel sick and go there, they operate on you and take out your appendix. If you still don’t feel better, they simply schedule you for another appendectomy. That’s all they do there. And if it still doesn’t help, there must be something peculiar about you that keeps you from responding to treatment.

Now there is nothing wrong with having a ministry focus. But we must never lose sight of the larger view of the Kingdom.

We need to realize that transformation is incredibly comprehensive in scope. There are multiple direct sources or causes for transformation, there are a number of essential aspects regarding how we must participate with those resources, and there are several overall contexts that can foster or hinder the entire process. In fact there are so many facets to transformation that no one ministry or minister can plum the depths of all of them. But ministries can specialize in certain areas, and they can offer general support to the whole of transformation.

And since different ministries are only able to focus on certain aspects of transformation, it follows that ministries need each other, just as people need one another. More than we know. We need to grow up past the Not-Invented-Here stage of maturity and move on to something more interactive and respectful for what each of us brings to the table. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you.”

Being more teachable is a great place to begin. Especially since it is one of the elements necessary for transformation.



For more on the big picture of transformation, see David’s book Transformation by Design.

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