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Monday, March 14, 2016

Dear Irresponsible Leaders

Sometimes I feel like Moses...

Exodus 4:12-13, "Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."  But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else" (NIV).

Just to make it abundantly clear, I don't love being the voice of controversy.  I don't love being the one who says what needs to be said when nobody else is willing to say it.  But somebody has to be that voice, so here I am.

Leadership is not what you think it is.  I don't often "pull rank" like this, but I have a business management degree.  I have spent much of my life leading people in various roles.  I know what works, and I know what doesn't, and the truth is, real leadership is not all that glamorous.  The other truth is, the church is not a business.  So, please don't misunderstand.  One of the reasons I don't pull rank is that I know that much of what I learned while acquiring that degree is completely irrelevant to ministry.  Dear irresponsible leaders who do not even have the education or experience to implement business strategies, please stop trying to do this in the church!  It's not what you're supposed to be doing!  It's not what it's cracked up to be!  It's not working!

Don't feel awful, though... at least not yet.  You're in pretty good company.  This kind of thing has been going on forever.  Let's take this example from Scripture.  After Jesus predicts his death... again... the disciples start arguing.  You might think that they are distressed, acting out, trying to work through their own feelings of grief.  But when Jesus asks them about this,        

Mark 9:34-35, "They kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.  Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (NIV).

I'm not saying this is exactly the way it went down, but it is almost as if these arguing disciples are just sitting in wait, wondering which of them might rise to the top of the hierarchy once Jesus is dead!  It sounds a little bit like the business world to me.  It sounds a little bit like the church world to me.  Let me be honest, sometimes it has sounded a little bit like my own life and attitude.  Always watching.  Always waiting.  Missing what is right in front of my face, because I want something different, something better, something that comes with a paycheck and a title and some respect. 

And yet, here I sit, this morning, in my Hello Kitty pajamas, with a five year old crunching an inordinate amount of Count Chocula, at my feet, on the living room carpet, listening to third grade math as background music, and thinking about how I have kids to run to eye appointments and a sermon to write for a preaching class that is way out of my league.  It's no wonder the leaders who I contact by email... and voicemail... and face to face... sometimes look right past me. 

And, I Corinthians 4...  all of it...

Sometimes I feel like Paul, except I'm not that great...

There's something wrong with this, though.  Admittedly, I am not the leader I would like to be... perhaps I am not the leader I should be or the leader I could be or the leader I will be someday (let's hope).  But I really do think we have a problem when the people we refer to as leaders ignore communication and look at other ministers as less important than themselves.  Many of us have followed some of the recent major controversies, and it's good and right to be outraged over these issues.  In the process, though, there are many other people who are slipping through the cracks.  I don't think it's because we don't care.  I think it's because we just don't know.  We don't hear their stories.  They are too "insignificant" in the grand scheme of what's happening. 

I have a friend who recently lost her district license, because a local pastor, who was preparing to leave the church, didn't feel inclined to give her a recommendation for renewal.  She was told that it might be best for her to be a wife and mom in this season of her life...

I have a friend who can't land a ministry position anywhere and who was recently informed that he lacks the necessary theological training.  He is ordained, has a master's degree in theology, and has been a staff pastor for many years...

I have multiple friends who have simply walked away from ministry, and the church at large, because they have been treated so poorly, and yet the abusers continue to "lead" churches...

I have heard that some faith based companies will not hire people who have a large amount of student debt.  That's ironic, since they also want to hire educated people...

Other faith based companies require their employees to earn their own support.  What this amounts to is that employees must fundraise (on top of their other responsibilities, of course) approximately twice as much as their annual salaries.  They pay their own salaries and also the expenses of the organization...  As a side note, this is what our missionaries are doing!

And all the while, some district superintendents cannot even find it within themselves to respond to a voicemail?  I'm sorry, but once three weeks pass, I'm not sure I'd want to work under you even if you did respond!

I might be "soapboxing", today...

I think I'm doing something right in the world, though.  I can't take complete credit for this, but the other day my 14 year old daughter wrote this, about leadership,

"I have learned what it means to lead. It means doing the best thing for everyone, not what you always may want. It means encouraging people and lifting them up, not putting them down and calling them names, implying that they are little and insignificant. That is not leadership. That is bully behavior, putting yourself at the top and standing on top of everyone to get where you want; when in fact, the leader is the one who puts himself/herself at the bottom in order to lift up the others. This is the true meaning of leadership."

I think maybe Jesus was onto something when he spoke about children inheriting the Kingdom.

And so, as I learn from others (as opposed to squelching their enthusiasm), I hope to continue to lead from the shadows.  I hope to be a servant leader and to never, ever use people to elevate myself to something that I am not, to something that I was never intended to be.

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