Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A light touch works better

Pensylvania youth pastor Mike Lamson commented recently about Turf wars in the church..., something I've seen a lot of over the years, and something that looks the same no matter where you go. One of the key quiestions is all ministry is how these things get going, and how to keep them from starting. Mike points out that one important part is how we treat the people with minister with:

It's so easy to say that God loves us, but many times for people it seems hard to believe because they don't see it in action in real life. What am I doing to change this perception? What am I doing to contribute to the division?
We end up treating almost everything we work with in ministry as important, except for the people we are ministering with, our fellow workers in the vineyard, especially when they have problems or fall short. Mike feels the humility is the better road:
I'll give you a great example. Last fall we had a breakfast for our missions conference involving our youth. I had asked one of my adult leaders (who usually cooks for most of my events) if he would cook breakfast for the conference. He said he would love to. I call to remind him the day before and he is ready to go the next day.

But the next morning, he is nowhere to be found. What do I do? Do I get upset that he's not there? What should my response be? I am reminded of Eph. 4:2-3, "Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace."
So I start cooking the breakfast, and in the midst I'm calling him to make sure he's ok. I am not the greatest at cooking it, but I get by.

I wonder how many would call my friend and immediately say, "Where are you!? You were supposed to be here 30 minutes ago!" What kind of posture is that promoting? I mean, how many times have you made a commitment, and then something happens unexpectedly that just conflicts with your commitment? What if they got in a car accident? What if they got the news that someone close to them died or is in the hospital? We just don't know do we.

So maybe when an apparent conflict arises, instead of calling them and asking, "Where are you," we should ask, "Are you ok? How are you doing?" Regardless, what can you really do about it now? If it was something that was their fault, talk it out to make sure it doesn't happen again, but don't beat them over the head with it. I mean what does that really accomplish? We could avoid so much division if we a little more humble our postures in these moments, with a focus on the bigger, that of God's mission. In this instance, my friend let me down. I told him it made things a little more hairy, but it's done and let's do better next time. I'll call him earlier that morning to make sure he's awake, and at the same time realize that I don't need to get upset over it.
This is enourmous. I have seen wedges driven deep into teams by what people said when they felt someone let them down. It's a time when everybody is a bit sensitive, and also selectively deaf. Also, as Mike points out, sometimes there is a bigger issue, a more urgent probem, than just what that person did not do for you.

Let's turn it around for a moment. Remember the last time you really screwed up and let down someone you care for and respect. Think of what it was like when you approached them, so sorry for what you had done, and asking for forgiveness. It is like one's emotional skin has been sandpapered -- one feels the slightest touch as a blow. You feel like you are made out of glass, and the other person has a hammer.

Now remember when that person forgave you, reached out to you and restored your relationship. Very few things feel better than that, right? We're not throwing out accountability, that is needed too, with love and justice. But we must make sure that we don't throw out the person that Jesus died for either. Matthew (12:20) declared that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy that "a bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench." It is in this moment, in humility, that we can build stronger relationships with our fellow workers in the vineyard, instead of destroying them.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Thanks for the link.

Glad the post can be helpful. This post is birthed only out of my own personal pain and stupidity, and I still mess it up sometimes.

Great thoughts!