A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask,‘Who touched me?’ ” Mark 5:25-31
I have listened to so many John Maxwell talks and have read so many of his books, I do not even remember now where I heard or read some of the best leadership advice I’ve ever heard/read from him: “walk slowly through the crowds”. It is outstanding leadership counsel because genuine leadership is, after all, entirely dependent upon relationships and people skills. It is perfect for ME, because I get so narrowly focused sometimes (maybe especially on Sunday mornings) that I can walk right past hundreds of friends without even smiling or acknowledging them! I am still working on this. 🙂
It is a challenge, isn’t it? It is especially challenging when we get focused on the task at hand, on the ministry ahead, even on the relationships in front of us…but there are still people all around us who are hoping for our attention as well. It is a delicate balance between competency for the task at hand and …
Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. Acts 16:26
I’m intrigued by this story in Acts 16, not only because Paul and Silas did not leave through the open door of their jail cell, but also because they were apparently able to convince all of the other prisoners to stay as well. Just a few chapters earlier, Peter left jail under similar circumstances (I know, I know, he had an angel directing him to leave and that is definitely a distinguishing feature!), and I cannot help but wonder if I might not have interpreted an earthquake and chains miraculously falling off me as a sign from God that I should leave!
I think there is a lesson here for the church. Discerning God’s direction for a church is never quite as simple as walking through every door that seems to miraculously open…never merely a matter of seeing God in isolated circumstances. That is true because, as it turns out, there is usually more than one possible interpretation of circumstances! The danger in discerning God’s will in that case is that we all tend to see what we want to see.
What about the scenario where a wealthy church member walks in and agrees to write a check to cover some dream the pastor has always had? Is that necessarily God speaking? What if your church has prayed and asked God to pave the way for a relocation and someone leaves the church a large tract of land in their estate? Is that God saying “move”? If the pastor has always dreamed of starting a half-way house ministry in the house the church owns, and the city planning …
So much of the conflict I see in churches today falls into a general category I call “Generational Issues”. I don’t hold myself out as an expert in the social changes ushered in by each of the last few generations, but I think any of you would agree that the various generations represented in the American church today are radically different from one to the next in terms of how they communicate, how they form and maintain relationships, and how they worship. Obviously, there are no clear, bright lines of division. Moreover, there are plenty of obvious exceptions to the prevailing preferences of generations (i.e., not all senior citizens prefer traditional church music to contemporary, etc.). But the youngest adult generations in the church are approaching God and the church so very differently than their grandparents did that it is bound to raise some difficult issues for us all to work through.
But the problem is never as simple as sitting down and figuring out who is right and who is wrong. Oh how much easier my job would be if it were that simple! No, the bigger challenge by far is getting each side of a generational issue to even care much about the other side. The problem in many (most?) of our churches, it seems to me, is the lack of relationship between and among the generations.
I see it often. A church begins to have serious worship style conflict, so they call someone (me) in to help them work through it. When I ask one side to articulate the fears and motives of the other side, they cannot even come close. They cannot do that, because they are not even trying to understand the fears and motives of the other side. All they can …