Unit 7.16 Reinforcing Loop or Balancing Loop?


This table, based on Peter Senge’s systems archetype of a Reinforcing Process (visionary minority) bringing a trend of change to Balancing Process (pragmatic majority) illustrates the two differences between these two components of every social group. There are subtle but very important differences. Any social group has a visionary minority and a pragmatic majority. Both the early Methodists and giant cell churches practice their spiritual disciplines squarely within the realm and with the characteristics of the pragmatic majority. They are very comfortable with routinely obeying minute instructions. This reality has far ranging implications. Generally, it is assumed that an innovative, visionary minority (antithesis) brings new methods to an existing status quo (thesis); the interaction produces a new reality (synthesis). This is the simplest form of cultural change.


Section 1: The Balancing Loop in Peter Senge=s Limits to Growth Archetype

     The image for a Reinforcing Loop is a snowball rolling downhill increasing in momentum and intensity. Happiness is an emerging trend.

      The image for a Balancing Loop is a teeter-totter; happiness is keeping everything in balance.

Reinforcing Loop                                                      Balancing Loop

Emerging Trend                                                          Smooth Cycles

Brings Change                                                            Preserves Stability

Exciting                                                                                   Comforting

Conductors                                                                              Resisters[1]

Leadership                                                                              Management

Big Picture                                                                              Micro-managers

Vision                                                                                                  Details

Proactive                                                                                 Reactive

Responds to Potential                                                 Responds to Anxiety

Entrepreneurial                                                            Institutional

Ready to gamble                                                         Risk averse

Visionary Minority – 16%                               Pragmatic majority – 84%

Church of Piety (sect)                                     Church of Power (church)[2]

Antithesis                                                                                Thesis and Synthesis

External focus                                                             Inward focus

Mission                                                                                    Maintenance

Evangelism                                                                              Resistance to Growth

Ignores Limits                                                           Prevents Competency Limits

Out of control                                                            Under control

Pushes the trend                                                         Thermostat correction

If this simple model of change typified by Peter Senge=s systems archetype Limits to Growth were accurate in it=s application to the cell church and to Wesley=s discipleship system, you would find that they would be more similar to the characteristics of the Reinforcing Loop above, in process with the Balancing loop of the traditional church. Such a discipleship system would be similar to the constantly changing, innovation seeking model advised by what is called today the Aemergent church.@ But the discipleship system practiced by the cell church and by Wesley was definitely an innovation compared to the existing churches in those environments, but the methods themselves more resemble a balancing or pragmatic majority structure rather than a reinforcing or visionary minority structure.

[1]John Ortberg, God Is Closer Than You Think (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 139-141.

[2]Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 40-48, 15-20.

NOTE (my response)



The quote is from Major League Disciple Making: An Overview of the Best Research on the Cell Church, an online course developed for the Institute for Discipleship at www.BeADisciple.com in 2009. Course materials, including these lectures, can be downloaded here: http://www.disciplewalk.com/IFD_MLD_Class_Links.html

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.

This entry was posted in z_Major League Disciple Making. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.