My last post mentioned a friend’s church where he is enjoying being the pastor of people who feel the freedom to be real … something that many people do not seem to experience. In fact, my own extenstive research of almost a dozen participants seem split on whether it is easy to “real” in their own churches.
So … how does a church where people can be real, or authentic, happen? It would have to be a work of the Holy Spirit, yet I think we will see some character traits in the flesh and blood players as they cooperate with the Spirit. Starting with the pastor. Take my friend and his church …
- He is an intelligent, well-read, and skillful communicator – yet he is humble in is relationships, never condescending,
- He seeks to help individuals think through issues and develop conclusions themselves. He is always asking questions, not out of a sense of superiority, but out of a true desire to help people learn.
- He is transparent and honest about his own struggles without fearing that he will undermine his qualifications to lead.
- The church is accepting of those who are “less-than-perfect” … not just those who are not yet believers, but those who already believe and don’t have “perfection” down yet.
- There is no culture of “mask-wearing” … again, modeled by the pastor and leaders first.
- While completely committed to a biblical Christian lifestyle, they are just as committed to freedom where the Bible is silent.
It also seems to help churches be real when there is a significant commitment to men. Challenging and helping them to be biblical, godly, kind, generous, strong and courageous, and real. Posers (and men can be great at that game) are not celebrated. Sin is confronted as sin, and forgiveness is granted quickly. There is a freedom to be who God has wired you to be.
My friend might add that it helps to have cigar nights every so often.
Linda and I have had the opportunity to take a few days of vacation in Phoenix, Arizona prior to a workshop on Monday. Sunny, warm, dry!
This morning we connected with a long time friend who shepherds a church in the East Valley area. He is enjoying a church where people feel a freedom to be “real”. Since many don’t have “churchy” backgrounds where they have learned “how to act”, being real means there are some messes, and rough edges, but there is a joy in being authentic. He’s been in a couple of other churches and finds the “realness” of this church to be a joy. We discussed some of the challenges to a church like his, and he mentioned that he deliberately wants to protect the church as a place where people can be authentic. We agreed that there probably aren’t many churches where people feel that they can be themselves and not have to play a role or wear a mask. Ironically, I think that most church leaders actually believe that people in their church find it easy for members to be real no matter what the members might think.
Which leads me to start a poll among my blog readers about how easy it is to be real in their church. I’m not tracking which churches you attend, just asking one question. It might lead to deeper polls or a new blogpost. It will take less than a minute. Join the throng multitudes dozens of voters.
One of the things I have learned over the years is that there are things that I don’t know that I don’t know. That is a bit different than knowing what I don’t know. For example, I know that I don’t know how the economy really works. I also know that I don’t know what makes women work. And I know that I don’t know know how the brain works.
Not knowing what I don’t know is different. I’m not sure I can even provide and example because if I could then I would know what I don’t know. So what I’ve learned is that I almost always have to assume that there is something I don’t know about everything. I’ve begun to ask people who are “experts” in various areas what is it that I most likely don’t know I don’t know? I do it because ignorance about my ignorance can lead me into some dangerous territory.
That doesn’t mean I might not make decisions, or that I can’t move ahead in my work, or pursue new endeavors within the church. I know that the Holy Spirit will guide even in the midst of ignorance which brings confidence and comfort. But that knowledge doesn’t excuse me from the hard work of learning and shrinking my “lack of knowledge” base … especially the one that I don’t know about yet. As the saying goes, “what you don’t know can hurt you. A lot.”
Incidentally I found this article about unknown unknowns. And the more I think about it, this previous post on brutal reality may apply here too.
Why this post? I don’t really know … do you?
Amy, my admin has begun to blog. Actually, “administrative assistant” is just a cover. She is actually a dancer. You can tell by her heart. And her passion. And by what she has started to write online. I think she will have some great insights to add to the online conversation with a bit of encouragement. Drop by and post a comment or two to keep her going!
Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples by Thom S. Rainer & Eric Geiger contains one of the best analyses of organizational church issues I’ve encountered in many years. As I’ve noted before, the section on ministry schizophrenia will put words to what many church leaders experience but struggle to define.
Now Thom Rainer and son have written Essential Church which you can download for free through October 6, 2008 from B & H Publishers website.
“The book is based on a study of one-thousand so-called “church dropouts” who were interviewed about why they left. Their answers are quite surprising, having less to do with “losing their religion” and more about the desire for a community that isn’t made stale by simply maintaining the status quo.”
Just a scan of the material demonstrates some of the challenges the church must face in ministering to young adults today. If you miss the freebie, or just want more info, you can purchase Essential Church?: Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts at Amazon.com or other booksellers.
My pastor friend Mark posted today about an unpopular side of being a leader – the point at which you must define reality when reality is not particularly pleasant, or what you (& others) want to hear. Been there. Done that. And the T-shirt wasn’t all that great.
It reminds me of Jim Collins’ Good to Great principle of confronting the brutal facts.
“When … you start with an honest and diligent effort to determine the truth of the situation, the right decisions often become self-evident. Not always of course, but often. And even if all decisions do not become self evident, one thing is certain: You absolutely cannont make a series of good decisions without first confronting the brutal facts.”
Far from being a pessimist, Collins encourages us to pursue the Stockdale Paradox:
Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.
AND at the same time
Confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
I find that most people want to camp on the first part of the paradox and ignore the reality – I know that is my temptation!. Maybe that’s why we end up with “elephants in our living rooms”. Nah, we wouldn’t want to know that.
Which takes us back to Mark’s post on unpopular leaders. Selah.