Clayton Christensen: How to pick a pope (or any church leader)

Published: Friday, March 15 2013 5:05 p.m. MDT

Pope Francis on the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.


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According to Clayton Christensen, a professor at the Harvard Business School and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, part of the reason that church membership is declining across the world is due to flexibility. He says people are searching for churches that will allow them to do what they want to do and believe what they want to believe.

"While measures of attendance and religiosity are in retreat, the desire for spiritual guidance isn't," Christensen wrote at The Washington Post. "You'll find almost everybody has fundamental questions that nobody seems able to answer."

"There is a principle that even God adheres to — people will learn when they are ready to learn, not when we’re ready to teach them. The scriptural pattern is that the Lord typically withholds answers until someone asks the salient questions. Yet from the early centuries of Christianity onwards, church leaders unilaterally decided that they had received from God all of the answers.

"This conclusion, then, obviated the need to ask questions and, in response, God was unable to continue to reveal new answers. In a real sense, these church leaders turned out the lights throughout the known world, plunging it into the Dark Ages. And for more than a thousand years, it truly was dark. God was not seen or heard."

Editor's Note: The original version of this story posted on March 15, 2013, failed to properly attribute all source materials, which violates our editorial policies. The story was revised on Oct. 10, 2013, to link to original source material.

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