I’ve invited several people to write “guest blog posts” for this blog. There are several reasons for this: 1) To offer different perspectives. 2) To generate even more discussion and conversation between blogs. 3) To introduce other bloggers to my readers.
(If you are interested in writing a guest blog post, please contact me at aknox[at]sebts[dot]com.)
When we last left off, our question had become (See Part 1):
In the church, how can I lead without exercising authority, under inappropriately granted and exercised authority?
May I change our question once more? Now that we have examined our hearts around the issue of “leading,” the question might be more enlightening if we ask,
In the church, how can I love without exercising authority, under inappropriately granted and exercised authority?
Better question? But love costs, “For God so loved, that He gave His only Son…” It pays, too, in surprising, freeing ways, “…for the joy that was set before Him.”
Love costs time
Giving other people time is an incredible gift to you both. You are free to invite others over to your home, or out to a restaurant, or to accept their invitations to their homes for dinners and breakfasts and lunches. We often think of episodic things to do. Things like going over after work to help someone repair a stuck window, or helping them clean their sick neighbor’s yard, or comforting a family whose son is in the hospital, or sharing with a husband who is struggling with loving his wife. It doesn’t have to be so dramatic. Simple time shared together apart from some purposeful ministry can be the most selfless gift. Just play cards. Play Scrabble. Parchesi. Sorry (the game, I love it by the way). Just hang out and talk (especially, listen). It is the relationships and encouragements shared over a long period of time that are very important and effective, but not very strenuous. Consistently give others your selfless attention and you will find joy and peace as you discover fascinating people all around you. But loving others costs our time, and their needs come at inconvenient times. Even when unable to be with another, you will spend time in prayer on their behalf. The more we understand ourselves as a servant to Christ and to all, the more we realize we have no time, or possessions or rights of our own, and the more we find that when we are slaves we are the most happily free.
Love costs possessions
Loving others will impact your finances. (II Cor 8:2-5; Gal 4:14-15; Col 4:12-13; Phil 1:7-8). You will always be losing your stuff by giving it away. You become aware that all the things in your life are temporarily in your care and that He expects you to pass them along. Doing so breaks the exhausting and pointless cycle of accumulating and protecting things (often at the expense of time with family and friends). The day comes when you see another struggling without a car, and you look at the two you have and figure out how to make do with one. It all becomes such a wonderful privilege to share, and it starts with little things, and it grows until you are free.
Love costs rights
You lend things without expecting (or requiring) them to be returned. When someone says something bad about you, rather than defend yourself, you can consider how you might have contributed to their thinking, and go and humble yourself as you confess wherever you find fault. Especially with “leaders.” Could you have been more open? Could you have informed the Pastor, and even asked for his permission and advice? In the traditional setting, the Pastor may very well be threatened by your actions. What are you doing to minimize his concerns? Does the pastor feel safe with you, or does he fear you are undermining him and that as you get to know him, you will use the personal knowledge gained to wound him some day? Have you found ways to love him and his family? Of course, this goes for every person in the church, but the Pastor is the one whose position and power will be most threatened.
But, to really check our hearts on the ego and pride thing, does the tightly controlled, formal meeting times of your church put into practice the examples we see in the scriptures when the saints gathered? No. Do you have a right to speak or bring a song when the saints gather? Say it: No. We have NO rights. If it will cause so many to stumble where you gather, among those you love, you will give up your right to the “right” way. But you won’t feel oppressed. You’ll feel privileged.
When we see these traits and actions working out in the lives of others, esteem them very highly. Look up to them and follow them. If you look closely, you are likely to see these traits developing in the Pastor.
If these things are working their way into your life, you can do some good in an imperfect system. That is, until that system asks you to leave, which it will do in many cases. However nicely and kindly you serve others, you are breaking rules by your activities, and your kindness and care will naturally develop alliances among those you serve and these will look like cliques and power grabs to many and threaten the equilibrium. Just be sure the tensions that erupt in division aren’t triggered by your own heart’s pride and desire to lead (and to have the benefits of power and position), I Pet 2:19-23
Love does no harm
For others, you will have to leave because you can’t sit by while the system is so badly broken (and the saints so under developed). You know if you stay doing the “right” things will do more harm than good. On the other hand, real change might take place within the congregation and the pastor in the process. Let’s not be naïve. Then there will be a split, within the church or from the denomination. Families will leave at the least. Pretty much, if the system is broken and you do the right things, the system will hate you and “kill” you. We are not above our Master, but we learn to rejoice in suffering for Him (John 15:17-19; Heb 12:2-3; I Pet 4:1)
When you leave, and whenever you have opportunity, you will only rehearse to others all the good things, all the good people, all the good times. It is more than enough that God knows any slights or wounds, and of course, you will have forgiven those and prayed (and mean) that God will not lay anything against you to their charge. Perhaps wisely, you will also ask God to forgive you for all that you did poorly and for all that you could have done but didn’t.
So, where are you today? As long as He leads you to remain within the traditional church (and they don’t throw you out), what sorts of things do you find you can do in loving others even within the confines of the clergy/laity structures? Among the saints, what sorts of things get you in trouble and what can you do to avoid or minimize these problems?
Finally, love risks doing good
1. If you have left the traditional church, have you thought much about what defines the local church (say, for example, by locality rather than by incorporation with the US government or by a group of people declaring themselves “independent” of other Christians)? If so, how has that helped you approach this problem differently?
2. Have you thought about the impact that seeing examples of another way for the church to function and for leaders to serve might have on the local church? How are you (or could you) act on that?
3. Have you thought about ways for the disconnected church to build mutual relationships and efforts? How and where is He leading you in these things today? For example, “parachurch” organizations often connect churches for specific tasks where they would otherwise remain at odds with each other. How can this working together and getting to know one another be used to bring about change?