Lots of us know the appeal of doing things by oneself. Doing things oneself enables excellent quality control and allows for maximally efficient use of time expended. No wonder doing things oneself is a preferred MO (modus operandi) of many clergy. Involving others can be so tiring….it entails recruitment (often of the reluctant!), and training. It involves follow-up and clarification. Often it is so much easier to just do it alone.
Perhaps Jesus should had decided to go it alone! It would have been a choice easy to understand. His disciples were slow to catch on, given to sleep, interpersonal quibbling and frustratingly inclined to professional and personal recidivism. Had I been Jesus I’d have probably accepted the tempter’s offer of stones-to-bread transformation. It would have been so much neater and easier than dealing with the disciple’s obtuse resistance with the crowds of 4000 and 5000.
Of course, Jesus did NOT accept the tempter’s offer. Jesus knew and accepted his limitations (yes, even the Son of God had limitations!). He knew his time was limited and if his message of grace and life was to spread, it would have to be through agency of others. Had he been less clear about this, he might have spent more time feeding the hungry and healing the sick and less time in prayer and with the disciples….and when his three year ministry ended….it would soon have faded away and we might never have heard of him.
Local churches are too often too dependent on just a few. Aside from the inequity of expecting so much from just a few, this practice is organizationally debilitating. One of our favorite metaphors for the church is the body image – a body with many parts which functions best as every part makes its own divinely inspired contribution. We love this image, but then we make it a lie by running church as if only the pastor and one or two others ought to carry the bulk of the load.
This past week a handful of congregational buy keflex online uk leaders from 20 or so of our churches participated in two different events. Representatives from about 15 churches learned about New Beginnings – a consulting process designed to lead a congregation through a highly participatory process toward a “Bold Decision.” Then a week later and about 5 groups of congregational leaders were exposed to ideas by which a congregation might make stewardship and fund-raising (they are two different things, but obviously related with each other!) more integral parts of the life of their congregations.
What these two programs have in common is a bedrock assumption/presumption that it takes the whole body to move in a meaningfully new direction. And for that to happen, clergy (and other heavily involved lay leaders) need to figure out creative and honest ways to invite more and more of their fellow members into meaningful ministry.
I’m not for moment suggesting that clergy should sit on their haunches and hope something exciting spontaneously bubbles up from within the church. It doesn’t work that way. Leaders must lead – but leadership doesn’t equate to control or over-function. Perhaps that bears repeating: Control and over-functioning are NOT aspects of high quality leadership. They are, in fact, antithetical to highly effective leadership.
As it always does, Holy Week and Easter come at the end of Lent – not many days from now. Holy Week comes with many reminders….one of which is the stark reminder that Jesus died and shortly thereafter was gone from this earthly scene. But interestingly, the church gradually and inexorably took root after he was gone. There was something about the way Jesus invested himself in others that equipped them to carry on once he was gone…in fact, not just carry on, but thrive.
Are you and I that type of leader? Are we leaders who so equip and inspire others that once we are gone they will carry on…perhaps even more effectively than when we were present?
Let us aspire to be that kind of leaders!
With Great Hope!
UCC in Iowa