The Mediocre Commission from Dan Dick's Unitedmethodeviations blog
English Major Reads the Mission from John Meunier's An Arrow Through the Air blog
I'm looking at these posts after having read about Hezekiah in Second Chronicles chapters 29-32. What struck me most as I read this section was what a dynamic leader King Hezekiah was in his time! He focused on one thing only-as the leader he wanted Israel to get right with God again. He cleaned up the temple, he cleaned up the town, he got rid of the things that had taken them away from God so they could focus on worshiping THE GOD once again. Not only was there action regarding what he said, there was commitment. The people clearly understood what was being asked of them and how to go about "fixing" the problem. They cleaned up their act! And they did so, without hesitation.
Hang on to this thought as I jump over to Hebrews 3:7-8 (NRSV)
"Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in rebellion, as on the day of testing in the wilderness..."Here's what the footnote says on verse 7 in the Wesley Study Bible:
"The emphasis on 'today' throughout this passage strikes a note of urgency. Responding to the word we hear from God is the first priority for each day, not to be put off until another day."Again, there is an emphasis on action and commitment.
So, where is the disconnect today? Where are the dynamic leaders clearly putting out a message of what needs to be done? That, in a round about way, is the message I get from both Dan and John's blog posts (although they might disagree with my interpretation and conclusions). This is not something that is happening just in the United Methodist church, this is happening in denominations across the country and around the world. Not all! But enough to raise the eyebrows.
It's not just leadership that is the issue though. Let's go back to Hezekiah. He cleaned out the temple and the towns-he got rid of the "sacred cows", to use a turn of phrase. What would have happened if the people resented the fact that he removed the "pagan rubbish"? What if they couldn't let go of that Asherah pole because it had been standing for 100 years? It was part of their "cultural heritage". There are two sides to this coin-ineffective leadership on the one side, members who just won't let go of certain things on the other.
How do we overcome the disconnect? One suggestion I have, is look at what Church of the Resurrection does, not because everyone should be like them, but because they have a very clearly planned path of Discipleship training (and it's not a 36 week course). When someone asks them the question "what do I do next" they are able to answer that question because they have a course path already planned out. It's clear, it's concise and it's ongoing. The goal is to deepen their knowledge, their faith and their commitment (or as they describe it: Head-Heart-Hands). If members have a deeper spiritual walk, perhaps they will not feel the need to hang on to something that just doesn't work any longer. It probably is not the only solution out there but I do think it is worth considering. So that addresses one side of the coin, but how about the other side, the leadership side?
Where, oh where, are the dynamic leaders who can guide a congregation to make needed change without inciting a riot? Is that expectation of a leader to high a standard to set? Now I suppose we could just avoid that sort of confrontation by letting the established churches continue on doing their thing and, instead, start brand new congregations. But here's the flaw with that plan-at some point the "new" church becomes an old established church and you have the same exact problems all over again! So how do we train our leaders to walk that fine line? I get the distinct impression that most ministers would welcome some training in this area. A class that is part "cast a dynamic vision" and "how to handle the grief of letting things go" counseling for church members.
All I'm saying is, we might as well try to address the issues now because it sure beats going round the mulberry bush over and over again! If we can help our ministers to become better at managing transitions then we spend less time in-fighting and more time focusing on the community around us. And let me just say this, because I have experienced it first hand, change poorly executed causes A LOT of hurt feelings and heartache and the damage of the "ghosts of Christmas past" carry on long after you think it's all said and done! There are members who may be able to forgive but I can tell you they don't forget! Although, you may not have been the minister who instituted the change, you better believe that at some point, it will be brought out of the closet and you will be forced to deal with the aftermath. It's not pretty and it surely is not a lot of fun!
gett'n to it! It's time to reconnect!