The Adaptive Challenge – in memory of Dr Peter Steinke (1938-2020)

06 Nov 2020

Photo: Andrew and Pete sharing lunch together in Austin, Texas in October 2019.

By Andrew Ball

In 2005 I reached out to Dr Peter Steinke.  He was a global church health consultant who had helped more churches in North America than most others in the modern age.  The connection resulted in him agreeing to serve and speak to our movement. In October last year, Wendy and I had lunch with him in a Texas BBQ Restaurant in Austin, his home town.  

Sadly Pete passed away suddenly in July this year, and so my collegiate relationship and friendship has ended.   His work continues to impact thousands of church leaders including me with profound insight.   These excerpts are but a small example of his wonderful ministry. 

‘Turn your ears to wisdom and concentrate on understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.’ (Proverbs 2: 2-6).

‘Today’s churches fight over music, tradition, doctrine, liturgy, styles of leadership, prophecy, money, personalities, furnishings, sound systems, use of the kitchen, moral issues, staff performances, sermons, and space and buildings. Some churches shift from crisis to crisis. Others intentionally, patiently and wisely learn from their troubles’. 1

‘Transformation is a process. It may take five years, a generation, or perhaps even forty wilderness years to see its effects. Early in the process it isn’t possible to tell how transformed a church might become. … The challenge of change for a congregation on a steady downward slope is precisely to redefine and redirect its mission. 2

‘Mission is what God is doing for the sake of the world. And the Christian church is to become an instrument of God’s redemptive purposes within the world. The church’s mission is to minister to the elemental needs of the neighbour; it is to safeguard the earth as its vocation’. 3

‘The Indo-European word leith, for leader, means to ‘go forth to die’. In the Dutch language, one of the words for leader might be translated martyr – one who suffers. Is it foolish to ask: “How can I lead and stay alive”? Perhaps not. I have seen capable, honest leaders depicted as inept and devious. I have seen leaders of great integrity castigated for being selfishly motivated, and ultimately turned away’. 4

‘”Metanoia” is the antidote for “paranoia,” the Greek word depicting the state of being out of one’s mind. Paranoia leads to the loss of self-regulation, self-awareness, and self-definition. You cannot offer and receive forgiveness in a reactive posture. Paranoid behaviour is defensive. To forgive is to release; to be forgiven is to have the future open to you.’ 5

‘Differentiation is about maturity. Your maturity is determined by how well you balance two emotional needs of being separate and close. The temptation or danger is to lean toward one of the forces intensely and automatically, which leads to emotional cutoff or fusion. In the process, you lose balance and become less resilient in your responses’. 6


1 Teaching Fish to Walk, 2016, New Vision Press, p65

A Door Set Open: Grounding change in mission and hope, 2010, The Alban Institute, p59-60

3 To Make a Difference: Preparing your congregation for a new day, 2017, New Vision Press, p22

4 Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times: Being calm and courageous no matter what, 2006, The Alban Institute, p121

5  Healthy Congregations,1996, The Alban Institute, p93

6  Uproar: Calm leadership in anxious times, 2019, Rowman and Littlefield, p9