Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Matthew 28:16-17
You are probably familiar with the 80/20 principle of organizational dynamics. It holds that, in any organization of any kind, once it hits its stride and “normalizes”, 20% of the people are doing 80% of the “work”. I’m sure you have heard at least some version of it. I dislike that principle as it relates to the church. You probably do as well. I have tried and tried over the years to kick against it, because it is not indicative of the “revolution” I believe Jesus intended. If you are a leader in the church, you have probably tried to work against it as well, with varying degrees of success.
Want a sobering reality check? I’m turning over the balance of this post to those very people with whom you are feeling frustrated. I will let them speak for themselves. Listen to some of the 80%…
I am that dynamic, gifted young leader in the church whom you ask year after year to take on a responsibility and I just keep turning you down. I have doubts.
I am one of the huge percentage of your church members who is pretty steadily there for worship but have never darkened the doors of prayer meeting on Wednesday night. I have doubts.
We are part of that handful of couples who seem so spiritually mature in Bible study discussion but who choose not to be there more than half the time. We have doubts.
I am one of your elders or even staff members who start off so well but whose commitment dwindles over time and you begin to lose …
Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.
Last year, with its release of Doubt, Hollywood wandered not-so-innocently right into the middle of my world and, naturally, got my attention…and my $8 for a ticket. Based on the Pulitzer-prize winning play, it tells the story of a young pastor (i.e., priest) trying to bring a warmer, more relevant leadership style to a church and falling prey to the distrust and manipulative ways of an established church leader. Sound familiar, anyone? I’ve seen this play out in hundreds of situations and I’m sure you have seen it before as well. Sometimes there is moral failure involved (as alleged in this case), and sometimes not so much. But there is always plenty at risk, including the fragile spirituality of innocent bystanders, the continued credibility of established leadership and the future ministry of one “called out” to shepherd God’s people. I must say, this movie tells the story well. You can find some clips from the movie here.
I recommend the movie, because it is an accurate and startling depiction of a truth every church leader needs to know: when it comes to ministry, your testimony is the only currency you have. Once it is tarnished (i.e., once the people you “lead” no longer wish to be led by you), your leadership is done. You can lead no more. And by the way, it doesn’t take truth to tarnish your testimony…all it takes is credible allegations and a little persistence on the part of those who stand to benefit from your departure. In short, all it takes is sustainable doubt…doubt about you, about your past, or about your motives.
So how does a church leader protect his/her testimony from these …
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18a
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34
Studying Luke 1 last week and this week. Last week was Zechariah. This week is Mary. But the one constant character in both lessons is Gabriel, the angel. The other element common to both stories is the reactions to Gabriel. Both Mary and Zechariah asked the same question: “But, how?” But Gabriel’s response to that reaction was very different in each story.
Let’s not play word games here, and let’s not split hairs over how their reactions are actually different. If you were writing the story yourself and wanted their reactions to read the same way, you couldn’t write it any differently than Luke did. Their reactions to Gabriel were remarkably similar. Both of them asked the same question, showing the same concern for whether Gabriel really had all his facts straight. We can engage in all kinds of speculation about their respective hearts (i.e., perhaps Mary’s question was truly one of wonder, while Zechariah’s was one of doubt, etc.), but that is just speculation on our part. We cannot judge a person’s heart. No, in order to explain Gabriel’s very different response to each of them and their respective questions, we need not engage in questions of the heart. We can find a much easier critical distinction between Zechariah and Mary: Zechariah was a priest.
Zechariah was a Spiritual leader among God’s people and was doing a Spiritual thing in the most Spiritual of all places when Gabriel appeared. What kind of sad commentary is it that, upon entering the place where God abides, doing a thing God …