the servant leader

5 06 2008

It is servant leadership…in which the leader is a vulnerable servant who needs the people as much as they need their leader

this follows closely on the heels of yesterday’s post about the responsibility of the leader to the community and the community to the leader.

a current struggle of mine is in regards to the role of the community in supporting their leader, beyond nodding the head during the sermon on Sunday morning, or shaking his hand on the way in or out.  in one sense the pastor or minister is an employee of the church, or the larger organization, that serves the community when they show up to “worship” with all the baggage out there.  if we hold just to this view, than the leader is just there to give the listener the product, or the message wrapped up with a nice little bow, and then withdraw until the next time or the next need shows up.  this is wrong, purely flawed.

the leader, assuming that he or she has an ounce of humility to lower themselves to some degree of servitude, is as much a part of the community as the man or woman who walks in with worries.  to take the position that the leader is above all others and therefore to be left alone at the top and to deal in a power exhortation downwards, is a corrupt view of the western Christian Church.  on a whole, pastors are left on an island by their people, the very ones who sing the praises of the preacher, or of the visit that the pastor made to the hospital during the past week.  one wonders if it’s that this is expected or that it is genuinely appreciated and valued.  what would it look like if your pastor was in the hospital?

we cannot ignore that the pastor is to minister to the people and is in place to lead the community of faith towards worship.  but the pastor is as much a member of that community that hurts, struggles, and doubts from day to day.  the pastor is not some perfect man on a pedestal, waiting to be worshiped and adored by his people because he did what was expected.  the pastor is as much in need of the very words that were spoken in the message as the man sitting three rows from the back, or the woman feverishly taking notes in the second row.  the pastor is a member of the body, is one with all other believers, not above or below, but has humbly accepted the role of leading the people to worship of the God on high.  the pastor is not greater, for he needs the people as much as they need their leader.

the question is, when will we start treating our leaders, pastors, and ministers as such?  when will we lose the stigmatism of a leader that doesn’t need the fellowship of his or her brothers and sisters as much as we need to hear the teachings and wisdom that God has given to the leader?

wake up people, we’ve got to learn to love our leaders as much as they love us.


the community and the shepherd

3 06 2008

When the members of a community of faith cannot truly know and love their shepherd, shepherding quickly becomes a subtle way of exercising power over other and begins to show authoritarian and dictatorial traits…

Ministers and priests are also called to be full members of their communities, are accountable  to them and need their affection and support and are called to minister with their whole being, including their wounded selves

the culture of this time would have the common person or churchgoer assume that secrecy is one of the most valued traits that humankind must cling onto.  some sort of lie has been built up to suggest that the human being must keep themselves hidden from those around them.  such a thought process has crept into the minds of those who lead our churches, preach to the masses, and proclaim the Good News in their lives, of which i myself am a guilty member.  i’ve kept secrets, we all have, and still do to this day, but i suppose the point of Nouwen here is to expose the minister or priest as above that standard.

if we are truly to be about community and about brothers and sisters in Christ caring for one another, we must choose to be open and transparent with each other, even if stings and wounds us.  as proclaimers of the Word we can stand up on Saturday night, Sunday morning, or whatever midweek program we run and tell people that they need to be a part of community and know what it means to love one another.  but as the one saying it and telling others about the value and importance, are we truly doing it ourselves?

maybe the reason we feel so burned out, useless, and abandoned in ministry is because we chose to hide ourselves on a higher platform than the community we are to be a part of.  we’re not to be set apart from our communities, we are to be one within it, so we must choose to be transparent and vulnerable as such so that not only can we minister to the needs of the community, but the community might minister to the needs of the leader.

it’s not about stunting

1 06 2008

Jesus refused to be a stunt man.  He did not come to walk on hot coals, swallow fire, or put his hand in the lion’s mouth to demonstrate that he had something worthwhile to say

i think i’ve made Jesus out to be a glorified stunt man time and time again.  a man that put on acts, jumped from buildings and blew things up to get the attention of those around him.  Jesus has become a glamorous figure who was the awesome man of image in his day, according to our time.  what if Jesus really didn’t do anything that asinine in-front of everyone.

i mean, he healed people and that is crazy in its own right, but more often than not you find him mentioning to the healed person the importance of keeping it quiet and to themselves.  sure, word spread about him and his amazing miracles, but he didn’t have pyrotechnics or anything, didn’t physically move the mountain to get attention or pull the eight of spades out the deck of cards every time, even though he could have.  ultimately his words stood up and he didn’t need to perform tricks or feats to keep the attention because they realized that his words were actually worthwhile.

now what do we learn from that?  maybe our glamorous services, extravagant displays, and eloquent speeches and writing doesn’t really mean that much.  maybe God really isn’t calling for a generation that bows to technology and finds a way to use it all to try to worship him.  maybe he just wants our words.  for us to use our words and his words to show the world of a worthwhile message of love and grace.

do we love?

31 05 2008

The question is not: How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results? But: Are you in love with Jesus?

we are in the business of getting consumed with our status and our image in the world, and losing sight of what it means to truly seek the heart of God. it comes down to a simple matter: love. love with Jesus, the fully-God and fully-man. nothing else really matters when it comes down to it. if we don’t love Jesus and aren’t in a love relationship with the God who saved the world, then what have we?

but if we are in love with Jesus, nothing else matters, it all falls away, because the power of a loving relationship with an infinitely powerful God blows everything else out of the water. there is no business in worrying about status or image because it means nothing when we are loving Jesus and know that we are wrapped in His arms of love.

thoughts on Nouwen

30 05 2008

i’ve recently had this longing to pull out a book that i read a couple of years ago and found to be exceptional. it’s called In The Name Of Jesus by Henri Nouwen. generally i’m pretty wary of the stuff that a Catholic priest has written, i’m not going to knock his stuff when it is some of the best i have ever read.

you know when you read someone and you are struck by the simplicity yet amazing nature of what he has to say? Nouwen fits the bill perfectly.

so i had this thought, how about i take one of his quotes, once a day until i run through what stuck out in the book, and think about it and mull it over. i can’t be any worse off for it and it’ll be a great exercise in learning to see what i might get out of this. so for the next however many days i’m going to reflect on one quote of Nouwen and see where it takes me, and if you’re reading this too, see where it takes you as well.

how about i start with something from the prologue.

God is a God of the present and reveals to those who are willing to listen carefully to the moment in which they live the steps they are to take toward the future

we often find ourselves seeking out the will of God, or the perfect plan that God has for us without really considering what’s going on around us. how much do we get stuck in the future and the past thinking that God’s will is trapped in something we have done or will do, not in what we are doing? something tells me that we might want to practice looking for God in the moment and where we’re at, not just where we’re going. maybe if we want to know what we should be doing with life, who we should marry, where we should live, etc, we should stop and slow down our lives just enough to hear the voice of God calling out to us while we live our lives away.

now that’s what i call a man with the power of simplicity and profoundness.

thoughts on TAN

27 05 2008

so i just got the new cd from tenth avenue north, or as i prefer TAN, in the mail yesterday.  yeah, so i still get cd’s through the mail and such, i’m semi-old school like that.  i’d heard there stuff from an album preview about a month ago and though it was great, so i decided to pony up the cash to buy the cd.  i’ll admit that i honestly wouldn’t always go for the typical pop-rock worship idea, but this time that’s the case.

what struck me about these guys, and made me buy the cd as opposed to just passing it off and listening on myspace, was why they are doing this.  we live in a culture of instant stardom, overnight celebrities founded through reality tv, myspace, youtube, you name it.  everyone wants a piece of fame and stardom, and we’re making the 15 minutes available to everyone who wants it, so they can pump themselves up.  we’ve lost our taste in what really is good in this world because we surround ourselves with everything and water-down what we really have that is great.  this translates to Christian music, and as anyone that listens to this stuff knows, there’s a ton of it out there, and a lot of it really is airy-fairy, and often not that good.

Mike, lead singer of TAN (i like that more and more now), describes the issue this way:

i feel like a lot of people are sort of fed-up with Christian music because a lot of it deals with truth, but it doesn’t deal at all with the wrestling, the struggling to believe that.  you know, and Jesus says that there is gonna come a time where true worshippers will worship in spirit and in truth

this resonates on so many levels.  there’s nothing wrong with the praise and worship, and stuff about daisies and dogs and miracles that we listen to, but doesn’t it feel like it just avoids the issue of doubt or suffering that the Christ follower goes through?

personally, i have had my own seasons of doubt, times when i’ve searched and asked questions of God that just don’t make sense to me.  stuff comes up that makes you wonder about this whole idea of faith and what it really means.  doubt is a healthy exercise to go through from time to time, because when you investigate and wonder aloud about what you’re doing and going through, you understand more about it and what it truly means.

there is one song on the cd entitled by your side.  Mike again draws reference to the aspect of doubt in the Christian when he is describing what the song is attempting to get across.

by your side is just a call to anyone who is struggling, anyone who is fighting against God, thinking that they have to work to earn it.  and it’s calling them to stop looking at what you can do for God, and fix your gaze upon what God has done for you, and let that motivate you to love Him back.  you know, we love because He first loved us

in a world where the top dog who worked through the system and got to the top is the model for everyone to follow, the grace of God contradicts everything.  there is nothing that can be done to earn grace or to get more of it from God.  it’s a gift that no matter how hard we work to try to do great stuff and attain holiness, grace is not going to come through anything other than the love of God.  God is standing with us offering grace on a daily basis regardless of the crappy choices that we might make and the doubts we have.  there’s nothing that we can do through works that will get us more grace or limit God’s grace in our lives.

when i think about the questions we direct towards God and the doubts that we have, the Steven Curtis Chapman situation comes to mind.  if you don’t know about it, basically his youngest adopted daughter who was 5, was killed late last week after being struck in the driveway of their home by one of his teenage sons.  devastating tragedy.  they have handled the situation masterfully, and although the hurt and pain is fresh and will continue to be there for life, the family has shown their trust in God in the midst of it all.  in light of that, the lyrics of this song stand out more than ever.

i’ll be by your side wherever you fall, in the dead of night whenever you call, please don’t fight these hands that are holding you, my hands are holding you

God has not left the scene; He hasn’t abandoned those who are hurting, struggling, doubting Him.

i’d say we need more stuff like this in a world where we struggle to see a loving God that is always here.  there’s a lot more that i could mention about the cd, but i’ll let you discover that yourself.

check them out here and here.


25 05 2008

the following is an article that i wrote a month or so ago and have reproduced here.  enjoy.

Communitas –

defined as: an intense community spirit, the feeling of great solidarity and togetherness. usually exists in the form of common living.

community is a buzz word these days, used in churches, neighbourhoods, alcoholics anonymous, weight watchers, etc. it seems that everyone wants a piece of belonging, of being greater than just themselves. it can be used to expose or hide our pain, give or take love, and to unite a group of similar people. do we really understand community though?

that’s where communitas comes into the picture. it’s the picture of togetherness, of a common spirit or goal, a group of people who are striving to meet one end as a group. it’s a group like this that is what i think true community was intended to be. when did community really start? as soon as God created adam, there was community in-between man and God. with the creation of eve, man and woman had intimate community. soon enough there would be community between multiple men of the earth. community is a part of who we were made to be; it’s been there from the start. so why do we seem to suck at living authentic community, or communitas?

community is so much more than meeting together once a week, seeing each other in passing, or watching a movie together. communitas embodies the type of community which is people sharing their lives together. it’s eating together, it’s laughing together, it’s crying together, it’s about being there. true community is about being intricately woven into a part of other people’s lives. it’s about knowing when your brother or sister is struggling and being able to just be with them. it’s not about having the right words or encouragement all the time, but it is about just being there. it’s about being vulnerable to the point of being brutally honest about you entire life with those involved in your community. when we’ve got secrets that are burning inside us and we can’t bring them up in our community, what is our community really worth?

ask yourself this question: am i tangible part of communitas right now? chances are that we might have a sliver of it, but we haven’t even come close to understanding what it’s about. it’s a long process, not one that can happen in a day or even a week, but we work at it.

in the past few days i’ve cried, literally wept at the feet of my brother, i’ve laughed until my side hurt, i’ve enjoyed pancakes, kraft dinner, and a hockey game with my brothers. tonight i’m going to go out and enjoy dinner with two of my brothers whom i’ve been able to get a slice of communitas with. i don’t know where we’re going, or when we’ll be back. but that truly doesn’t matter because i know i’m going to be with my brothers, and that’ll be enough for me. we’ve told great stories, are sure tell more as the day continues, and will continue to create great memories as we just work at being. i’ve experienced true vulnerability, true joy, and contentment in community. community has burned me this year, brutally backstabbed and let me down time and time again, but the bottom line is that my brotherhood of community has allowed me to experience so much more than it could have been. it’s not that i’ve reached the pinnacle of community, but the journey is bringing wholeness to my spirit that i didn’t know was possible.

God is there with us in the midst of community, and he’s laughing and weeping alongside us. when we have communitas, it means that no matter what comes our way, or what might break us down, there are always our brothers and sisters around us to just be with us.

so ask yourself again: am i a legitimate part of communitas? if you’re realizing that you’re not, then you’re missing out. our souls long for that sense of community, for the ability to be transparent and one with all of those around us. seek it out, wherever you’re at, sit down and break down the barriers in your community and see if you might find a real sense of communitas, of what it means to have an intense community spirit. you’re only going to be better off if you find it, and maybe it’s just what you’ve been crying out for and needing to have.

God has designed us for community, and it’s through the aspect of communitas that we’re really going to find out what we have been designed for. may we go now and be blessed by a little bit of communitas, a little bit of love, and a little bit of genuine togetherness. and then maybe we can just be.