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.