Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Resurrecting a Newsletter Article

Back in June of 2004 things weren't going so well in the ministry I'd been called to. It didn't seem like I was going to be long for the congregation, and it didn't look like the congregation had what it took to be around much longer. The in-fighting and constant feuding were killing it from within. It's nearly three years later, and it's no longer the same place. Here's my article from the June 2004 newsletter. For those of you who have been on this ride with me at Central, rejoice in knowing that you don't have to worry about getting hit with the stick any more. For those of you who are just tuning in to my musings - know that Jesus actually can show up in the most unlikely places (I always believed it, but now I believe it).
I once heard it said, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” There is a lot of truth in that statement, even though receiving forgiveness from our fellow human-beings is ofter even harder than getting permission!

Permission can be a good thing, when it’s given in such a way that allows people to roam freely within clearly defined boundaries. Too often, however, “permission” is held out before people as a carrot on a stick; always “just out of reach.” Every human organization is a mixture of both types of permission, it’s a fact of life “under the sun.”

Several days ago, however, I had a conversation with someone that revealed to me that we tend to be more on the “stick” side of the continuum. An idea for an event came up in conversation and I said, “Great! Go for it!” The person responded to me, “I wonder who would have to approve it?” I replied, “Approve it? Why? It’s a great idea! If you’re going to use the building pass that through the Trustees, but get some people together and go!” The reply came back, “But it has to be approved...”

This is the “stick,” people are leery of jutting their necks out too far for fear of getting whacked with said stick. This seriously hinders Mission; because by the time the next month’s meetings role around the idea is usually forgotten; or the board takes a month to mull it over and it gets missed in “old business” at the next meeting. What’s true in political organizations is true in other institutions as well, “If you want to kill an idea, send it to committee.”

I can hear some people thinking, “OK smart-guy, what do you have that’s better? I mean, if the boards don’t tell people what to do everyone will be doing their own thing! That can’t be any better than what we have now!” You know what? I agree. If everyone is doing whatever they want to do we will have a mess on our hands. Thankfully, that’s not what I’m suggesting.

Right now, in many respects, the boards and committees act as the “gate keepers” if people pass muster they are allow through the gate and are able to do their task. Again, this is the “stick” concept of permission-giving. This, however, misunderstands the point of the boards. The people who fellowship here in the name of Christ are already inside the gate! We don’t need gatekeepers so much as we need boundary makers! A boundary marker is much better than a gate because inside the sheep are allow to roam and graze, and live. When clear boundaries are set ideas can prosper and teams can be gathered to pursue mission; but how do we set the boundaries?

The boundaries must be set up by those who have been called into mission already here at Central. To that end, the “leadership” must gather together and define our core beliefs and values so they can clearly be spelled out. This goes beyond by-laws and job descriptions, and dives right to the bedrock of our true beliefs. Once these boundaries have been clearly marked the sheep can be free to roam, and the boards and committees can lovingly bring people back into the fold, instead of jealously guarding their gates. Such boundary-marking makes the words of the Apostle Paul a Reality, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17 NET Bible).”

I know that this type of freedom might be a new concept to many people. For this reason next month, we’ll see how “teams” function within these boundaries. Just remember, the goal in shifting from the carrot to the boundary marker is to release the people of God for the Mission of the Gospel. Let’s walk this road together.

Note: This article got me into a lot of trouble, but it was also one of the triggers that forced CBC to re-evaluate itself. Three years later, I celebrate it as one of the things God did to help this place (and me) wake up to hope.

1 comment:

wezlo said...

Actually, the cool thing about this newsletter article is that this past winter the craft fair idea came up again, and people told the proposers, "Oh yah, great idea get on it."