A guest post by Matthew R. Mullins
With a heartfelt gesture of concern, the man peered over and asked the other opposite to him, “but…” exhausted with a lengthy conversation going nowhere, “…how are you doing?” He had heard enough of what others thought of the situation, enough of this man avoiding the actual dilemma; no, he was asking for keeps this time, “I want to know where you are at personally and how I can serve you?” Enough with the games! This idea of leading others by service, it is tough to swallow. Most people find themselves desiring to be a leader without any compassion for people, thinking the position or title meant they had arrived. This relates to how we serve people today in the church and the divide between innovation and tradition. Let us take a page from history to illustrate.
Jesus was both a separate individual and yet also connected to history, tradition and mankind. He was connected to traditional Judaism while being separate enough to bring a new perspective and interpretation of God’s love and plans – doing so within that self-same history and tradition.1 What can we learn from this Biblical perspective? It is quite possible to be both innovative and yet structured, to be an effective, creative soul-winner while also keeping a sense of continuity and direction. Most perplexing for uprising generations is a failure to understand the concept that their dreams for the church are not crushed by traditional church values. Nor should “their dreams” be without God. If a called individual felt so inclined, the question to consider here is, what is my dream in connection to the church and in relation with God? If these questions cannot be systemically answered Biblically, than perhaps this “dream” isn’t God’s dream for the church or for that individual. It is self-made. Thinking out loud here, but wouldn’t this be the larger issue between both younger and older generations? The elder finds difficulty separating themselves beyond history, the youth cannot see past modernity. This vast disconnection and outwardly awkward collision creates the chaos that ensues the church today, a misunderstanding and misdirection of communication.
The truest misdirection here is a failure to understand what innovation, creativity and modern soul winning actually look like. If our churches are not striving daily to consider new approaches, then we have failed to reach younger generations needed to lead the church of tomorrow, while also missing the opportunity to harvest a greater bounty of souls today. This is sad to think that one single day of failing to ask the question, “What can I do more effectively today for the Kingdom of God?” is potentially the source of so much upheaval. The source of the question, where do we go from here? The source of younger generations of ministry feeling a need to let go of the plough out of being stifled or separating themselves from organization. The source of churches not presently fulfilling the greatest calling of all – that is, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Getting the point yet?
Some reading this are already refuting the basic principle here, after all many of the religious leaders of that day hated Jesus, despised His teachings and ridiculed Him publicly. Understand something, we are not talking about people placed within an office of responsibility, that had a form of outward godliness (such as praying loudly so that everyone saw them); we are discussing actual leaders, like Jesus. Give yourself a title, a pulpit and call yourself a leader all you want, but true leaders are servants. Fundamentally, true leaders are innovative servants! Right back to the principle we are discussing. You should note that Jesus has had one of the most impactful, powerful, and enduring ministries of all time in-spite of the defamation He received publicly. It was His individuality that brought about this new revelation of God, therefore it should be celebrated not stifled; we should respect everyone. He showed us how it was done and left us to it!
The principle is this: Individually we can be unique, innovate thinkers and leaders –creatively pursuing our special callings to advance God’s Kingdom while also maintaining our connection to fundamental Apostolic doctrine and history. You can have one in relation to the other. Jesus paved the way for this type of innovate ministry. It is possible for traditional thinkers to relate to modern generations, as much as it is possible for modern thinkers to become impassioned with fundamentals of basic, sound doctrine. We are called, throughout every generation, to preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, delivering His redeeming message. Let me ask you this, what more outside of this matters enough to stifle church growth, to negate the responsibility of true leadership, to promote disunity, or to leave the plough in preparation of others for the bridegroom? Sobering as it is, nothing. Everyone with a calling who is faithfully, daily laboring in covenant relationship should find no issue in serving and working with others as Jesus gave example. If we are the type of leaders modeled after Jesus, then today we solve issues of organization down to the local church. Enough is enough with the games!
1 Richardson, R.W. (1996). Creating a healthier church: Family systems theory, leadership, and congregational life. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.