Systems thinking opens our eyes to the fact that decisions we don't make will dramatically affect us, and decisions we do make will influence people we may never see.
The biblical story of Jonah is a perfect illustration. Jonah refused to carry God's message of salvation to Ninevah. He ran in the opposite direction. His decision to disobey God threatened the lives of some unsuspecting sailors. They were fighting for their lives, with a storm about to sink their ship. The sailors wanted "to find out who was responsible for this calamity" (Jonah 1:7).
The source of the problem? A man they had never previously met and a decision he had made before the journey had even begun. Jonah had become a part of their system, and all their lives were dramatically affected.
What a great illustration! The root causes of destructive problems may be impossible to pinpoint, or opportunities for growth may be overlooked, if we fail to think in systems terms. In ChurchWorld, systems thinking reveals that seemingly isolated decisions reverberate to affect staff, members, stakeholders, and people within our influence who aren't even a part of our church - yet.
Congregations are spiritual and human social systems that are complex, connected, and changing. If leaders fail to think in systems terms they will not - and cannot - make wise decisions.