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Can the Church Leadership Quit Lusting for Power and Control?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  I, who am an elder myself, appeal to the church elders among you. I am a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and I will share in the glory that will be revealed. I appeal to you 2  to be shepherds of the flock that God gave you and to take care of it willingly, as God wants you to, and not unwillingly. Do your work, not for mere pay, but from a real desire to serve. 3  Do not try to rule over those who have been put in your care, but be examples to the flock. 4  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the glorious crown which will never lose its brightness. 1 Peter 5:1-4 (TEV)

705      Christian responsibility in work cannot be limited to just putting in the hours. It means doing the task with technical and professional competence… and, above all, with love of God.

A society that tends to turn people into puppets of production and consumption always opts for results. It needs control; it cannot give rise to novelty without seriously compromising its purposes and without increasing the degree of already existing conflict. It prefers that the other be completely predictable in order to acquire the maximum profit with a minimum of expenditure.

I often receive advertisements for books and seminars about Christian leadership.  Books that talk about the management of the church, the proper way to administrate things.  Some bring the best and brightest of secular management and leadership theorists into play.  This is nothing new, as names like Peter Drucker, John Maxwell and Steven Covey have long tried to bridge the gap between secular leaders and leaders in the church. Most of the church consultants I know use those kinds of models, those kinds of systems.

By leaders, I mean anyone who leaders, whether it be the Sunday School leader, the deacons, elders, or altar guild, or the pastors and denominational leaders that go by terms like Bishop, President or even Pope. My favorite title for a leader, and I have heard every Pope in my life refer to it, is their title, “servant of the servants of God.”  Not the King, or the Lord, or high exalted leader but the servant of those who serve.

Back to leadership itself.  I think the problem we often see when secular leadership style and theory come into play in the church is the idea of profit.  Not necessarily monetary, but the idea of profit as in return on investment (ROI).  I’ve seen this as churches prepare budgets, as denominations determine where to plant new churches, and whether to close other, smaller churches.  The latter because they use up too many resources (money, land, building space)

St Josemaria calls us o think differently, to work with the love of God.  Not just putting in the hours, but truly investing our talent, our knowledge, our competencies, all bathed in the love of God.

Francis likewise warns of turning the church into a puppet kingdom, where we strive for results and growth, forgetting the person’s needs, and basing outreach on maximum profit for minimum expenditure.  I’ve seen this in meetings where rather than come alongside smaller churches in urban areas, advisors tell them to become legacy churches, closing and selling their properties to help growing churches thrive.  We want predictable and sure methods for growth or revitalization, something with a quick turnaround, rather than something that might consume us.

We come full circle back to Peter’s epistle then, where he tells us not to do out work for pay (whatever the “payoff is – it might not be money)  Rather we should do our job from a desire to serve, even as our Lord served.  To work, not demanding this and that of those we are entrusted to, but by being examples to those we care for, investing in them, not expecting them to invest in us first.  We need to love them, not manage them,  Just as Christ loves and guides us, with gentleness and care.

This is contrary to modern business practices, yet it is the nature of ministry, of serving others, it is the nature of imitating Christ Jesus, who expended it all to save a bunch of corrupt and often shameless sinners like you and I.

May we lead our people into the peace and wonder that is found as Christ is revealed, as He ministers to, cleanses and makes us Holy. May we all find that healing available only in Jesus, as we help others heal.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2578-2581). Scepter But Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

It’s time to be “The Church”

Devotional Thought of the Day:
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25  The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, 26  the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. 27  You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. 1 Corinthians 12:25-27 (MSG)

575      To think of Christ’s Death means to be invited to face up to our everyday tasks with complete sincerity, and to take the faith that we profess seriously. It has to be an opportunity to go deeper into the depths of God’s Love, so as to be able to show that Love to men with our words and deeds. (1)

I am getting tired of conversations about the church.  There are theologians who will talk of church militant and church triumphant.and the visible and invisible Church.  There are consultants who will talk about healthy churches, revitalizing churches, legacy churches (the new euphemism for a church dead or dying, usually blamed on being 25 years or older)  There are goals to be seeker oriented, confessional, conservative, liberal, missional, contemporary, and a thousand more labels.

It’s time to stop all of the strategic talk, all the planning and plotting and vision casting and calls for others to repent.

I love the description of the church in Paul’s 12th chapters of Romans and 1 Corinthians. It’s not an organization, or a entity.  It is a family, a body, an organism, not an organization.  When one part of the church hurts, whether through real persecution/martyrdom, whether through grief and bereavement, no matter the cause, the entre church hurts, whether this is a cell ground of 6 or 8, a small church like mine of 60, or a mega church of 2000, or the Church as the entire body of Jesus Christ.  The same thing is true with moments of joy.  If all of heaven parties, if God dances when a prodigal returns home, when a baby is baptized, when a cynic or critic is gifted with faith and repentance/transformation, the whole church should as well.

For this is who we are – one body, Christ’s body.

It shouldn’t take a team of experts consultants to realize this, or to provide 8 steps to seeing it happen. What it does take is bearing our cross with Christ, of seeing everything as killed off and that cross and re-created, reformed, brought together, bonded to His resurrection as we were to His death quickened, made alive IN Christ.

In the past week, I’ve  been there when friends are hospitalized, when a former member of my church was buried, when another friend struggled with sin, when they needed encouragement to enter that struggle. I’ve watched quite a few struggle in relationships, and I’ve seen people struggling with change, both good change, bad chance and just the fear of potential change.  This is church stuff my friends, it is the time where we need to all be together, weeping working, encouraging, partying,

I love St Josemaria’s quote today… Each of the moments, each of these struggles, and the celebrations as well – each is a time to encounter Christ, each is a time to see the marvelous love of God at work, to share that love, to receive that love.

When the people of God, called together do such things – whether 2 or 3 or 10,000 do this, they are His people, His church… they aren’t just talking and setting visions, they are finding the healing they need in Christ Jesus.. and helping others to heal….this is Eph. 2:10, and Article 6 of the Augsburg Confession.

This is the Church…. let’s be it.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2141-2144). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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