Guest post by John Poitevent
"We’ve seen them but never known what they are called. They are those
spaces between ecosystems - between forest and grasslands, between
mountain forest and alpine life zone, between water and land between two
bodies of water - any place where two distinct ecosystems collide and
force adaptation and evolution. It is in ecotones where life happens and
thrives “An ecotonal area often has a higher density of organisms of
one species and a greater number of species than are found in either
flanking community” (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/178617/ecotone).
Evolution does not occur within a stable ecosystem. Adaptation and
growth happens only when the ecosystems come together. So let’s think
about this, first on a personal level and then on a more global level.
On a personal level, think of how marriage works: If one lives alone—in
our own ecosystem, there is little potential for adaptive growth and
adaptive change. I am content within my own ecosystem. But when we marry
we collide with another ecosystem and it is this ecotone that is the
Petri dish for change and growth. “I” and “you” become “we.” I can’t
think about what’s best just for my ecosystem—to make my life work and
she can’t think only about what’s good for her ecosystem to make her
life work. We are forced through this collision to think about what
makes “our” life work. And it is in the space of “we” where change and
growth occur. “It is in this “we” ecotone where the two really do become
Now let’s think about the externally focused church and its collision
with the city. As long as churches remain inside their walls, they,
like a contented single, or a lone inventor, can think all is well, and
the world is working according to plan. But once the church starts
engaging in community, if it wants to transform community, it must be
willing to be transformed by the community as much as it wishes to
transform a community. A church cannot transform an area of cultural
influence that it is not engaged in. If a church is unwilling to grow
and change, it can never be an agent of change for the community. Every
cross-domain collaboration changes those who are engaged.
Churches that are insular and isolated will remain in their own
ecosystem…their own orbit. We will learn to engage culture only by
engaging culture. New possibilities arise for the city and new
possibilities for the church are given birth when ecosystems collide in
this third space."
Read the entire article by Eric Swanson here: What We Can Learn From Ecotones
Prior to his current role as Leadership Community Director for Leadership Network, Eric Swanson served with Campus Crusade for Christ for 25 years. Eric is
co-author of The Externally Focused Church (Group Publishing 2004).