Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Pain of Leadership (Part 2)

The last post on leadership generated some good discussion so let me take it a step further with a concrete example.

*** Disclaimer *** I love the people at the Baker Heights Church of Christ dearly, but sometimes I will talk about things that happened there that will, necessarily, make certain people look bad. Sorry. This cannot be helped.

Last year I taught a 6-month series of lessons on Church History. People loved it! I was presenting material most had never heard before. And I tried to make it interesting - exciting stories, great PowerPoint presentations, relevant application. One night I showed a video called "Christianity: The First Thousand Years." It was about how the church filled the power void created when Rome fell, and how that changed both western civilization and the church. The video was narrated, with soft, but typically dramatic documentary music in the background. After class, while people were milling around the auditorium, an older man, who wasn't even in my class, came up to an elder I was talking to. I could tell he was mad. Now keep in mind that this man was usually gentle and kind and soft-spoken. Holly loves his wife too - she's a sweet grandma type. This man ignored me, and said to the elder, "I hear there was a video in here with instrumental music! My brother couldn't take it - he walked out! What are you gonna do?" I'm standing right there, remember. So I said to him, "Let's not talk about this here." We went outside, and I listened to his concerns. As patiently as possible I explained to him that while I also believe worship ought to be non-instrumental, showing a documentary with background music in a Wednesday night class was different. He said, "You opened with a prayer, didn't you? So it's worship." I knew this man's intellect wasn't firing on all cylinders when he said, "You could have still showed the video, you could have just muted the sound." I ended the conversation by saying, "I really understand what you're saying, and I agree. We just apply it a little differently." His response: "My brother has just come out of a Christian Church. I don't want him to lose his soul, and if you feel that way, I don't want you preaching here!"

Later that night I vented to Holly, and let it go. What did he do? He went to some more elders and complained about "the instrument" working it's way into our church. I'm sure he also mentioned something about slippery slopes leading to hell, though I can't confirm that. So, how did the leadership respond? They came up with a new policy - under no circumstances could ANY form of instrumental music be played in any format in the auditorium of the church. Now, on what basis did they make that decision? Theological conviction? Solid principle? The overall good of the church? The strength of our witness in the community? NO. It was a decision based on calming the irrational fears of a small anxiety riddled minority!

So, come next quarter, an elder wanted to show a video in his class that had soft background music. What did he do? He had the class come back on a Sunday night, after everyone else had left, and he showed the documentary. It felt like we were doing something wrong, under the cover of darkness. It was like we were revolutionaries plotting the overthrow of the traditionalists! No, not really! But here's the point. An ELDER was forced to show a documentary outside the regular time slot of his class because one immature man complained a month earlier! Is that leadership?

Here's what I posted in part 1: "Leaders who try to avoid pain will someday be confronted with the worst pain of all, the awareness that the end result of their perpetual pain avoidance is the collapse of the organization they were supposed to be leading. Are you called to lead? If so, and if you’re not ready to experience and tolerate some pain, then please say no to the call. Whatever organization you’re being called to lead will be better off without you in leadership. If you’re ready to deal with some pain, then step up and buckle in, because it’s gonna hurt."

What that elder should have done was go to the man who complained and said to him, "Look, I love you brother, but your immaturity and your attitude towards those who disagree with you in an area where scripture is silent, is divisive, it is damaging our witness in this community, it is sinful, and we are not going to tolerate it!" Now that would have been showing some leadership. Would that man have left? Maybe. Would he have taken others with him? Possibly. Could it have been painful? Yes. And that's exactly my point! Your thoughts.


Ryan said...

Nicely put.
I think many assume leadership means getting your own way. And so we end up with ill equipped, not qualified leaders. Leaders need vision. They need to move us forward. Leaders need to make hard decisions. They also need the courage to stand by their decisions.
The problem with many churches is that they don't have leaders they have status quo maintainers.

Bill Jordan said...

I clicked the comment button with the best of intentions to "NOT" make a comment, but just see who the first one was to jump into the conversation. But then there was Ryan with those nasty words ... "status quo."

So my first reaction since I've now gone against my original intention to remain under the radar for a little bit is that this probably isn't going to be a conversation about instrumental music or leadership. This conversation needs to be about asking ourselves when are we EVER going to confess that "staus quo" has left us in such a state that we no longer bear much fruit for Christ as churches or as his people.

Jesus made some things very clear for us. One of those things was that he wanted us to "tell the world" about him. Not about "our" church, but HIM.

He also told us to love God and each other. It seems most of us take that as a susgestion, and sometimes (when the mood hits us) we get around to it.

And then there was that clear message about trees that bore no fruit. Do you suppose they might be called "status quo bushes" today?

Ryan invoked the word "vision" and there is no doubt that is key to leadership. But another word that we are missing in the conversation is "expectations." Jesus made his expectations as a leader very clear. Go Tell 'em, Love 'em, Bear Fruit.

We've got to get back to that simple list of expectations – both leaders and followers. Any other standard we measure our results by isn't part of Christ' plan.

Ryan said...

Nice thoughts Bill.

Anonymous said...

Generally, I have enjoyed your articles, however, I want to voice some concerns pertaining to this conflict. With all points of view there is a bias that tends to clear ourselves of any implications. Our goal is to be impartial and objective. However, this is to give you an anonymous comment filled with my opinion. As far as your earlier dispute, I’m sure it wasn’t all that friendly. It’s easy to write him off as being stubborn, irrational, or dogmatic. However, is he not granted the same rights to an opinion as we are to ours? In fact, he clearly stated his motive was his concern for his brother. But to the point of discrediting his motive, we might be tempted to become defensive. You may suggest that standing up to this man would be the right thing to do. But is it, really? Maybe. I don’t entirely disagree with you. But for what motive? Even though what might appear to be a minute issue, it is one with deep convictions—on both sides. On one side (his) it is considered walking on a slippery slope, and there is something good to be said for living life by the adage “Better safe than sorry”. Not to mention that his concerns are becoming pervasive in other congregations. The opposite side will argue (borrowing from your earlier posted convictions) it is like the Pharisees, and that this mans’ close-mindedness winds up controlling him (gnat to camel). I do not deny that that was what he was essentially doing. However, besides putting “tradition” on trial and on the defensive, just what was the alternative being offered? How about the reassurance given him and calming of his concerns. It does not sound as though that happened or wasn’t even your goal. Based on this, his as well as the church’s fear has a legitimate claim for concern. We all have a reason to be afraid of things slipping in and shouldn’t be afraid to say so.
But then travel along the new progressive vein where there is a desire to reform the church and denounce those of the older thought, where one stated goal is to have Intellectual Integrity (as if to imply the traditional thought has been tyrannically close-minded). Wouldn’t those who profess and advocate such a movement encourage tolerance and acceptance for this mans’ stance and concerns? Would they see his view as an indictment? Or not see it at all, since he is a traditionalist? Labels are not encouraged here, only that if they are used on either side, let them be applied equally. I do not mean to provoke you only to evoke further discussions. For that is my beef with today’s progressives’ politically correct train of thought that is seeping into the church—that such a prevalent and transparent double standard exists and that it is traditionalists who are vilified and it is wrong of them to criticize or even question this new “Emergent” movement. These arrogant platitudes have disregarded and displaced God as the sole authority over the church and its function. It has in effect, given man “say” where God has already. Silence is strong authority, sound familiar? For I have heard that from both sides! Sure, there are things the church needs to do better and it is dangerous to hold on to traditionalism, by the admission of most traditionalists. But to think that the church has sincerely addressed “progressive issues” that are so imbecile, and then been demonized as such for not walking that slippery slope. This new dubious faction of the church is just as much if not more polarizing as the traditionalists have ever been. In fact, that completely debunks there basis for their worldwide need to “emerge”. After all, to preach tolerance means to tolerate all aspects—even the intolerant. Claims of relative authority tend to exclude those who disagree. And just the same, to say that extremism is sinful and divisive is an admission that progressivism is also just that. For their goal to emerge involves doling out criticisms and condemn what they are emerging from. Moral relativists have you believe the same lie—for they do not practice what they preach. It is just demagogues twisting truth as to avoid guilt and then dictating it to the church as new doctrine.
Regarding the leader of your story—don’t you see that what he did was leading? For we cannot completely understand and comprehend the responsibility and burdens that these men carry. Also, it is rude and disrespectful to assume his decisions were not hard or painful and then vicariously insert suggestions. That is why we should respect our elders—using both literal meanings of the word. For with age comes wisdom. Off on a tangent—I also see this struggle as being older versus newer members. As much as that is the case, no matter how hard-nosed older generations may be, I would personally rather and that my children and grandchildren worship with them over newer, younger generations. Two quick pointed reasons why and I’ll digress. First, their experience dwarfs young “informed” Christians. Secondly, my grandparents and my parents are much wiser than anyone I’ve ever personally met. My family would bend over backwards for my grandparents—and that’s okay because it was the right thing to do. It was respectful but also smart. No room left for debate there, sorry. Getting back to the elder, I believe it is also immature and misleading to say he was forced or that his leadership was passively “status quo”. His leadership was such as to act not react. It was a compromise. There is something else to note—that these men do not act unilaterally at all times. His response was also representative of the eldership. After all, those who were interested were not offended or anxious, but rather, willing to comply. Nothing felt wrong about it, only that it was guaranteed a bit ridiculous. Besides, it wasn’t in all likelihood just one man. The elders literally know this and cannot—even though they would probably love to—dismiss this man or attitude. And that would have been granted the concern legitimacy. Taking the higher road is hardly ever glorified or honored, but in fact is sometimes painful. Nevertheless, it is an effective and practical leadership tool, for which Christ taught and showed us how. It then begs the question about motives. We know the man’s and the elders’ and mine, but what about yours?

Charles Sean North said...

I will leave a much more detailed comment later, but for now I probably need to say this. "The elder" in my post was (still is, I hope) a good friend. I was really unfair to him in what I said. He was simply going along with what the group of elders decided. That is fine. I can't fault him. This is a man who loves the church, is a real servant, and hates conflict. I know that, understand it, and respect it. My criticism is aimed at church leaders in general (oh, and by the way, I know I have a long way to go before I'm close to being the perfect leader). I'm sorry if I threw one elder "under the bus."

Bill Jordan said...

"It then begs the question about motives. We know the man’s and the elders’ and mine, but what about yours?"

Frankly there is zero credibility in asking that question and then posting your comment as "Anonymous."

A conversation about "motives" will never come to an end. The question has to be about end results. Leaders are not paid or rewarded in the business or professional world for their "motives." The final measure is results.

Leaders of churches should not be measured by their "motives" either. Results – or FRUIT – is the true measure of their undertaking.

There are plenty of scripture passages that teach us in clear language that we are to produce "fruit" or new disciples (followers of Christ). But if you need a strong wake up call, read for yourself again the reaction Jesus had to the "fruitless" fig tree in Matthew 19. His lesson to the disciples who witnessed this event concerned their faith and prayer. But at the same time there was no reward for "motives" if you were that fig tree. And I feel certain God expects as much, or more, from church leaders.

Jennifer said...

I agree Bill!!

Charles Sean North said...

Three things:

1) Anonymous comments are LAME. I will soon be disabling the ability to leave anonymous comments.

2) Since my motives were questioned, I intend to leave a much more detailed comment soon. But here's my motivation in a nutshell - to make life as uncomfortable as possible for all the Pharisees among us - just like Jesus did!

3) Why do so many people who claim to be followers of Jesus act JUST like the people who tried to kill him???

Ryan said...

Could you please post your thoughts soon. I'm not sure I can handle a third "I'll post more details later" comment.

Charles Sean North said...

Okay, I'll post a more detailed comment later! How much later is up to me. Maybe I'm trying to build suspense like these local newscasters who keep saying, "That story right after the commercial break" - and it NEVER comes!!!

Bill Jordan said...

While we are waiting for the commercial break to come to an end, could I comment on one other point made by the "anonymous" visitor to this blog?

I don't want to veer off course here too far because the real meat of the conversation should remain about leadership, but this passage from the lengthy note also drew my attention:

"For that is my beef with today’s progressives’ politically correct train of thought that is seeping into the church—that such a prevalent and transparent double standard exists and that it is traditionalists who are vilified and it is wrong of them to criticize or even question this new 'Emergent' movement.

Why don't we turn that upside down and see how it looks and sounds?

For that is my beef with today's traditionalists' and their politically hard line train of thought that has slowly drowned the church – that such a prevalent and transparent double standard exists and that it is "change agents" who are villified and it is wrong of them to criticize or even question the heritage and track record of the restoration movement.

1, 2, 3, 4 ... and now here's Ryan with another message about our friend Status Quo!!!

Ryan said...

Did you know that Pictures of Matchstick Men by Status Quo reached Number 7 on the British pop charts in January 1968?

But I digress...

I love Matthew's gospel. It is the book where Jesus goes after the establishment. Matthew 23:23-24 is particularly relevant to this discussion. It seems to me that we have shifted from leadership to letter of the law vs. spirit of the law.

Brian England said...

I shared this story with Bill on a previous occassion. A few months ago I was in a small group bible study where communion was served. As the bread and the "wine" went around the room my 9 year old daughter spontaneously decided to participate. I could have never predicted how I would respond to her actions that night because for the last 7-8 years I have believed we have too often treated our children as outsiders. I felt my blood pressure go up (not out of anger) and my head begin to sweat. I had what I can only describe as a hot flash and I'm pretty sure I'm not menopausal. What was most troublesome to me was I could not figure out why I was having such a stron physicological reaction. When I shared this with the others in the small group, they were surprised I reacted this way because I'm probably one of the "new progressives" described above. Indeed, that might be an understatement. I'm off the chart to the left on a few issues when compared to most members of the church of Christ. The difference between me and most "liberals" is that I do not have an agenda I'm trying to push. Anyway, here is the point--when dealing with any issue, not just musical instruments, the real issue is not who is being rational, mature, theologically sound, or exegetically correct. The issue always seems to be how are leaders going to make decisions when dealing with issues where people are having very real reactions (even if they are irrational, immature and based on 'bad theology' or irresponsible exegesis).

Ryan, I agree that Matthew is a great gospel to look to in resolving such issues. I cannot think of a better book that addresses what it means to be a scribe or a leader in a church that is in transition. In that vein, I believe Mark Love gets it right in his thinking that Matthew 13 is the strategic center of the gospel (the "X" in the chiasm). Jesus' statement at the end of the parables in chapter 13 is unique to Matthew. He says "Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old" (13:52). The great thing about Matthew is that his gospel holds together old and new, therefore, faithfully represents the concerns of Jesus and the kingdom. It is also a description of leaders (or "scribes") that a church can trust. Wise kingdom scribes do not sever ties with the past in favor of embracing the new. Instead they find both new and old treasure mutually enriching (Credit goes to Mark for these words).

Sometimes, people have strong reactions to things and there is no real good reason to explain why the react the way they do. Even after they have been taught the "truth" and have adopted those teachings on an intellectual level, their conscience may still prevent them from jettisoning their old beliefs. I have always been quick to dismiss immature reactions and irrational beliefs. But, after my recent experience, I have elevated Romans 14 to a higher level of importance in my "personal canon."
I do not know why the elders made the decision they made. Truthfully, I wouldn't have made that decision. However, I know in recent years, too many irrational and immature traditionalists have been given "shock treatment" in an effort to get them on board with contemporary thought. Worse then that, too often they have been marginalized in the community's theological discussions (I'm guilty). Maybe, at times, it is wise for the community to constrain itself on behalf of its immature and irrational members.

Brian England said...

Oh yea, forgive my technological ignorance, but how can I get my pretty mug next to my comments? I feel that one cannot help but give my opinions more weight if they see my pretty head next to them. A great man once said, "Bald is beautiful."

Bill Jordan said...

Brian, that's a pretty slippery slope you're on if you want your picture beside a blog comment. The next thing you'll expect is background music to play while you're typing.

Trust me, ask Madison to help you. I'm pretty sure she knows how to do it.

... and thanks for reminding me about Mark Love's book. I give you tons of credit for the way you opened my eyes to several things from Matthew with the help of that book. After all, it hasn't been that long ago that that big screen came down before worship services one morning to project the words to a song and I had my own "hot flash" experience.

Ryan said...

Still no more detail from Uncle Charlie I see.

Charles Sean North said...

Well, this is new - my brother waiting to hear from me, hanging on my every word, eager for pears of wisdom from his older brother. Nice! I'm really enjoying this "commercial break."

Welcome Brian.

Thanks for sticking up for me Bill. It wasn't that long ago that I was called into an elders meeting and told to quit blogging, or at least only use it for "encouragement" and "positive things."

To all - please keep in mind that this blog is sort of a shrine to Thomas Jefferson. In the 1800 Presidential campaign the supporters of John Adams accused TJ of being the devil because of his strong position on church/state separation. To these "theocrats" (the 19th century version of todays religious right) he said, "I have sworn, upon the altar of God, eternal hostility toward every form of tyranny over the mind of man." For him religious tyranny was as dangerous as political tyranny because it was contrary to the spirit of freedom we have in Christ. Jefferson also HAMMERED John Calvin, but that is fodder for another discussion.

Charles Sean North said...

I meant "pearls of wisdom," but "pears" works as well!

Bill Jordan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Jordan said...

o as a newspaper publisher has long been: "I may not agree with a single thing you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Of course I stuck my chest out much further in my younger days when I said that than I do today. The reality for me, just like you, is that we wear several hats and it is hard for some people to know which one we are wearing at any given time.

I hope you'll give us the rest of your thoughts on "leadership" pretty quick. It goes without saying we (me especially) have derailed the conversation away from the original target. I'm hungry to not only hear your thoughts, but also your brother's and Brian's.

It seems obvious that the four of us want to focus the conversation on "church" leadership. But the opportunity to think and learn may be much wider in scope. I don't know what has set off the growing storm in the last few days but I've had several people express concerns about where our nation's presidential elections next year are headed. Our state capital was very much taken hostage in May by a Speaker of the House that's become so power hungry he's blind to his own crime. From the church house to the White House leadership is really under the microscope – as it should be. But at the same time leadership is most certainly in shot supply and growing harder and harder to find. I think your question and mine is: Why?

Charles Sean North said...

Okay, here we go. Usually I don't give lengthy responses to anonymous comments, but I will this time for these reasons: 1) My motives were questioned twice. 2) This person is clearly close to the situation I spoke about. 3) The role/function of elders and ministers in a rapidly changing and splintering church is ALL about leadership.

So, let's start at the end. Our anonymous friend said, "Taking the higher road is hardly ever glorified or honored, but in fact is sometimes painful. Nevertheless, it is an effective and practical leadership tool, for which Christ taught and showed us how." I disagree! In what gospel did Jesus teach or demonstrate that his followers roll over or compromise with the religious establishment? Jesus was a rebel. They wanted to kill him because he acted against all of their traditions and taught his followers to do the same. Here's something from Mike Cope's blog a few weeks ago: “Somewhere along the way the movement of Jesus Christ became civilized as Christianity. We created a religion using the name of Jesus Christ and convinced ourselves that God’s optimal desire for our lives was to insulate us in a spiritual bubble where we risk nothing, sacrifice nothing, lose nothing, worry about nothing. Yet Jesus’ death wasn’t to free us from dying, but to free us from the fear of death. Jesus came to liberate us so that we could die up front and then live. Jesus Christ wants to take us to places where only dead men and women can go.” In Mtt. 23 Jesus called the Pharisees "sons of hell." That's pretty harsh, along with "brood of vipers" and "whitewashed tombs." Can't we see what is so painfully obvious? JESUS EVISCERATED MERCILESSLY THE CONSERVATIVE TRADITIONALISTS WHO REFUSED TO CHANGE! Why do we coddle them when Jesus said, "Get on God's side or get out of the way!" If you are a follower of Jesus, called to a radical life of counter-cultural cross-bearing, the adage "better safe than sorry" better not be in your vocabulary!

So, let's move on, but with surgical precision. The specific issue was music in church. This man's position is people who use or condone music in church are going to hell. This is obvious - he was concerned for his brother's soul. My position is that singing acappella is a wonderful expression of worship, but I also believe that using musical instruments is an EQUALLY VALID expression of worship. How, exactly, do I move closer to his position??? ANY movement on my part will have to result in the admission that you may end up in hell for not worshipping right - according to his opinion. There is NOTHING - NOTHING in almost 2000 years of Christianity that says music in worship is a salvation issue. This is an issue that raised its ugly narcissistic head in the American Restoration movement within the past 150 years. It has caused massive division and heartache. The traditional Church of Christ attitude is unscriptural, contrary to the entire thrust of 2000 years of history, necessarily divisive, and thus SINFUL. I cannot and will not tolerate that. Also, there is a word used since the 5th century for people who say, "Our little group is the only true/authentic/pure expression of Christianity, and everyone else is going to hell." That word is . . . HERETIC. The worldwide Christian population is about 2 billion. There are only about 2 million members of the Church of Christ worldwide. That's 1%. If you say that God's grace will only cover 1% of all people who profess faith in Christ, and the other 99% are going to hell, you're nuts, not to mention delusional and indescribably narcissistic!

Please remember that I was kind to this man during our conversation. I said to him, "I really understand what you're saying, and I agree. We just apply it a little differently." I even apologized to his brother for offending him! I bent over backwards. His response was, "I don't want you preaching here." That's mature! And speaking of maturity, I sensed that Mr. Anonymous took some cheap shots at my age. I'm only 33, and thus I may be "informed," but that is dwarfed by the older member's experience. Again, I have to disagree. I have seen many Christians who were baptized 30, 40, 50 years ago, and still they are as immature and mean as the day they were baptized. Age and maturity are not always the same thing. Oh, and by the way, a Christian who stands as a mature pillar of faithfulness cannot be defended and coddled as "weak" as soon as they are offended. That's not how it works. Their faith will not be destroyed if the Sunday night assembly is replaced with small groups. And yet, I sat in an elders meeting and actually heard this nonsense - "What about the weaker brethren?" What baloney!!!

Here's what all leaders need to understand. Anxiety and fear are 2 sides of the same coin. Fear is the opposite of faith, and anxiety respects no boundaries. How can we as leaders call people to discipleship and model discipleship if we say things like "better safe than sorry?" I say, it is better to follow Jesus than to be safe!

Joe D said...

O.K.... I admit it. I have done a little lurking in this blog. My lurking was not some perverted attempt to remain anonymous, but a reflection of my lack of ability to navigate the straits of cyberspace. Earlier today, I commented on the blog site of a well known newspaper publisher to share my heartfelt comments about a certain wedding. I posted as "anonymous" because I could neither remember nor re-create my blog identity. I even signed my anonymous comment to bring validity to my anonymous comment.

Joe D said...

To bring further proof of my internet-ineptness, I just posted my comment prematurely while innocently spellchecking. I would post a picture of my mug, but I am afraid I would end up with a picture of Brian instead.

So here is my comment...... Like in nearly every other church instance, we have suspiciously strayed from the tenor and intent of the original posting-- that effective leadership is accompanied by pain. Are we no better than some veteran married couple that still dog piles on issues in the heat of an argument that are off subject and have little to nothing to do with the subject and discussion at hand? The truth of the matter is that real leadership IS accompanied by pain. I have been personally involved in several private, business, civic and church leadership venues and they are ALWAYS heralded and riddled with pain--- the kind of pain that requires a superhuman dose of Benadryl to get a decent night's sleep on occasions. The kind of pain where you get to field all manner of well intentioned but horribly misguided comments that leave keloid-like scars. The kind of pain that threatens friendships and relationships and creates baggage that could never pass airline inspection due to its size, weight and hazardous material content. However this leadership is something that people are "called" to do. Yet the very people who you are called to lead are the very people who turn on you when there is a morsel or a hint of pain. If you need some verification of this, just ask Moses. If you need another witness, ask David-- or practically any Apostle. And let's not forget Jesus.

So is leadership painless--- apparently not. Is the pain a badge of honor like a boo-boo hidden by a Spiderman band-aid? Absolutely not. Does it hurt? Oh yeah-- for a very long time. But it does go with the territory. Which is what the author was trying to say before we got to talking about instrumental music and weaker brethren. Before we started calling names and before we started surreptitiously and anonymously leaving landmine like comments. And before the author felt the need to be defensive in response to the posted comments--- Don't shoot yourself in the foot brother!!!!

Bill Jordan said...

If we are going to use words like "EVISCERATED" then it is time for me to admit this is way out of my league. I say that because it is a good time to call for a deep breath and get a couple of things into perspective.

First, I'll defend Charles' last comment by saying, "I agree."

Second, I'll defend Charles' last comment because I know how deeply he loves the Baker Heights congregation. Does that mean he fully respects and agrees with that church family's leadership methods and actions? Obviously not. But it does not erase his love for those people.

Third, if you're not perceptive enough to realize how wounded he is over this incident, and several more just like it, then you really don't understand his passion for the people of that congregation.

I share his pain. I understand how much the wound he's received hurts. I defend his right to "vent" because I've wanted to "vent" myself day and night for several months. My pain is different, but my pain is also the same.

But here is what I want not only Charles, but others to hear:

The villain in this incident is not the man that was concerned with the use of background music on a presentation. I may not agree with his position, but I respect his right to hold that position. I find fault with him because he didn't extend Charles the same right to a different opinion, but that still doesn't make him the true villain in my eyes.

The telling fact that he so quickly called for Charles' head on a silver platter is the dead giveaway that forces much strong than his "position" were in play. Someone used his "concern" or "understanding" to spark a deep emotion inside his mind that fueled a gross over reaction. He was frankly the pawn of an evil force that we all need to confront if we are ever going to resolve this cancer that is eating the flesh off of God's people -- church, by church, by church.

I believe this very strongly. I challenge "Anonymous" or anyone else to show me where I am wrong in my opinion. And let me make that clear. I said, "Show Me." I didn't say disagree with me. I'm saying prove me wrong.

Read for yourself Galations 5: 16-26. It just takes a minute. Go back to verse 16 and start over again and give yourself time to absorb verses 16 - 21 really, really well.

Folks, there's not a one of us that won't stand up against sexual immorality, debauchery, witchcraft, drunkenness or orgies. And we'll all "amen" all day to Paul's statement at the end of verse 21 that says, "those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Sin has them working 24/7 for the forces of evil and they will be punished if they refuse to repent. I'm not going to judge these people because I'm a sinner too. I hope the grace that covers my sins covers their sins too. But what is clear if you finish reading Galations 5 is that the punishment they most certainly receive is a seperation from "joy, peace, love, kindness, gentleness and goodness."

Living a life in Christ without those fruits of The Spirit is punishment enough. If there is a stonger punishment than that it will be between them and God. I just hate watching people I love and care about living a life "In Christ" without those "fruits."

And here's the heart of my question. And the heart of the question about leadership -- especially the leadership of God's people. How do we so quickly cast away dealing with "discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy" when these acts of an evil spirit are so clearly in action right in front of our noses?

I don't believe the man with his concerns with "background music" had, or showed, any of those evil spirits. But I believe strongly that he was fueled, set up, pushed, driven by others who clearly did and do have that evil working inside their hearts. And those same people fuel, set up, push, and drive elderships with their same evil motives. The devil is smart enough to use both leaders and followers as the targets of his attack. We should all be strong enough to stand up to that attack, but who among us shouldn't expect a church family's "leaders" to stand up first and stand up the strongest?

Just put the two words "discord" and "dissensions" to the full test. What do they mean and how do we spot those evil spirits at work among God's people?

I believe an eldership in any church of Christ, or in any "church" for that matter, would stand up and fight for the souls of the congregation if they realized they were under attack by anyone or any group that practiced witchcraft. But are we willing to launch a counter attack against discord or dissensions?

Folks, that's where the wound is deep in Charles' heart. He's been let down by a leadership style that won't fight for the souls they are responsible for leading to Heaven. Those are real WOLVES attacking those sheep! Is it just Charles' heart that breaks over that lack of conviction and purpose? Mine does. I hope your's does too. At the same time I'll confess that I haven't been that type of leader when I should have been. All I can do is promise to do better. I hope other leaders will accept my challenge and make the same promise.

And finally a challenge just for you Charles. Step back ... way, way, way back from the hurt inside that was inflicted at Baker Heights. Rise above it. Don't mention it for 365 days. Let God put his hand on those brothers and sisters. Stand back and watch what he does in their hearts. Pray for them every day for 365 days and ask God to show them how to recognize and do battle with the evil spirit.

I don't know what God will do with those people. I do know what he'll do for you. He'll bring you peace. He'll bring you understanding. He'll give you wisdom to be the leader you want to be in His Kingdom and the leader I know He wants you to be for Christ' church. He'll give you the ability you need to take on the next test that will no doubt come as a man who leads God's people. You'll be rewarded richly.

Brian England said...

Good discussion. Joe, I can send you a good picture of my "best side" to use in your profile if you like.

Bill, I often wonder why good leaders are in such short supply these days as well. Here are some of my theological musings on the subject:

1. Promise land: good leaders sure seemed hard to come by once the Israelites reached the promised land. Judges gives us an interesting perspective on the state of leadership by the reoccuring motif that "everyone did what was right in his own eyes." Seems to me that we are inhabitants of the promise land thanks to your parent's generation. What a great generation. In light of all that they did and sacrificed, no wonder they call them the "greatest generation." That generation was dedicated to working to make the world a better place. They witnessed the worst of humanity, yet they believed that through hard work they could make this world a better place to live. They believed they would one day reach the promise land. Your generation (baby boomers) and especially my generation (gen x'ers) are in many ways still living off of the capital gained by our parents and grand-parents. Where are we really suppose to lead people? Haven't we already arrived? So, why even hold ourselves out there to be scrutinized by others when we can live off the fruits of our parent's labor? We no longer have to chase the American dream, we're living it. Each of us can now do what is right in our own eyes.
2. Fishermen: I still do not fully comprehend why Jesus chose who he chose to follow him. Why would he walk up to fishermen on a beach and call them to be leaders? Why would they just drop everything and accept the call? It probably shouldn't amaze me that Simon and Andrew, James and John accepted the invitation. What should amaze me is that there have been times where I have heard that same call by the same person and yet I chose to remain on that beach wondering if its really worth going or not. Eventually, I hope I will get tired of chasing after fish (more security, more power, more entertainment, more success, etc.)--things that really do not matter. I think Jesus calls leaders to teach them how to chase after the things that really do matter. The truth is, I think we too often are waiting for a better offer (or we have already accepted the best offer). We are not yet convinced that the invitation is a part of something bigger than any of us could ever hope for or imagine. As a preacher once said, "we are too often like children who choose to play in mud puddles in the street because we think this is the best life can offer; but, he is wanting to show us the ocean and the beach, which are just around the corner."
3. Jonah: Maybe we also run from leadership because we know where God is leading us and we do not like it. It doesn't fit with our own plans. Maybe his call makes us so uncomfortable we would rather go the other direction then to lead a bunch of Ninevites. What a bunch of crude, irritating and uncultured people. Who are my Ninevites? Well, for one--"close minded, irrational, traditionalists who think they own the truth." Now those people are irritating.

Brian England said...

Charles, I think I understand your passion on this subject. I could never really fully express the respect I have for people who have responded to God's call to leadership. I admire it so much because I often wonder if Law School was not my Tarsus. I would like to think that this is not the case, but nevertheless the thought persists. I've really been avoiding fish for the last 3 years though.

Joe D said...

Brian, I would dearly love to see a picture of your "good side" because to date it has not been visible to me with the naked eye.

I swore I would not be sucked into this discussion of "forms", however the vortex of the sucking winds are almost more than I can bear.

I would say that I, too have sensed Charles' wounds. I also have a sense that he loved and still loves and still is interested in the welfare of the Baker Heights church and its members. I also know that I have only seen and sensed and heard one side of the story and as I can well imagine, there are wounds all around. And maybe there in lies the real point. We spend so much time and mental energy spitting at each other and fighting among ourselves over non-essential matters that in the end, we ALL loose. I am being self convicted in this too, but we spend way too much time looking through the glasses of our own device instead of donning the "kingdom glasses" that we are called to wear and to look through.

As leaders called by God and chosen by His people, we have to have the courage and conviction to make choices based on what is best for the kingdom. The natural tendency is to cave and cow to the loudest members, however scripture tells us to be sensitive to "stumblers"--- it doesn't say anything about "grumblers".

Make no mistake, I am not where I want to be maturity wise or wisdom wise, but it seems almost senseless to go to war over issues that only results in casualties, fractured assemblies and church families polarized by fatal wounds and life-long scars. I know of no modern contemporary situation where we have "fought" like this and it resulted in a single soul for the kingdom or the building up of the bride of Christ. I suppose that it is human of us to fight and war against ourselves, but someday, we have to rise above it I would think.

Charles Sean North said...

I really want to thank you all for commenting. Yeah, we did get way off topic - and I'm to blame. Sorry if my last "vent" seemed way, way over the top. It was! Bill's perception is right - I really love those people which is why I feel a lot of pain. Now that I have some freedom to vent and express myself I really want to resist the urge to bash that church and some people in it. I do love them dearly. Even "Anonymous" is someone I love dearly (I think I know who this person really is). And even in a forum like a blog where people are allowed to vent you can "shoot yourself in the foot."

I'm really not walking around with toxic levels of anger and hostility. I love where I am now, I love the people at Kaufman, and I want to be the best leader I can be - as God allows. I just wanted to say those things for a LONG time, and now that its off my chest I feel MUCH better.

Brian - you're going to be a great lawyer and church leader!

Joe - Thanks for your calmness!!!!!

Bill - Thanks for defending me and giving me that advice. I'll try!

Ryan - Thanks for being the best little brother a guy could ask for!!!! Ha, Ha.

"Anonymous" - If you are who I think you are, I really do respect you as a shepherd. I know your heart is in the right place. People will follow you because they respect you.

Jenn - Thanks for being part of my little blog community.

To all you lurkers - jump in!