Relationship + Obedience + Fruit = Credibility
Credibility = proven competence + integrity + relationships
As I read Cascades by Greg Satell, my mind was drawn to the emphasis on relationships and community, especially as the author contrasted the historical mental model of strong governance as the catalyst for change.  The need to create interconnectivity and interdependence is essential. The author pointed out that as leaders insulate themselves, they become incapable of understanding the forces that would lead to their downfall. I find this to be true in so many situations, especially in the lives of followers and how the next generation of followers is perceiving our apprenticeship to Christ.
Consider Raoul, a friend of mine, a follower of Jesus for many years. In recent days, he began questioning some things that happened in his past, while desiring to grow closer to the Lord and with others in the faith. He surrounded himself with other followers and found much encouragement within the body of Christ. However, in a time of questioning, he pulled away, isolating himself. He began to question the relationships he had formed with his small group, not sharing any of what was going on inside with his friends and fellow followers. He stopped attending small group and worship. The more and more he isolated, the more he found his heart desiring less of God and more of what seemed to satisfy his happiness outside of a relationship with God and others. It was sad to see this cascade happen. While this scenario is one of personal leadership on behalf of my friend, it breaks my heart that this situation does not stand alone, isolation is a trend I see happening in the lives of so many deconstructing their faith, some reconstructing and some to the point of atheism. I pray for more followers who will engage in relationships with others, for the long haul, mutually growing more and more into the likeness of Christ.
To create meaningful change, I must put forward an affirmative vision for what I want the future to look like. In my NPO research and own experience, literature and personal experience asserts that deconstruction is a cycle that all followers of Jesus experience at some level. Deconstruction is not new. Job experienced deconstruction. Thomas experienced deconstruction. However, a person should not feel isolated in their deconstruction, but understand that like Thomas, one of the twelve, individuals experience doubt and that within the faith community, questions and conversations are welcome. This is where interconnectivity and interdependence comes into play.
Much of my NPO research has been in the powerful interplay of relationships, integrity, and proven competence. Relationships are a catalyst for growth in the lives of followers of Jesus when engaged in an apprenticeship marked by integrity and fruit, proven competence. Story after story of people who find themselves leaving the church have some element of hurt from the perceived lack of integrity from a leader in that person’s life, whether it be a pastor, teacher or friend. The credibility of church, as a system, has been tarnished by story after story of disappointment in the fruit that others have rightly or wrongly witnessed. I would challenge the author, while Gandhi was determined to internalize the struggles of those he wished to liberate, Jesus Christ internalize them to the point of death, giving the ultimate liberation from sin and death.  No other leader took on the struggles of those he loved like Jesus. The development and preservation of relationships is one key element in leadership.
As we consider proven competence, in my research, I had a Zoom interview with author A.J. Swoboda. As we discussed our mutual concern and mutual hope when considering deconstruction and reconstruction, he proposed that a call to greater obedience (integrity/proven competence) would inspire a generation of young adults leaving their faith behind to reengage with God and the body of Christ. I sort of “geek out” on the lives of the desert saints. I am inspired by their desire to live in the desert, for some, to recover a faith that contradicted natural desires, training themselves in discipleship through a rhythm of work, prayer, and solitude. Their lives bore witness to having been engaged in spiritual disciplines or ascesis, mentorship (Abbas – spiritual apprentices for rigorous discipleship and Christian doctrine), scripture memory, worship, and fasting. The practice of ascesis distinguished their daily life.  The inheritance of this early form of apprenticeship or discipleship, initiated by Christ and carried on with the desert saints, has been the production of generations of church leaders and followers to our current time.
The outcome of discipleship and apprenticeship to Jesus is the transformation of the whole individual, fully integrated with God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Contemporary literature notes that one of the reasons young adults are deconstructing their faith to the point of atheism is that young adults are not seeing the fruit of a fully integrated life with God, within themselves, but especially from other Christians. The orthopraxy, or “right practice/living” has not echoed the life of Jesus in the world. Reconstruction offers the opportunity for Christians to follow all of Jesus Christ, living in obedience to God’s authority.
As I think about myself as a leader and desiring to create meaningful change, I am praying that as I research, read and apprentice with others, that I will be able to forward an affirmative vision for what the future could look like in the lives of a generation of leaders with so much passion and determination to make the world a better place.
 Greg Satell, Cascades: How to Creat a Movement That Drives Transformational Change, (New York: McGraw Hill Education, 2019), 15.
 Ibid, 103.
 Gerald Sittser, Water from a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 88.
4 responses to “Relationship + Obedience + Fruit = Credibility”
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Cathy, what a powerful idea that perhaps some of the challenge of deconstruction is that we have not called young adults to full alignment to all of Jesus authority. I’m going to be chewing on that for quite some time.
It’s been a true honor to be in a cohort and peer group with you. I’m looking forward to seeing your research (partly selfishly because it will benefit mine). You have a lot to give and I’ve learned quite a bit from you, already. Looking forward to the next 2 years.
Cathy, I love how you mentioned that deconstruction is best when it takes place in community. I’m a little embarrassed but I think that’s the first time I’ve heard this. People tend to deconstruct alone or in loneliness, which is not healthy. Thanks for your post and enjoy your summer!
Cathy, I think you are right! I consider myself deconstructed as you know, and I think what saved me was that I deconstructed alongside a group of people going through a lot of the same deconstruction. It would be interesting to do a small group or something around deconstruction…what beliefs do we no longer hold on to? What beliefs feel wrong or different? what new beliefs have come along? I hope you have a great summer! Can’t wait to see you in Oxford!
In thinking about deconstruction, Todd pointed out that you mentioned that deconstruction is best when it happens in community and Jana mentioned that she deconstructed alongside a group of people going through a lot of the same deconstruction. I am wondering about deconstruction within community but the community not being the Church. What I’m trying (but failing) to ask is, what if, someone starts taking yoga (this is NOT to pit yoga against Christianity! I love yoga and all its benefits. This is just a poor example because I don’t have any more brain space after these last few weeks.) But back to the person taking yoga. She falls in love with the practice, the community, the teachings. She begins to notice how some of her “Christian” beliefs don’t line up with her newfound love and deconstruction begins. Her new yoga community surrounds her with love and support – in many areas of life, not just deconstruction. She finds her new belief system somewhere between traditional orthodox or evangelical or whatever denomination Christian beliefs and yoga teachings. For the Christian this may seem like she has left the faith. For her though, she may have found a new way of living that is more faithful. I guess my question is, does this count as deconstruction within community? Just something I was thinking about as I read your well written post and the comments of others. No need to reply unless you want to as —This is our last blog post of the semester! Whoo hoo!