DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

To Dance or Not to Dance? That is the Question?

Written by: on June 6, 2015

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 The Western church is truly in liminal space, having “become travelers with maps that are outdated and that no longer describe the landscape.”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?

About the Author


Mitch Arbelaez

International Mission Mobilizers with Go To Nations Living and traveling the world from Jacksonville Florida

6 responses to “To Dance or Not to Dance? That is the Question?”

  1. mm rhbaker275 says:

    I am really interested in your story – thanks for sharing this post. I think it is awesome the ministry that you and Michelle are sharing.

    I have always believed that God desires unity and oneness – of course, even as Paul addresses the people in the various congregations to live in harmony,

    (e.g. “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 1 Corinthians 1:10)

    a part of his resume contains the dispute and split between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15). The text records that they had “such a sharp disagreement that they parted company” (Acts 15:39).

    I once was in a similar situation that you describe only I was part of the family! Eventually a door opened for us to graciously move to a new ministry. The incident between Paul and Barnabas was apparently open for all to see; often these kinds of situations fester unseen and hinder the work of God. Eph. 4 outlines that the gifting (APEST) of the church is to “buildup the Body of Christ” with the intent purpose of living in “unity in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God …” It is possible for those with leadership authority to ignore the spiritual gifting of the church. In the context of God gifting the church, Paul instructs there should be no spiritual disunity; he instructs the church to “speak the truth in love” (4:15). When possible, seek to fulfill your gifting in the local community of believers.

    God gifted you and Michelle to serve and work in kingdom ministry; if not where you are at, then like Barnabas, in a different venue. You might need to “split” but do it in love with no harm to the body. If I could speak in love, I think I know your heart, be careful about “shaking the dust of your feet,” as that passage of scripture refers to leaving behind those who rejected both the message and the messenger. It is with excited anticipation we pray and seek for God to make clear how and where you and Michelle will fulfill your gifting!

    • Hey Ron, thanks for your comments. I perhaps stated Michelle’s decision a little strong using that metaphor. Ha! She is struggling too but is more ready to leave than I am. There are friends that we would hate to lose. Her point if valid though, “If in the last three years we haven’t been able to have any influence on the pastor or any of the leadership lets move on to where other churches and pastors are hungry for our help.” I hear you brother. If we leave we will do it with humble hearts and never burning bridges.

  2. Ashley says:

    Mitch, I am shocked! You didn’t teach Women on Purpose? 🙂 I am a little shocked at the kingdom you pastor has created. It appears as though he is glorifying himself and his family…which would be the opposite of what I perceive is the calling of a pastor. If I were you… I’d sit down with him man-to-man, pastor-to-pastor and voice your concerns. I believe that’s biblical! Take it straight to the source of the problem. If not now, when? If not you, who?

    If nothing changes, I am with Michelle. It’s time to take your talents and gifts of empowerment elsewhere. But that’s just me. If I know you, you’ve given this to the Lord and are eagerly awaiting His leading, and when He urges you, you will follow your heart.

    Bless you, good and faithful servant!

    • Ha! Ashley they knew that I would be TOOO much of an expert on that subject for their audience. Ha!! When you put it into written words it really does sound bad. Perhaps I have drunk a little of the cool aid and have a love for Pastor and his family. This is the struggle I deal with each Sunday. I want them to be better but they are fearful and struggle with trusting outsiders. They have been burned, so each day as I pass the church heading to my office, I pray for my pastor and for him to gain a trusting heart and to be opened to missions coming from his church to the world. Thanks for your advice. I will share it with Chelle.

  3. Liz Linssen says:

    Hi Mitch,
    Wow, your church really needs to do some dancing 🙂
    It certainly sounds like a tightly-controlled situation.
    What to do…? I’m sure you’ve been praying about it. What do you feel the Lord is saying to you? It’s certainly a big decision, one that the Lord can speak to you about.
    It’s a shame they don’t allow others to freely teach – what a blessing they’re missing out on!

    • Liz, thanks! We have been praying and still don’t know what to do at this point. I know with all my school work it has played a large role in our inaction. I could not handle at this time a regular preaching schedule or consulting gig or whatever. So, we stay and enjoy the “show” and go on about our ministry and school work. Oddly enough I have preached more in Wales then I have at my own church where I attend the most. Ha! Thanks for your kind words.

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