This Friday I addressed church leaders and pastors at the Logos University International Graduation and conference. Leaders attended from nations around the world, Germany, South Africa, England, Kenya, Jamaica, Latin America, and the USA. Having read the readings for this week I so desired to transmit that information to these Christian world leaders, but alas, they had already assigned me my topic and others were to teach on leadership issues. Here is a quick list of the other speaker’s topics. Can you guess which one they assigned me?
- Next Generation Leadership: The mantel of legend or legacy
- Women of purpose leaders success seminar
- Impacting the community through vision directed leadership
- How the church can regain her voice
- Entrepreneurial Leadership
- Influencing the kingdom through global impact
If you guessed the last one in the list you would be correct. Unfortunately, I theologically disagreed with the title, but that is another story on how I dealt with it during my workshop. I shared on how the church in the US has lost it’s influence on society using the latest study from Pew Research on the Religious Landscape of America that was completed just last month. As Evangelical Christians, our influence on the American population is not increasing: even with the successful mega churches, numerous satellite churches, better religious education, higher paying church salaries, and numerous books on church leadership we still lack the influence we would all like to have. According to all data collecting agencies it is the Religiously unaffiliated population that is seeing greater growth in America while the Evangelical Protestant and all other Christian religious are decreasing.
Though my workshop took me in the missions direction I could not help but think of Len’s articles. The Western church is truly in liminal space, having “become travelers with maps that are outdated and that no longer describe the landscape.” (Broken, 3). As I read Len’s work I kept saying “Yes!” So many things addressed by Len, Michelle and I are seeing taking place in our present church and it’s leadership. Our pastor seems to fit that Western model where the practices attempt to dominate life and leaders use control and imposition rather than self-organizing processes reacting “to uncertainty and chaos by tightening already feeble controls, rather than engaging our best capacities in the dance.” (Chaordic p. 2)
Ah yes, the dance. As you know by know this metaphor description is my favorite. Perhaps it is because I am Latino or just really have an inside track to knowing God well. He loves to dance. 🙂 Our pastor, he does not “do the dance” when it comes to leadership in our church. There is no chaos allowed in the tightly controlled structure. Everything is controlled, in the name of excellence of course, but we are losing meaning at the expense of building structures and establishing order. (Chaordic, 5). One does not have to investigate much in our current church to realize that our leadership model is “so heavily tied up with views of authority toward efficiency and productivity, [that is has] resulted in our missing the context and essence of leadership.” (Chaordic, 6).
In our church there are very few options to do ministry. Sure, you can be a small group leader (leading discussions on only the pastor’s previous message), or help out in the youth department (led by the pastor’s son), the children’s department, the college department (led by the other pastor’s son), help with women’s ministry (led by the pastor’s wife), be a greeter, or work in the book store and coffee bar (run by the admin pastor who is the son-in-law of the pastor – are you seeing a pattern here?). But have a true desire to teach and minster – no options for you.
As a matter of fact, there is no other theological education provided other than the large Sunday morning gathering where, as Len so eloquently recognizes, men and women are asked to “open their wallets and shut their mouths.” (Chaordic, 8). It is this Sunday morning production – and it is quite a production, full of lights, smoke machines, and camera’s rolling – that is the stage for the few, and in our church, the family few. No wonder it is difficult for missions mobilizers like me to enlist new missionaries when most believers in similar churches have deferred the work of ministry to the special class of minsters they see “preforming” each Sunday. (Chaordic, 8). Ahggggggggggg!
Since everything in our current church is relegated, segregated, and manipulated we are seeing the equilibrium being maintained, but unbeknownst to the current leadership this is a precursor to death. (Broken, 7). There are rumblings in the body. We have heard the discontented voices beginning to mumble against the tight restrictions. The system is stable, too stable. I think we are deep in the K phase but heading toward the omega phase. Resilience is beginning to lower. (Broken, 7)
So, what do I do? Michelle is ready to move on, “shake-the-dust-off-our-feet” kind of move and find a people where we can plug in and use our giftings to help the body. But I struggle. If living things move to the edge of chaos and then to self-organizing into new forms with new possibilities emerging, I have to ask myself, am I the causal agent brought by God to disturb the system? Shall I do the dance and help this leadership team get on the dance floor before a really bad disturbance that exceeds the system’s resilience breaks apart the tightly woven family web? (Broken, 8). Or, shall I sit this one out and dance elsewhere? What would you do?