Cooperrider and Srivastva define Appreciative Inquiry (AI) as a strategy for intentional change that identifies the best of "what is" to pursue dreams and possibilities of "what could be.” This is done in the context of interactive collaborative relationships; a cooperative search for the strengths, passions and life-giving forces that are found within every system and that hold potential for inspired, positive change. This has become a revolutionary way of managing organizations and people. (See the incredible website from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.)
AI is a way of collecting and celebrating "good news stories" of a community; these stories serve to enhance cultural identity, spirit and vision. Through these positive stories, the inquiry moves that community to identifying the best and highest qualities in organizational systems, particular situations, and in other human beings. AI focuses on an appreciation for the "mystery of being" (a term coined by Christian philosopher Gabriel Marcel) and a "reverence for life" (a term borrowed directly from Albert Schweitzer).
As I've studied this new way of moving organizations toward positive change, I am reminded that the gospel is about positive change. The “good news” is the story of how God is redeeming his Creation, starting with the restoration of the image of God in humanity. The strength of Appreciative Inquiry is found in its determination to find that which gives life. The focus is on identifying potential and bringing out the best in people.
I’ve been in search of a new way of doing outreach that affirms the image of God in people, encouraging them to submit to God’s grace of restoring this imago Dei through Jesus Christ.
I have found that asking positive questions that draw out the best in people and then pointing people to the glorious destiny of creation that God intends opens and encourages gospel-centered conversations more than solely negative-based proclamation about sin and judgment.
Perhaps AI is a tool we can learn from toward this end.
More on Appreciative Inquiry Evangelism:
- Appreciative Inquiry Evangelism: A new paradigm
- Appreciative Inquiry – an Overview
- Our Theological Grid Determines Our Evangelism: Toward an Appreciative Inquiry Evangelism
- Using Appreciative Inquiry to Discern Structure and Direction
- How to have an Appreciative Inquiry evangelistic conversation
technorati tags: emerging church, missional, missional community, spiritual formation, postmodernity, evangelism