As I mentioned recently, I’ve been doing a training course for young emerging leaders (emerging in the age-range sense, not the theological ’emerging church’ sense), and tonight was the third of six meetings. Jim and Korenne, our pastors, compiled a list of questions we’d asked in the first week and put them in a hat, and tonight we drew five out to discuss. Funnily enough, all were about what to do if we encounter either conflict with other leaders, dodgy theology, how to ‘speak the truth in love’ etc. I have jotted down some notes I thought I’d post here, hopefully it’ll prove useful to someone else and if not it’ll give me someplace to organise my thoughts lest I lose the scrap of paper I was writing on!
– Leading in church is the most difficult form of leadership. In a school environment, you have a mirage of authority to appeal to – ‘time out’, detention, expulsion etc. In the world of work you have the whole money thing, people won’t want to screw up incase they lose their job. In church, you essentially have none of these appeals. It is a force of volunteers out to save the world. Nobody has to be there, nobody has to step up to the plate. Leaders need to motivate because God always works through leaders (ie. it’s no good just thinking ‘oh it’s okay, God will change the hearts of these people’ because God wants to use you to change those hearts – on his strength of course). For this reason Jim defines leadership as ‘influence that multiplies’. It is about being a role-model, having integrity, casting a compelling vision and of course the work of the Holy Spirit alongside these things.
– Re: dodgy theology – know what doctrines you would take a bullet over. There should be a handful of stuff you just won’t compromise on (for me, that would be stuff like the Gospel of grace, Jesus’ divinity, the Trinity, the work of the Holy Spirit etc.) Secondary issues are important but you can agree to disagree. However, sometimes if you disagree with someone on a secondary issue you might need to be at a different church. Eg. Jim is vehemently in favour of women in leadership. There’s another church in Canterbury that’s really against it. Jim and the pastor of this church are very good friends and pray for each others’ ministries, but if they were to try and church-plant together it would be kind of messy. Likewise, if I were to do a church-plant (which I may end up doing, maybe more on that at a later date) with someone who was very much in favour of a top-down, hierarchical approach to church structure, it would be a very bad idea, as I don’t believe in that. Frank Viola had some interesting things to say about this kind of thing in ‘Reimagining Church’, but my copy’s back in Northern Ireland. Will have to hunt it out…
– What to do if you know someone with influence who has some major sin in their life? Biblical pattern is pretty clear: go lovingly confront the person, if they don’t listen bring someone else along, then eventually take it to more spiritually authoritative people within community. But of course there are many grey areas. Many other Christians are out to do a ‘sin hunt’. The whole confrontation part should only happen if the person is not conflicted over their sin, because then they are not seeking Jesus but have a hardness of heart towards God, so confrontation needs to happenin order to soften their heart. If, however, the person is genuinely struggling with something and keeps falling but getting back up again, God loves that and is probably pissed off when other Christians come along telling that person to get their act together. Jim and Korenne said they would always have the back of the person who is stumbling, versus the finger-pointers. It’s only your business if the person in question is not seeking Jesus about it.
– What you pay attention to will grow. Celebrate what you want to reproduce – make a big deal out of stuff you see that you like and that you want to happen more. Christians (and people in general) tend to critique and then troubleshoot. But then what’s going to happen is that your big problem will get bigger and keep self-perpetuating. Just focus on the good stuff that’s happening and it will increase. (This is particularly salient for me as in a lot of emerging church circles that I am interested in there seems to be a lot of critique-and-troubleshoot – deconstruction! – going on.That has a place but is maybe over-emphasised.)
– Christians’ default button is fellowship. You tend to not have to work too hard on that area. You can think of your church’s life as three buttons you can push – Family (community, fellowship etc), Worship (worship, praise, prayer etc) and Kingdom (mission, evangelism, movement of grace). Always push the Kingdom button, and sometimes the Worship button to power the Kingdom stuff, but the fellowship stuff will happen most of the time anyway so pushing it is a waste of time. Jim recounted a story of a friend of his who was a youth pastor, and ran a high school ministry with about 100 youth (the church had previously had about 400 youngsters but the number dropped off). The heights this guy was bringing these teenagers to in terms of their spirituality was unreal, for 16-17-year-olds anyway. However, there was one guy on the worship team who was unhappy with him and kept pushing for more socials. The worship-band-guy eventually managed to pull some sort of coup to get the youth pastor kicked out and bring in someone new who would do ‘more socials’. The numbers of youth attending went back up to about 300, but of course many of them were just there to be entertained, and the previously-amazing spirituality plummetted.
– Don’t compare your calling to that of others.
Off to ‘Healing on the Streets’ tomorrow – how exciting! If you’re reading this and are of the praying persuasion, please pray for that ministry, as it’s experiencing some opposition at the moment (from other Christians no less)…