Pastor's Blog

A Voice of Reflection

 Well, here I am, trying to get the blog up and going again.  It’s not that I don’t have any new thoughts, just learning new ways to manage the time to write them down for you.

Confession:  I am a leadership “junkie”.  Ever since I can remember I have always been interested in leadership and I read almost every book written on leadership and attend a lot of leadership workshops, always looking to improve my leadership capability.  You see, I see leadership a little bit differently from others.  Some will say that leaders are born, not made.  But, while some individuals are born with a personality that favors leadership, and some are naturally better leaders than others, I believe that EVERYONE has the potential, the capacity, to learn leadership principles and put them into practice.  Leadership is not just something for the workplace, in business, or in white-collar careers, it is necessary in the home as well.  Parents are to be leaders for their children.

Ministry has allowed me the opportunity (many times) to reflect on the places where I experience tension.  These tensions are not just found in a life of ministry, but they are mirrored in everyday life and human interactions.  There is tension between truth and grace.  There is tension between holding on to tradition (the “way we’ve always done it”) and embracing sustainable change.  And there is tension in knowing “when” to hold on and when to let go of the reigns of leadership.  I have to balance the number one leadership principle that “everything rises or falls on leadership” with trusting others with the ministry.  There are moments when I tend to err on the side of control and want to micro-manage.  But, there are equally as many times when I err on the side of giving it away because that is, to me, the way new leaders are developed.  It is the way they grow into confidence.  I am often advised that I need to demonstrate my leadership and assert myself more, but I am much naturally much more collaborative and feel strongly about sharing leadership.  The hardest part is allowing the opportunity for failure.  I don’t want outreach programs to fail, so I have to resist running in to rescue when someone drops the ball on something in the preparation.

I started to think about this balancing act of “holding on and letting go” in another context (in the home) last week.  Commencement season is upon us and it is a time when graduates are excited to embrace a new part of their journey with their newfound sense of independence.  It is a time when parents are eager to hold on to their young adults and yet we must let go and set their spirits free, so that the young birds can spread their wings and soar like eagles. 

Our hesitation is based on fear, just like our hesitation to embrace all change.  We feel we may have failed to prepare them for the world.  We fear that harm might come to them in a way that we can’t control.  We won’t be there to rescue them when challenges seem too much.  But, parents can still be there at a distance should they fall too far.  Our young adult children’s brains are still developing and won’t reach maturity until around age 25.  Yet, they have to learn to face life’s challenges somewhat on their own.  This time after high school especially, is a time for them to learn what they are really capable of and then, yes, to deal with the consequences of their choices.  They will make mistakes as we all have and continue to do as we learn and grow.  But, they will learn how to survive them and start again.

Greater than the fear of harm coming to them is the fear that they won’t need us anymore.  Ah, but they will…in new ways as the years continue.  Learning to be independent is how one learns to function as an individual and not “one of the crowd” in our society.  So, letting go…is a good thing if you’ve taught them steps along the way when they were within the boundaries you set in the home.  Now, you have to trust the process and that even in spite of your efforts, they will succeed in life.

Leadership is similar in any context—home, school, or work/office.  You have to teach and train and give people steps and tools for success along the way and then let go and let God so that they can find their confidence in the end.  All the while remembering that whether we are talking leadership or life, it should be a journey of constant growth, not a final destination suddenly attained.  Shalom!
A Voice of Reflection

“Embracing Diverse Unity” March 14, 2013

Welcome to new friends who may be following my blog for the first time. After a long break for several months, I have returned to sharing my thoughts with others. Hopefully, you will find this added ‘food for theological thought’ as I share what is on my mind.

I was sharing my reflections on the work done at a ministry meeting I attended a couple of weeks ago and it developed into quite the conversation. We were talking about ways churches can “widen the welcome” to those outside the church and how well we embrace a newcomer who is different from us. Suddenly, we were focusing on diversity, not just the unchurched. Our discussion flowed away from outreach and missional ideas to ways we can learn to be comfortable around people of various race and ethnicity. It was more about becoming multi-cultural. It was a really good discussion with idea sharing around the table. But, as I reflected further on that discussion amidst several others in the room, I realized something…something that kind of disturbs me.

Let me back up a minute and say that as I listened to those around me, I thought about the small, rural village where I pastor. The population is not racially/ethnically diverse here. No matter how hard we try to expand the kingdom or how much we grow, we likely will not appear diverse. It is a matter of the culture that surrounds us. Of course, there are other things besides race and ethnicity that make us diverse. But, here is where I started to question. Why do we place so much emphasis on our differences in our society? We seem to shout about embracing diversity and I want to scream, “IT’S ABOUT UNITY when you’re talking about the Body of Christ.”

“For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”—Galatians 3:26-28

So why do we spend so much time focusing on our differences? I think we should embrace our uniqueness, but sometimes I feel like we are living in a Crayola world (which is not necessarily a bad thing altogether). What I’m getting at is that people want a package of 120 different colors, but all shaped the same. It’s not like that. Some are tall. Some are short. Some are fat. Some are skinny. Some are blind. Some are deaf. Some are paralyzed. Some are in wheelchairs. Some walk with canes or other assistance. Some have tattoos or piercings. Some are homosexual. Some are heterosexual. Some are developmentally challenged. Some are rich and some are poor. Shouldn’t the church reflect the culture where it is located? We are such a mobile society now where people will drive to a place of worship and there are many factors that help them decide where they feel comfortable. I was talking with a lady last month who said she felt uncomfortable in a big, modern church with contemporary music and video. She grew up in a very small church and she expected church to feel like a family.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that all that matters is that we share the gospel and grow God’s kingdom on earth. We are no longer Jew, Gentile, slave, or free; meaning…we are no longer separated by our diversity racially or culturally, including the many Christian denominations, but we are one in Christ and in unity with one another. Shouldn’t we spend more time concentrating on joining together in the Great Commission? I would love to see our churches integrated but I am not going to be upset if there someone is more comfortable with the worship in another church down the road. Churches take on an identity of their own in their community. As long as they are also taking on the identity of Christ and not shutting others out intentionally or unintentionally, why does it matter how ethnically diverse they are? There is always diversity in other ways besides outward appearance. Would Native Americans want to worship in the same way as African Americans? Inclusiveness has its limits based on demographics. If I go to Alaska, I would expect to worship in a way that Eskimos are comfortable and with music and instruments of their culture. But, does that really mean that we should adopt similar practices here in Marion Co., Ohio? Can we be inviting to people of diverse cultures and still at the same time co-exist in unity together, being of one mind and attitude in Christ Jesus, appreciated for who we are now and how God is at work in our lives while God grows us in mission? Just some thoughts to stir yours.

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