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FranklinCovey and the Beginnings of a Rule of Life

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My introduction to the ideas behind forming a rule of life began during college when I discovered FranklinQuest planners and the book Ten Natural Laws of Time and Life Management by Hyrum Smith. The simple pyramid scheme of determining life values then translating those into goals and daily actions has been a part of their formula for success for years.

I think what is helpful for a follower of Christ is that our faith, like a value, needs to be translated into concrete daily steps. In Benedict’s Rule he lays out a daily schedule that forms a backbone of prayer. In our lives, we need something very similar if not exactly the same.

We need a schedule of prayer, and like the Rule it may change seasonally, and we need a set of guidelines for making our faith and community realities rather than concepts.

A lot of faith can feel like Jesus wall paper on the rooms of lives in which we live as functional atheists. If my faith is to be something that becomes a virtue, a lived value that becomes as natural as breathing, I need daily activities and a schedule that makes that happen.

I rise and pray. We pray before meals, every meal no matter how small. I don’t eat without thanking God, not because anyone else needs it, but because I do. I do evening prayer, usually long after the “vesper light” of the prayers. I stay really faithful to the Book of Common Prayer, but I almost always use apps on my phone.

I want to give a direct plug for http://www.missionstclare.com They have consistently provided a solid form of the daily office of the Episcopal church for as long as I have been crossing myself. I skip a lot of it, frankly, but never the opening, Psalms, Gospel, and Lord’s Prayer, daily collect, and blessing. That sounds like a lot, but it only takes as long as checking Facebook or reading the AP wire. And neither of them make me a better person.

A simple schedule and daily actions. My daily actions are not noble or great. I plan something everyday for my wife and I, some intentionally clear time with kids, and time to pray, study, and write. My life is overflowing with service for others and time with others as a pastor. I don’t have to work at those. What I have to plan in is marriage, family, and friends.

Becoming more Benedictine means living into stability and transformation. Taking these lifelong values that define who I am, or can, and making them into daily actions means that I have the chance to hear God say at the end, Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into my rest.”

And I know that is really simple, but it is my reason for having a planner.

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Leadership

Freedom is not a Christian Virtue

My one concern here is for mature Christians, disciples of Jesus.  I have to state that up front because what I am about to say is open heresy in the other major ethos and theology of our day.

Freedom is not a Christian virtue.  It is not a virtue at all.  It is not something that you can earn, practice, or become.  Freedom is a gift.  We are given freedom by others and ultimately by God.  We have freedom as rational creative creatures, but it is immature to claim it for our selves.

When have you ever seen someone claim their freedom, insist on their freedom, and create a better relationship, a better family, a better community?  I have seen lots of people take responsibility for themselves, their children, their neighbors, their world and change lives for the better.  I have seen us plaster the language of freedom on thousands of selfish acts.

Freedom has become a virtue in our ethos today.  We want freedom, we celebrate freedom, we claim freedom, we defend our own freedom.  Freedom has become an end unto itself.  It has become a good.  All of this is weird and a little sick for followers of Jesus.

In America we celebrate the virtue of Larry Flynt publishing Hustler because he is practicing his freedom.  Because he is “owning his freedom,” we see that as a liberative story.  I am disturbed less by Mr. Flynt than by the narrative that celebrates freedom as an end unto itself.  He is virtuous because he set himself free from the constraints of society in publishing pornography.  We celebrate unquestioningly people breaking free from social, religious, moral restraints.  Then we grieve when we see the victims but cannot understand how that happened.

The western narrative in its American form is the lone male, usually white, usually fit, setting himself free from social constraint to face an uncertain but glorious future unconstrained by community, ethics, or values others than those he chooses.  We celebrate people acting free in their sexuality, of course, but also in many other ways.  This is incredibly adolescent.  It leads to death.  Next time you watch a movie, count the “collateral damage” wracked up in the pursuit of freedom.

I used to teach an eighth grade religion class, and I began by asking them what it meant to be an adult.  We often don’t aim our lives at anything because we never take the time to figure out what we are trying to become.  I wanted to build a picture of what a mature Christian looked like with them; so I would ask, How do we define adulthood in America today?  The answers always came down to what you could do once you become an “adult”: cigarettes, beer, pornography, and voting.  But what does adulthood really mean?

Adulthood is the voluntary taking of responsibility for yourself as a child of God, for your neighbor as a part of God’s family, for our communities of faith and geography, and for the world around us.  It means growing in your ability to love God, your neighbor, and your self.  I add care of creation from our original humanity.  It is not the choice or choices we can make that make us adults; it is what we choose to do.  It is choosing to live and love in particular ways that we should celebrate, claim, and defend.

In the process of choosing virtuous lives we give freedom to others to live, love, and pursue happiness.  But we cannot succeed to be a free people if our ideal is just claiming freedom for ourselves.  As a father, I choose to provide for my family, to be home with them when I can, and to live virtuously so that they don’t have to fear my behaviors or the repercussions of them.  They cannot have safety, security, and health without those choices.  If I live as lech my wife and children, my community, and the world will suffer in obvious and not so obvious ways for longer than just my life.   My good is in their good.  I practice virtues both at home and at work because I have made covenants to do so, and so that I can provide my family a secure home, provision for their needs, and care for their bodies, minds, and spirits.  I am free to do this because my father and mother did the same for me.  I am free to do otherwise I suppose, but not if I am to keep my integrity.

We now must face that freedom as a virtue is destroying other virtues in our lives.  In fact many of the traditional virtues are acts of  restraint in the face of freedom.  When we choose to follow Jesus we choose not to be free in all our choices.  It is ironic that this gives us true life and freedom.

The practices of our faith are intended to make us the kind of people who will choose to act in virtuous ways no matter what others do, no matter what our situation is, no matter what even our desires may be in this particular moment.  We are born and formed as a people of God, just as my children are my offspring by birth but formed as my children by living and loving and learning from me.*  They will choose to act as my children, or far more importantly as God’s children, in every decision of their lives.  Or not.

As we face headlines of renewed violence in our world, we have to stand at the edge of this new valley of the shadow of death and say, How do I follow Jesus here?  How do I live as a child of God here?  How do I see God’s rule of love and peace here?  This is the crux of discipleship.

On Sunday, Peter will try to pull Jesus back and say you can’t go there.  Jesus’ rebuke isn’t “I am free to do as I please.”  He doesn’t remind Peter of his freedom as God’s son or a son of humanity.  He rebukes him and tells him that his mind is in the wrong place.  He didn’t rise from prayer on the Mount of Olives and practice the virtue of walking away.  He took responsibility for us and all humanity in fulfilling the will of God knowing the cost of that decision.  In doing so he gave us freedom from sin.  What we do with that freedom matters for ourselves and our world.

Will we take responsibility, grow up, and care for our selves, our neighbors, our world?  Or will we just be free?

 

 

 

*I use “I” and “my” in relation to my family, but it is really “we” my wife and me.  Truth is she is far more virtuous and responsible than I am.

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There are No Inalienable Rights

We don’t have inalienable rights endowed by our birth.  We don’t.  I love Thomas Jefferson more than you do, and I think he was right about a lot of things, including this one.  We have rights “endowed by our Creator“.  They are not inalienable rights, either.  We make them alien when we fail to live as God’s people.

Jefferson was smart enough to see that we have rights because there is a social covenant*, a covenant that binds you and me in a common life.  Any rights we have are given by our living into our covenant.

Test it out: take a baby of any race out into the woods and let him (or her) vote.  They have no right to vote given by the Creator.  Instead they will die slowly and probably horribly unless us or one of God’s other creatures steps forward to care for them, love them, and raise them up.

I am not arguing for social Darwinism.  Too often Christians have completely given up moral philosophy to biological impulse, or as Paul called it “the flesh.”  We are endowed with Spirit, and the Spirit teaches us, and what it teaches is law and life.

We have rights because we have a covenant.  That covenant is spelled out in the Bible as the Torah and then the New Covenant “Law of Love,” that Jesus teaches.  Both of those laws are versions of covenant, and they command us not to hold on to our own “rights” but rather to a set of social responsibilities that teach us what the Creator made us to be.  Our “rights” derive from all of us living rightly, or in Biblical language “righteously” that is to God’s approval.

We have to work at knowing who God is in order to get our social responsibilities straightened out.  We don’t serve a god of violence and retribution that we often create in our own worst image.  We don’t serve the god of our tribe, though that god is still very popular even in our day, even in our churches.  We serve a God who made the world for pleasure and called it good, who set us to keep it as stewards with dominion.  We serve a God who is about our redemption when we fall, but who lets consequences pay out unless we repent, and sometimes by grace, even when we don’t.

As Christians, we serve God who is known as Father, who sets our boundaries and defines our relationships, rules and provides, and we serve God as Abba, who has given us new birth and holds us, calls us by name and sets us free, who loves us and forgives us.  And we are supposed to become God’s children who do those same things, as Jesus our Lord did.  And the Spirit teaches us how, moving and dancing, reminding and teaching and making us new.

When we live into our covenants and the laws of God our Creator, we create rights for everyone around us that extend beyond the abuse-boundaries of the laws of our land.  A lawyer friend always reminds me that “the law is not made for the righteous man.”  The thing is that the righteous human being lives the law into irrelevance.

As we grow up from people who need to learn the rules, to people who can keep the law, we become people who don’t have rights so much as give others rights by our righteousness.  We supersede law in love, moving from protecting rights to providing life, and from defending against injustice to defining what justice means, the human being in right relation to God, creation, and other human beings.

When we find a baby in the woods, the law tells us many things, but love tells us to take it up, love that baby, give her a name, feed her, care for her, teach her, raise her up, so that she can take her place in the stewardship of the world and live up to the covenants of the children of God.

And that is why the people of Ferguson or wherever else violence defined by race or gender or nation raise their heads feel more than grief.   Their anger is righteous due to the expectation at the very level of  being that the covenants that make us human are being violated by the ones who are supposed to protect them.

We understand that sometimes protecting the people who live according to the covenant means a violent justice, but it should not and only as the last of last resorts.  But if our understanding of our basic human responsibilities under the covenant are out of line with our cultural norms, we are in real trouble.  Our cultural norms collapse from a call to mutual covenant to self protection, Darwinism at its 18th century worst.

When we are just protecting our own “rights” we miss the point. We have to protect each other. There is no other way to have a covenant based life of togetherness.

The alternative is violent coercion.  The alternative is violent freedom that belies our best intentions, which are called “best” because we are usually at some lesser place.

I am not arguing for theism.  I am arguing from theism.  I am a Christian.  I follow Jesus and have promised to live by his teachings embodied in the New Covenant and based, rooted, and understood from the Original Covenant of the Hebrew Scriptures.  I cannot leave a baby in the woods, and I cannot watch idly by while my neighbor gets destroyed by those who are supposed to protect them.

We have police to keep us safe, to defend the version of the covenant that we have enshrined in our country’s Constitution.  We should be a people of law and law evenly and fairly applied.  We should support the police while living in a way that makes their job as unnecessary as possible.  We should grieve when their job demands violence, but we should also ask our selves how much violence they actually should expect, and not be prepared for more without reason.  We should fire and prosecute them when they violate their oaths, but they should be able to expect us to keep ours as well.

Christians, we must live as we were created to live.  We have stewardship of the creation and should protect it.  We are called to love each other and protect and help each other, and we should, we must.  My favorite verse in Leviticus is “If your neighbor’s ox falls down in the road, you should lift it up; you shall not refuse your help.”

The news, this month from Ferguson, reminds us that we have work in front of us if we are to steward the world with the compassion of God.  We cannot ignore the stranger in the marketplace because of his skin color, language, or clothes; nor can we ignore our responsibilities toward him.  Not if we claim to love God.

 

 

 

*Covenant is preferable to contract or construct or other similar words because a contract’s obligations are dependent on parties keeping the contract.  A covenant is a binding statement that changes the realities and identities of the parties involved.

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Leadership

The Chapter Room – Travel Notes

During our travels over the summer, I dragged my family through dozens of former monasteries, abbeys, and friaries.  I can recognize all the various types of stones from one end of the British isles to the other in the backgrounds of movies.  The features started to run together for my family, not being obsessive over the same issues.  There was one feature that stood out from place to place as they began to grow familiar.  It was the Chapter Room.

In Benedictine life, and other orders as well, the Rule requires that after mass or at another time of the day, the community gather to read and discuss a chapter from the Rule.  It is also the place where the abbot or prioress might call the community together for business that required everyone’s insight.  They were often round and quite beautiful.  There was usually a bench around the outside wall, though active communities also had chairs, they were quite rare when the communities were founded.

The Chapter Room was replaced in Anglican life by the Vestry.  This was a sad development in a way.  Not that I think Vestries are a bad innovation.  Business in a lay community requires a different ongoing oversight that would it would be superfluous to involve the whole community.  But we rarely see a place outside the sanctuary where the whole community is gathered.  Our fellowship hall at Grace is not even large enough for our whole congregation.

I am not advocate of multi-use facilities because I have come to see over time that our architecture expresses our anthropology of community in particular ways.  As Louis Weil used to say, “When it comes to liturgy, the building always wins.”

What if we saw our entire community as essential to the mission of our church?  What if we didn’t accept members unless they committed to the ministry of the congregation?  What if we built our community into our space?  Shared leadership or mutual ministry models often miss that there is a particular charism to leading that is necessary to healthy community.  As I have written elsewhere, leadership is service.  My towel work may be telling a group that it is time for them to stop meeting at our church.  I believe in leaders as necessary, as necessary as toilets.  But on the other hand, I also advocate for shared stewardship, the ownership of the mission by the whole community.

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The Chapter Room at Westminster Abbey

If we are to embody a whole community as part of the wisdom and necessary to the function of our congregations, do we need a Chapter Room?

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Spending enough time below deck

Ships.  The church is often compared to a ship at sea in some helpful and some terrible analogies.  A good friend used this analogy to talk about how the church can be a place of faith in a world without faith.  I have used it to talk about our job of saving people from the flood.  Another common one is to see the world as the ark in the flood from the Noah story.  I am deeply uncomfortable with that one because we are called to be about the redemption of the world, not to shut the doors and let everyone else drown.  But on the other hand in one of the better books on constructive theology, Peter Hodgson in Winds of the Spirit compares the theological task to repairing a ship at sea.  There are lots of ship analogies.

My favorite analogy is leadership-oriented.  As a captain, I have a certain job to do on the ship.  It is not possible to captain a certain size of ship without a crew.  You just can’t.  And though there may be times when you are needed to step in and help with rigging, if you are spending all your time on ropes, you are not the captain.  The captain has a role that requires a sense of direction, purpose and mission, and time spent planning.

This latter piece is the one I want to focus on today.  You have to spend enough time below deck with the charts and maps as a captain.  You have to know where the ship is going.  You don’t always have to be the one at the wheel, of course, but the crew and passengers, investors and customers are all waiting on the ship to go somewhere.

As a pastor, this is an important part of our role that is undervalued and underdone in communities that begin to grow.  My congregation is not a Sunday-only institution.  We work all week long.  Our worship is, and should be, the praise of a community that is living the faith and doing the work of redemption during the rest of the week.  Sunday is dessert.  The meal is served Monday through Saturday. (I would love to take credit for the life of Grace Church, but I inherited a busy church.)  Our ship’s problem isn’t speed.

The analogy is not going to hold for long, so let’s look at our primary idea.  As a captain, you have to know the ship.  You have to know the ropes, so to speak.  You have to know the crew, and your first officers especially well.  You have to know what is in the hold and what the scheduled stops are.  You have to know these things and know them first-hand as much as humanly possible.  There is no substitute for time with the crew and pulling on the pieces.  But you can do all of that and get everywhere late, nowhere important, and make everyone involved feel lost and frustrated.

You have to know where you are going, that you have the resources you need, and can plot a course, even if you have to modify it a million times.

Knowing where you are going is one of those mystical sounding phrases that can mean not very much in the real world or it can save your community.  If you don’t know what it means at all, I recommend Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage highly simply because it offers some examples and then practical ways to discover direction within a corporation.  It is especially good when the captain shares the chair with a room full of people, as most of us do.  Another good book is Rainer and Rainer’s Simple Church.  This one benefits from church-specific advice, from a free church congregational model, but it is great on principles as well.  You need to be able to state your purpose over a set period of time in a sentence.  One sentence.

This seems like it would be an easy thing to do, but as already shown the large areas of moving pieces and people involved in a healthy community make it a challenge to get far enough perspective to see it all, name it, and then be able to get people involved with the whole picture from where they currently are.  You cannot “wing” the work of perspective.  It takes time to look down the route, chart the currents, and choose the language carefully.  You have to spend enough time below deck.

In old pictures of captain’s desks there are always piles of charts and maps, old books, and arcane tools.  I feel like a pastor’s office should be the same way.  It takes some basic tools to do our job.  They don’t really change century to century.  You will always need a Bible and a Book of Common Prayer, for example.  But then there are the current events and relevant histories.  Too many pastors and priests get used to our favorite maps and do not update.  We are luddites by attrition and busyness.  But we cannot effectively guide in today’s waters without some relevant maps.  We should be comparing notes with other captains and other sailors.  We should be staying current on the currents.

Time to think and work and compare should not keep us off the deck either, but we do need significant time below to do our job.  The church has gotten used to pastors and priests who are hospital visitors and funeral planners and deacons first.  We are called to a particular role, and if those roles are yours, great; you may not be the person to lead a community.  Leaders lead first.  It is a service that the church needs like the ship needs a captain who knows where they are going.

It is telling in Acts that the community complained about the inequities of help and service and the response of the apostles was to assign some people to do the work, after prayer and clear delineation of duties.  Too many pastors do the work of the laity.  Too many captains spend their days pulling on ropes and holding the hands of those who should be working.  We are called to proclaim the Good News and teach and preach.  We do have to make sure that the work of the community gets done.  A ship with no sails has a captain who isn’t doing their job too.  But we do that work, our serving, in relation to the whole ship.  Our job on the ship is to know where the ship is going and to get everyone working toward that destination.

Our service is leading.  We are no more or less necessary than the kid who swabs the deck so that our crew doesn’t slip into the sea.  But that kid can’t do my job, and I can’t do his, at least not all the time.

As a pastor I have cleaned a lot of toilets and wiped down a lot of counters and set a lot of tables.  It happens.  But if I am always doing those things and not praying, studying, and preaching and teaching, then I have failed as a leader in the church.  And my ship is adrift at sea.

How do we discern what is the leader’s duty and what belongs to the crew?  How do we clarify roles?  Lencioni can help with this process.  How do we set aside time with the charts and maps of your community?  What tools are necessary?  What new maps do you need but don’t have?  Who are your first mates, your crew, your investors, your customers? If you are not the captain, how do you make sure your captain has time to do their job well?

 

 

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How Not to Get Blindsided

In seventh grade, I came into Junior High Football as the fastest kid in my class, or at least that is how I remember it.  My ninth grade brother, who was post-growthspurt, was waiting for me.  On my second or third day, I got a hand-off up the middle and was just breaking the line when the sky appeared and pain erupted from my chest and chin.  My brother had let me get loose enough to not see him coming and blindsided me.  

Getting blindsided is one of those experiences that can either make you better or bitter.  I was both, but that was a long time ago.  Now as a leader I have been thinking a lot about the kind of community that I want to build and what kind of leader I have to become in order to build it.  

After just writing about the dangers of the father knows best kind of leadership, it may seem ironic to think that a leader can and should determine the kind of community they are forming, but that is what stewardship means.  As a Christian, the kind of community that I want to create is one that does naturally what Jesus said that we should do: love, be compassionate, forgive, offer mercy, bring peace, and tell the truth.  

A natural leader affects the systems they are in without necessarily thinking about it very much.  You have seen the eight or nine year old who just changes the way the kids around them act.  That kind of leadership is a gifted form of what we all have: influence.  Influence is real power.  It is not necessarily the power to change a single event, but rather it allows over time the changes to whole chains of events, if it is allowed to work without manipulation.

Influence may or may not come naturally to you, but you can grow in your influence as you grow as a human being.  Following Jesus, you have to attend to the log in your own eye, rather than the splinter in your neighbors.  You have to go into your closet and pray.  This work that turns inward in terms of discipline and law and outward in terms of gentleness and peace, think repentance within and mercy without, this work allows us to actually follow Jesus and to grow the kingdom.  It brings wholeness and peace that begins to look a lot like our Lord.  It makes for integrity.

Integrity is a subtle thing to notice in someone, but it allows your gravitational weight in systems to grow exponentially.  People notice when people are consistent and humble and still honest and strong.  People begin to give what you say more weight and what you do more influence.  

So, what does influence have to do with not getting blindsided? In leadership people are always going to be angry and reactive to change.  Most leaders cause change simply because as we try to move the world closer to the Rule of God that movement is change from the previous status quo.  Since we can rest assured in a world post-Eden that the we are not in God’s Rule completely yet, we should be leading change somewhere.  Even good people resist change.  Even saints are held down by gravity and back by inertia.  So as systems change and pull on people around you, someone somewhere is getting pulled, and if they resist, then something will give, and there will be a reaction.  

I never suspected that my brother would hit me.  I just didn’t.  I should have.  He was on defense, and he had been hitting me for years for fun.  If I had more influence and more integrity, someone would have warned me, maybe even my brother himself. 

In leadership, influence allows us to move the system through something more like God’s way of being in the world.  We can cause change through goodness, calling, love, forgiveness, healing, influence.  We don’t have to resort to violence in our relationships.  This more subtle change allows people to join in and respond without build up of reactive energy, but it also allows time to deal with build up constructively, chasing down those who are left out or hurt by the changes. 

The work also should give us clear enough vision to not be blinded to real dangers by ego, pride, or false reality.  We can hear God’s warnings in the subtle movement of the Spirit, but also in the words and warnings of others.  Because we are not led by our blind pride, we can move with others and see more clearly what they need.  

Leaders change systems.  They influence others, hopefully towards love and peace with gentleness and mercy.  As I grow, I am seeking ways to call more clearly for the leaders around me to own their own weight in the system, trusting that influence is more powerful than either inertia or reaction.  I am also more able to admit that I don’t know where the next hit is coming from and to ask for help from others, especially when I feel vulnerable.  

Finally, I have to say that I do believe that if you lead, you will get hit.  Systems don’t like change.  The crowd prefers Barabbas because though he represents violence and danger, they know violence and danger keep things the way they are.  In football I learned to take hits because I had a larger goal.  That is still true.  I have to turn my cheek if I want to see the kingdom.

 

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Don’t Call Me Father – Part II

So how do you teach this as a new way of leadership?  It has been one of my contentions since seminary that we were given Biblical studies, theology, even prayers that demanded a new way of leading communities to follow Jesus, but we were not offered any particular way of making that real in the systems and ethics that we bring to the Church in our congregations and parishes.  We may have good ideas in our head, but until we create systems that embody those ideas, we keep falling back on the old Roman model of Caesar.  Maybe we have a somewhat functional committee or Senate to support us.  Maybe we even have a retainer class of “people who really get what we are doing here” and a military police to keep us safe.  I call that last one the altar guild.  No one protects the old ways like the altar guild.

We fall back on rule by law and order embodying, or so we claim, the will of God.  We, the priests and pastors, become the persona of Christ, usually not understood as the sacrifice or the servant, but rather the one who should rule.  

The temple and throne have the same structure.  High priest, Sanhedrin or Bishop and Council.  We keep rebuilding the old system of rule and control because it works.  I know it works.  I wear a collar to some meetings because I know people will behave differently and defer on things I need them to defer on.  I don’t usually wear a wreath of laurel crown, but I have thought about it when people were really chaotic.

The claim of this model, which you can read in the Latin of Marcus Aurelius or the speeches of our Presidents, is to provide safety and order against the dangers and chaos of the world out there, by which we mean both outside our community, but also outside the inner circle within our own community.  The problem is that this model is that is based on the enemy’s view of the world, and not on God’s.

If we take the Bible seriously, God intended humanity to be caretakers of the world and each other in relationship to God.  We were made to be God’s children, and we become the royal priesthood of God when through Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit we are taught to live and love, forgive, heal, and feed as God does.  We restore the world, not control it.  We heal, not destroy.  Where the enemy sees chaos and danger, we see children of God in need of healing, love, belonging.  

We lead within communities by learning to be within communities as Jesus is in community.  We serve.  Among the Gentiles, Jesus said, the leaders among them lord it over them, but it is not be so with you.  The greatest among you is to be the least.  And the leader is to be servant to all.  We cannot even pretend to be following Jesus by lording leadership over others, reminding them to call us “father” and greet us with honor in the marketplace.  

“Father” puts us at the head of the Table, in the place of honor, and it doesn’t take long for God to come as host and move us down a little.  

So, how do we lead without titles and honor, power and control, threat and enforced order? This is a real question that I have been struggling with for a long time.  I cannot read and study Jesus and think that my leadership instincts need some real reform.  

Peter Block has been a huge help to me though.  In college I was supposed to write a paper on fundraising for a class on non-profit management intended for pastors-to-be.  Instead I found a book entitled Stewardship that radically changed my ideas about leadership, organizations, and power.  I read it cover to cover sitting in the upstairs of the Phoenix Public library.  I still own it and apply the lessons of that book today.  A few years ago during my post-Christmas travels to see my family I walked past a new book of Block’s called Community.  It promised to offer what I was looking for in forming and leading communities where the belief is that the real Wisdom and Spirit reside in the people, and the leader is one of them who serves that Wisdom and Spirit.  

To take one small lesson which Block gives, when you want to get the wisdom of the group and form a community on mission together, you focus not on leading the conversation but on setting up the room and asking the right questions.  That sounds like servant leadership, or butler priesthood.  When you focus on the setting up the room so that people relate to each other intimately and as equal partners, you help form community and allow the group to function as children of God discovering God’s call and wisdom together.  As a leader, the job becomes centered in set up and asking good questions, something Jesus excelled at.  The focus is on getting people to think and act as the children of God that we believe they are, rather than as either an army out to control the chaos of life or chaotic enemies that need to be conquered by either or reason or power. 

This is one step toward the Rule of God embodied in our systems of leadership.  It takes, as Weisbord and Janoff point out in Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There, a lot of self-control and maturity to not take control of the conversation and overpower the quiet voice of the Spirit.  That maturity comes from living into a theology, ethos, and expectations over time, but that self-control and tactics of calling forth our brothers and sisters into community can be taught, as can the room layouts and methods of facilitation that can set up the family to be family.  

But we have to think differently.  It is as if Jesus has sent us ahead to set up for the Passover, let us not set up the dinner as if it were something other than the supper of the Lord.  Let us not forget who the true host is and who the guests are.  Let us take up our towels and serve if we are the leaders in the way of Jesus.

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