You Can’t Lead Your Employer, Can You?

January 13, 2010 at 2:55 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I was called to lead.  Every cell of my being has been honed from the same DNA.  The experiences of my past have taught me to ignore the bastards, damn the torpedoes, and to charge forward with fresh memories of the Nazis bombing Pearl Harbor!  It’s what I I’ve been called to do.

In the past several years I’ve been a part of a movement within Adventism to restructure the administrative, bureaucratic, and leadership systems of the church.  It has been fun, and challenging.  In a nutshell, this involved moving from a democratic system, to a leadership-driven system.  To move from an elected board that sees itself as the boss, to a board that provides accountability and boundaries to the leader.

Where this has been done, outside of Adventism, it has worked well – sometimes.  However it requires senior leadership to be well differentiated and to not have a failure of nerve.  Both of these are a lot to ask.  In fact, this is quite a battle, and those with whom I was working with have all suffered a lot of setbacks.  Our general was removed from his position and is now in exile in SE Asia.  His assistant is learning to keep her head down and not make eye-contact, while she continues to tweak the system from the sidelines.  Several of us field officers have either been removed, or voluntarily left our positions.  It doesn’t look like the battle is being won right now.

I was talking to a friend the other day and as we talked about and around these issues, he mentioned that the reason he left his previous church is because he didn’t see this “mixed system” working.  I paused a long time as I tried to absorb the import of what he just said.  “What did that mean?” I thought.

This morning, I awoke with a thought.  I think I figured it out.

You can’t lead the people who employ you.  You may have the illusion that you lead them, but as soon as you try to hold them accountable, they will turn on you and you’ll find yourself unemployed.

The New Testament model of church leadership is apostolic.  Christ, as the head of the church, which is His body.  Jesus left the 12 apostles in charge, and through their leadership, teaching, and spiritual discipling, they led the church forward.  Neither Old Testament, or New, the church has never operated on a democratic model.

If Christ gives the leader, or pastor, a vision of where He wants the church to go, it is up to the pastor to carry that out.  In most cases, as long as these ideas and the pastor’s leadership are not too radical, everything will be fine.  In fact, many church congregations will give the illusion that they are following.  Yet as soon as the pastor begins to lead differently, outside the normal channels, or even in a radical way – the members and lay board will have some tough choices to make.

Will they continue to follow, or will they stand up and exercise their power?

My experience this past year was just this.  Upon hiring me, they told me they wanted a leader and they agreed to my terms of leadership.  But when things got outside of their comfort zone, they wrested leadership away from me and scoffed and the very idea that a pastor would be their leader.  They asserted that it was their church and they are the leaders.

As this debated continued on over the next several months, some of these core lay leaders grew impatient with my unwillingness to surrender to their demands.  Not only was I not called to be a puppet, but I was called to correct the issues prevalent in this congregation.  It would be immoral for me to abandon the people I was fighting for – and leave them in the hands of this proud lot who were ignoring these invisible and discarded people.

I don’t mind a bit of conflict, in fact I know that healthy conflict can lead to better, more intimate relationships.  I was content working through the issues, but as I mentioned in a recent post, at some point the men I was in conflict with chose the nuclear option.  Instead of staying in the discussion, they went to my employer – and the employer, instead of working through healthy conflict mediation, chose to eliminate what they saw as the problem – me.

That’s really too bad, because no matter how badly Imy family and I were hurt by this, ultimately, the church we were leading suffers the most.  The people we were standing up for were hurt, but once we get our feet back under us, we can still serve and empower them.  It is those who missed the opportunity to grow, missed an opportunity to serve others, and missed an opportunity to see things differently – they are hurt the worst.  In their ignorance, they will continue to muddle along – but ultimately, and spiritually, they are the biggest losers.

It’s quite sad – and it helps me to understand why Jesus wept as He looked down on Jerusalem the week before He was crucified.

The wise person will listen to those they aren’t required to listen to – no matter how painful the message.

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Mt. Tabor Sunset

November 21, 2008 at 3:28 pm (Uncategorized)

Mt. Tabor, Portland, Oregon - Sunset

Mt. Tabor, Portland, Oregon - Sunset

Photo by Flickr User: ichad

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Community, Transformation, and Transcendence, v.0.2

November 13, 2008 at 10:21 pm (change, Introspection, Musings, Social Networking, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Not only can it be a difficult balancing act to find one’s place between two hard places,  but sometimes the more difficult process is to ascribe to holistic intergrity.  I define itegrity as being one in personal values and public words and actions.  It is relatively easy to have beliefs that are true to oneself, but it get’s much more difficult translating those into actions that are in alignment to those beliefs.

I remember the first time I drank beer.  I was 15 years old and on a scouting campout.  Several, including our troop leader, had brought beer on the trip.  I had tasted beer in the past and had not liked it.  As the evening progressed, I continued turning down the offers of a beer.  There was a cute girl who I had my eye on; she asked me: “Aren’t you going to have a beer?”

“No.  I don’t really like the taste.”

This was the truth.  It was a moral issue.  It wasn’t that I was afraid of getting into trouble.  I just didn’t want one.

A couple of hours later this same girl came over and asked me why I was drinking a beer now.  “I thought you weren’t going to have one?” She asked.

I was stunned.  I was caught flat footed.  I didn’t know what to say.  She didn’t know that for every awful sip I took, I poured about a quarter of the can onto the ground.  She didn’t give me slack for bowing to peer pressure either.  That was the last time she and I had a significant “conversation.”  I’ll never forget her look of disgust at my lack of integrity.

I wouldn’t ascribe to be a follower of Jesus if I didn’t believe in what he taught and the work He came to accomplish on this planet.  To me, it isn’t enough to “play” church.  I need to be a fully developed follower.  I believe that one of the greatest causes of atheism today is the total lack of integrity within the Church.

The reason I bring up this topic is two-fold.  I’ve found that if I even mention that I’m a Christian, many people will write me off as a religious zealot.  The conversation stops.  It isn’t safe for me to ascribe, publically, to my Kingdom values.  On the otherhand, if I talk about my friendships outside of the church club, I am often labeled a heretic, immoral, and unsafe.  “Why would I want to hang with the unchurched, unless I was partaking of their immoraliity?” Or so the argument goes.

The reality is, I am a very devoted follower of Jesus, I am loyal to the church, but I refuse to abandon my conversation with the rest of the World.  Jesus didn’t call us to erect walls and build a fortress against the elements of the world.  To the contrary, He called us to be “salt” and “light” in the world.  Specifically He said, “Be in the world, but not of it.”

Maybe that’s why so many so-called Christians have difficulty being a part of the world?  Maybe they can’t be in the world without being of the world?  Maybe they fear their own weakness towards the slipper slope of indiscretion?  Maybe they don’t know how to maintain personal integrity?

On the other hand, I believe the unchurched are afraid of the churched because of the blatant proselytizing.  And the real problem with these so-called efforts at evangelism is the self-centered approach.  Much of the evangelism doesn’t seem focused on improving the lives of others through a more powerful relationship with Jesus.  Instead, it appears to come from a need to grow the church, affirm our beliefs, or to control others.

If the church would take a more selfless approach to revealing the character of God, I believe we would be less threatening to the unchurched.  What if we, as churched people, just offered unconditional love – much like Jesus did?  No strings attached.

Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  There are deep connotations to this.

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