Emerging leaders huddle, week three

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)…

Quote time!

From John Crowder, who is fairly interesting (despite my nagging suspicion he subscribes to Young Earth Creationism):

For too long, the Protestant church has felt license to defame the Body and Bride of Christ by calling her Catholic brothers and sisters the “whore” church of Revelation. Every time we say such a thing, we are pounding another nail into Jesus’ hands. He died for Catholics and Protestants both. And Catholics can no longer afford to categorize Protestants as schismatics, heretics or lesser Christians…

The reason nearly every move of God tends to stagnate is because it judges the last move of God. We become what we judge. If we judge religious people and hypocrites, we eventually become religious hypocrites. Never criticize the old wineskin, just let it be. The wine itself will burst the old jug. And it will eventually burst yours. There is no quicker way into bondage than falling into spiritual pride and thinking we are the cutting edge of what God is doing. That we have somehow ascended beyond where the old order got stuck. First of all, we don’t know all that the old order had to put up with and what spiritual ground they broke on our behalf.

It is important not to adopt a rebellious spirit, and to remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood. Yes, religion is a fould thing. But religious people are often just wounded Christians seeking identity and comfort in the wrong places. To criticize the old guard is often a sign that we are still operating out of rejection, and somehow needing their affirmation rather than the Lord’s. Truly mature Christians, who have overcome insecurity, will see people beyond the veil of their religious bondage and empathize with the hurts that landed them there.

This is how it starts…

It starts with my tiny heart.

It starts with my tiny, shrivelled, proud, indifferent heart.

It starts when I realise that my heart is tiny, and shrivelled, and proud, and indifferent,

When I realise that the brokenness and decay I see all around me (when I even pay enough attention to notice) is true of my own self – the self that I had always thought so highly of.

And so I cry out to God not to give up on me, and he doesn’t.

He takes my tiny, shrivelled, proud, indifferent heart out and replaces it with his own – a heart of abundance and love and infinite resources.

And when I live into the reality of my heart transplant, he begins bit by bit to unfold his vision of renewal before my very eyes.

My old heart, ridden with disease, is now a new one full of dis-ease:

dis-ease at all the suffering in the world

dis-ease at my numbness to the suffering in the world

dis-ease at the way I currently spend my money

dis-ease at how easily I close my ears to the cries of the distressed

dis-ease at my spiritual poverty

dis-ease at settling for second-best in how I relate to others, in how I date, in how I treat those around me, in how I think about the earth and everything in it.

This glorious discomfort nourishes me with hunger and thirst for more of whatever powerful, mystical, real thing is happening inside me…

And then groups of people who’ve had their tiny, shrivelled, proud, indifferent hearts replaced by that of God start finding each other; we start dreaming new dreams, and fuelling each others’ hunger, and helping others into this new reality, and working together to live into the fullness of God’s kingdom and to bring heaven to earth.

Despite the fact that we are broken and flawed and we make a mess of things, we are invited to be the hands and feet of God – the lifeforce he unleashes on a hurting world – because we are operating out of his wealth and not our poverty.

I have had my heart transplant – and I’ve only barely glimpsed this new reality; I live in hope of its continued revelation.