Surfing on the Edge of Chaos

During a talk on the church and ministry, Dave Dunbar of Biblical Seminary ( spoke about a concept called “surfing on the edge of chaos. It was in part derived from a book of the same name (check it out here). Whatever the value of the book is, I love and fear the concept of surfing on the edge of chaos. You can’t plan out or predict the future, but you can prepare yourself and get ready to move once the wave comes.

I love the possibility that this type of thinking leaves a lot up to God and the leading of his Spirit. We wait for God to move, preparing ourselves for that moment. What frightens the dickens out of me is “what does it look like to prepare?” I think that sometimes we get so consumed in the preparation that we confuse it with the wave. We spend all of our time in the surf shop and never really hit the waves. And even if we brave the cold ocean waters, it strikes me as intimidating to try to figure our which wave I should take.

The line between too much planning and reckless abandon seems very gray. When have we planned and programmed so much that God and his Spirit are stifled? I think that is one of the most important questions that we can wrestle with today. I know that it is on the minds of many 20-somethings in ministry who are suspicious of modern church programs. How can we be faithful to the Spirit, while negotiating the organization that will be necessary and inevitable in ministry?

One thought on “Surfing on the Edge of Chaos

  1. nate hulfish

    We weren’t using your exact terms (even though I’ll act as if we did…you’ll get the "drift"), but Adam and I were talking last night about the waters of culture/postmodernism (chaos)…and those who are treading into the waters and learning to surf its waves.

    A friend of mine is a surfer. He and I are attending the Soularize Conference in CA next week and he has promised to teach me how to surf. He assures me that after a few hours, I’ll be hooked. He says, "That’s how surfing works…a few hours and you’re hooked."

    As I have ventured out of the surf shop (so to speak), I find myself floating on the water…I find myself trying to surf this wave or that. I’ve been here a few hours (so to speak) and I’m hooked.

    I commented to Adam that what I love about where we are in our walk and conversation is that we don’t have a road map…there’s not a formula or a blueprint that we have to follow…it’s fluid, we’re floating. And as we float on the waters…we’re allowing the Holy Spirit to move.

    Preparation is a matter of simply floating on the water and allowing the Holy Spirit to move. It does have to do with organization…getting my bearings…zipping my wetsuit up…strapping my board on…pointing myself in the right direction. But I find myself doing these organizational things naturally (I see their necessity). And while they help me in the water and on the waves, they do not change the water or the waves. There’s nothing wrong with organization. I think we need to realize that there’s a difference between organization and programization.

    And then beyond floating (preparing, organizing), it becomes a matter of picking a wave out and riding it in…but then treading back out, picking another one and riding again…and again and again. In a sense, it doesn’t matter which waves we take…for each wave makes us better surfers. What matters is that we stay in the water (in the chaos) and learn to surf.

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