The Square Wheel Obsession–A Heartfelt Plea for Sanity

I don’t like re-posting previous blogs, however while this is not a repeat of the original post, despair drives me to return to the subject of one, because it is an issue that plagues our missional efforts and it is showing very little sign of going away. Indeed, it is symptomatic of the now anachronistic mindset, ‘old-church’ thinking in regard to mission which was last appropriate in the 20th century, then a still relatively ‘Christianized’ society that is now but a distant memory.

The topic I refer to is that of the ‘Square Wheel’ (see the original post at

Interestingly, this is  the most viewed post on this site by a long way, so it must resonate with quite a few people. To recap, the ‘Square Wheel’ image comes from the idea of a bicycle with square wheels- i.e. the design that doesn’t work and importantly won’t work if we try it again.

Even today, as I do some updating of this post I have become aware of another Square Wheel that is being planned at great expense. It is yet another in-drag, attractional strategy into a church building that will require a very large resource investment both in terms of finance and of people time, of the same type that has been failing for years. Once again Einstein’s ‘repeating the same thing and expecting different results’, definition of insanity rings loudly in my mind. When will we realise that-

                             ‘Square Wheels just don’t work!

As I survey the missional landscape and see the strategies being employed there is a sense of despair because they are, with a few glorious exceptions, almost all ‘Square Wheel’ initiatives, those that bore little fruit the last time we tried them! This amounts to a continuing ‘Einsteinian Insanity’, that is keeping on doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Known to have failed ‘Square Wheel’ mission strategies are not likely to work any better the second time around. Indeed, given the rapidly morphing culture they are likely to be even less effective!

Contributing to the despair is the repeated, what might be called, ‘Festival of Square Wheels’. That is when a group of churches, perhaps across a town, all decide to engage together in a ‘Mission’ and synchronize their still ‘Square Wheel’ mission efforts for a period of time. This beggars belief, for ‘Synchronized Square Wheels’ are not likely to be any more effective than their individual components, and experience shows over several decades that they are not!

What is needed, and desperately, is a totally new mindset, and an increased Cultural Intelligence that understands Christendom is dead and that we are in a churning Kaleidoscope culture that has never been before. For this we need a radically new approach that will imagine and create missional vehicles to ‘go on Mission’ into the multitude of church-alien socio-cultural universes of the lost. This instead of keeping on trying to use chronically failing and usually resource heavy ‘Square Wheel’ mission strategies to get essentially pagan Australians into our anachronistic and missionally ineffective Sunday-Centric church services!

My heartfelt plea is that we must consign ‘Square Wheel’ missional efforts along with the square wheel bicycle to the museum of history, for

Once again- if it didn’t work previously it probably won’t f we do it again! For-

‘Square Wheels just don’t work!

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