If a system, any system, has a broken epistemology at its core, it will all eventually spill badly into the street. And it will usually start with its leader.
If you have an organizing principle built around numbers, conversions, baptisms, excellence, missions, participation, world relief, community advancement, or any other wonderful goal, but have little relational value at the core of your leaders, something will inevitably hit a fan. And it won’t be sprigs of mint.
Such systems spring up weekly in the new population centers of every major city. They do incredible jobs of providing state-of-the-art programs, facilities, gifted speakers, musicians and worship visuals. Believers and seekers, new to the area, looking for something competent and attractive for their families and themselves, flock to this new phenomenon.
But if there is not a vitally committed, relational center of deep-hearted friends indelibly etched into the ethos, the place will predictably, inevitably erode, corrode and implode over time. Every time. Constituents, over time, feel a dull, uneasy sense of something not as real or safe or joyful as what they first experienced. Something will then happen from leadership that validates their unease. And many, gradually are forced, in the dead of night, to move on to the next place; with a bit more mistrust, cynicism and lingering doubt that life-giving, love centered experience is possible in any organized group larger than…one.
This epistemology is most obviously revealed in a leader whose training and theology encourages them to see himself or herself positionally and even spiritually above and beyond the same relational commitments and vulnerability they ask of the faith community they shepherd. Other staff members begin to see this, but it can feel too risky or fragile to confront it.
So, leaders, if you find yourself answering yes to one or more of the following symptoms, you may be already infected with a disease clinically known as “ThisisnotwhatacommunityofJesusistobeabout.Itmightbeworkingimpressivelybutitdoesnotmeetthe1goalandcommandmentofChrist-toloveandallowyourselftobeauthenticallyloved.Knockitoff.”
The disease is rampant during this season. Here are a few of the symptoms:
*Do you take your life issues to counselors and pastors outside your local community of which you lead, in a conviction that no one should know or is able to help you, because, after all, you’re the pastor?
*Are there less than a handful of people in your community who know the worst about you and who know your darkest secrets?
*Do you medicate yourself in some form to give yourself a break from the persona you’ve publically presented yourself to be?
*Does your spouse see the duplicity between your life at home and the one you promote in public, but doesn’t know how or is afraid to confront it?
*Do you have a nagging sense that you used to be, but are becoming less genuine?
*Do you imagine your staff wishes they had permission to protect your weaknesses but fear your response if they ever had a chance to privately voice their concerns to you?
*Are you becoming gradually more and more insulated from other leaders around you?
*Do you look down the line and fear that you will either have to resign, fail or move and start over somewhere else, because your unresolved issues will cause what you have created to certainly topple?
There are several very effective methods of treating this malady, but this does not involve resignation or surgery. Here it is:
Type these letters into the URL line on your computer: truefaced.com
When you get there, go to the page where you can order copies of The Cure and The Cure Study Guide.
Order as many as you would need to take your leaders through it.
Let your staff, your elders, your family, your assistants answer the questions honestly. Keep doing it until you’re convinced they believe you.
Read your Bible, asking God if you’ve been preaching it with a filter of moralism or shame.
Take long walks asking God if what you’re now studying represents the Original Good News.
If you sense He’s saying yes, confess the years of seeing it wrong and the damage it’s done.
Come back from the walk, and enjoy the rest of your life: freeing the captives with the same competency and skill and capacity you used to previously teach them sin management.
Have more people over to your home. Cook them food on your b-b-que. Play more music. Take your dog for a walk. Laugh, and enjoy and weep and enter in. Tell your life-stories to each other. Protect each other as you discover your weaknesses and failing.
And then feel the safety, joy, playfulness and heartfelt longing to enjoy and life for God that will spring from the very way of life of the community.
Write to us and tell us about your experience.
Send us money.
There. That was cheaper than an out of town, counseling guru, don’t you think?
John, one of the 3 amigos, part of the ever-growing tribe of grace.