Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Public Persona Part 2 or Pervasive Spirit?

It has been about two weeks since I blogged on this subject of a public persona. It is interesting what happened.

I noticed that it was several days before my blog got a comment from anyone on my blog. It was, however,interesting that I had several phone calls and emails in response to my blog within hours of the post. I was not surprised.

I asserted in my last blog that what exists in the Church is a culture of distrust. I really believe this to be true. The issues of trust and insecurity in the Church I believe are huge. It was only reinforced by the fact that many of my very close friends and colleagues felt that it was not safe for them to respond in public to my post.

Scripture reminds us to "speak the truth in love." That requires us to trust that the person sharing her response to our disclosure of weakness has our best interest at heart and to trust that they will not intentionally harm us.

Some of the responses I received pointed out that many of the readers of this blog do not feel that they can trust their brothers and sisters in Christ enough to be vulnerable, because their responses could be used against them in some way. There may be times when we are shy against about sharing, because it opens past hurt. I know what it feels like to have a wound opened. It is not fun.

Many of those who commented in private were concerned that some who would pass themselves off as loving or pastoral, would use the comments to advance an agenda that would cause more pain against the ones who were unwilling to share. This is a difficult thing to hear and see happening in the Church. Unfortunately, I think it happens all to often. I confess that in the past, I have been one of the mean spirited ones who would have used this technique.

I think this whole issue of distrust comes from the fact that there are those who would use another's vulnerability to prove they are right, or superior. As I have often said, "Just because we claim to be sanctified does not mean we are superior." It should be just the opposite, if we are to be more like Jesus, we should be less concerned about proving our righteousness than we are with helping others work out their own relationship of love and grace with Jesus. I submit that can only be done if we take off masks, surrender power, realize our own need and begin to build a culture of trust.

For that to happen, our public persona must be dismantled and a God-like character taken on. If we are more like Jesus, don't you think we would be more trusting amd people would be more willing to trust us because we would show genuine empathy and concern?

I sit here tonight saddened. I must believe that trust and safety may have become the two most elusive characteristics of the Church. That will always make for unhealthy relationships.

So how do we restore trust? How do we make for safe community? When can we shed a public persona for a Christ-like loving image in our community of believers? Am I just a negative person or is there a pervasive spirit of distrust in the Church?

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Public Persona?

I have a carefully crafted image. Most of us do. We try not to let people in to the most secret part of us. It is true in the church in general. For some reason in the very community where there should be openness and healing, we go about concealing our true selves.

I confess that I am among that number. I fear making people uncomfortable or fear offending. I fear hurting the image of the wise-cracking, confident, visionary. For sure, all those are part of me. If you are like me, you carry insecurity. You carry distrust. You carry fear of rejection. This can lead to really unhealthy relationships.

They are relationships that are unholy. They are not unholy because of blatantly rebelling against the will of God. They are unholy relationships because of our nature of falleness and brokeness.

A boss who because of her insecurity has to control every decision in the office environment, but calls it "holding people accountable" is an unholy relationship. Bosses should nurture and correct in love. A husband who is so private he holds back his real hurt, fear and shame from his wife, because "he is the head of a Christian household" is unholy. The parent who never allows their children to openly share their disappointment with a them and takes it as rebellion when it is a cry for help is unholy. A church that will not forgive when even the most grievous offense is committed, is unholy. A church where people feel too intimidated to share their hearts in accountability and testimony of failure is unhealthy.

The reason behind our public persona and the unholy relationships, is simply the sin of distrust that is bred by an unholy culture. Confession, forgiveness and vulnerability are the only ways to open up the grace of God which needs to flow in order to make this church and our culture holy.

Over the past few days, I have experienced that. A series of events has led me to open up in a new way to my community and family. They have caused me to have to repent for my own distrust. They have caused me to make an attempt at building healthy and holy relationships of trust and grace. The problem, quite frankly, is that these types of relationships are not easy. They often hurt before they heal. They make our public persona crumble and realize that our crafted image is not always the best thing since sliced bread, even though we might think it is.

I have realized some very tough things over these days. They are probably things that people have seen in me for years. I wish I had acknowledged and confessed them before. I fear that because I have not, I have hurt people to cover my own insecurity.

I wonder if there will ever come a day in this authoritarian movement and in the Church in general, where people will feel free to confess, be vulnerable, and be trusting, because they know they will find forgiveness, support and grace. Maybe it's because The Church for too long has not restored, forgiven or cared the way it should. Maybe the cause is that those of us who call ourselves leaders have forgotten how to trust someone, because our public persona might crumble or we might feel some relationship pain or not be sent where we feel we should be. That is a bankrupt and unholy way to live. Maybe we just fear getting hurt.

Are we a culture of trust? Am I expecting too much? Is it all just a matter of confession, grace and trust? How can we make it happen in the Church and in our Movement?

As with all my posts, I want to know....What do you think?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

In Control?

"Because I said so." I swore I would never use that statement as a parent. It was a promise that, sadly, I did not keep. The default position of flexing muscle comes out of frustration when you feel the ones you have been given charge of by The Holy Spirit or by your appointment, make what you believe to be bad choices or go against your wishes, refusing to change. Of course, I have to ask if we really have a lock on truth.

I have tried during the last 15 years of my officership, not result to muscle flexing with employees, soldiers or volunteers. Here is the reason. Power can be corrupt if not kept in check.

Leadership that comes from flexing one's muscle, turns into bullying and does little to develop those under your influence. Instead, it usually breeds passive aggressives.

Now, to be fair, there are times when leaders, parents, teachers and pastors, need to speak a hard word of correction. If someone has strayed biblically or has just been a bad influence in the community of Christ, they need to be made aware that they are outside of where they need to be.

Leaders who think that by speaking a word or making a policy that they can control people are sadly mistaken. The notion that we can control people and their actions is an illusion.

So what is a leader to do? I have learned so much from my mentor in this last year. He is such a good pastor. He LOVES people and he is firm, but gentle. He also does not major in minor issues. He wants people to be mission productive. He asks hard questions about their work ethic, but he asks about their heart as well. He encourages them at all costs. Even in the most negative of circumstances he looks for the positives to share in the situation. Because of that, he leads effectively. People want to follow him.

There is one more thing about him. He is sacrificial. He has no sense of entitlement. In other words, position and possessions don't matter to him. He is comfortable with the least of things. He is cheap too!

Sadly, I am not so sure that all leaders have that mindset. Something happens and sadly, at times, has happened to me at times when we find ourselves "in charge." We try to control people. We begin to bark orders. We resort to a "because I said so" mentality. No doubt, someone needs to lead, set the pace, and yes, at times make the incredibly difficult call to discipline and occasionally, end employment or even the "professional" ministry of people. It is a hard decision. Yet, even if we think we can control people; we can't. People just don't salute and go anymore.

Trying to control is a bankrupt notion to me. I am not sure it is biblical. Maybe we who find ourselves as leaders need to take a good look. I think that we really need to think about who is really in control. I would think that if we really want to be in control, we are not really a leader, but insecure. After all isn't the Holy Spirit the one who is our leader?

I would like to hear from leaders of families, churches, ministries and those who are followers. Is control illusory? Is control biblical? Is control necessary?

As with all my posts, I would like to know, "What do you think?"