Monday, January 2, 2012

Spiritual Development....what I'm learning

A few months ago God gave me a "crisis moment." By "crisis moment", I mean a single event that resulted in exposing some areas of weakness, pride, and immaturity that touched all areas of my life; including work, leadership, home, etc… I'm fortunate to work in an environment where good meaning people were willing to walk with me through the situation and give me some needed space to navigate these areas of growth.

It was tempting to get lost in the "less than fair or helpful" realities of how my crisis moment played out - but thanks to some significant people in my life, I've been able to occupy a posture of humility and learning as I walk through this "dark night of the soul." Ironically, the leadership magazine I read the most published their October issue with that very title…and I received it just 3 days after things hit the fan. It's fun to see God's timing in even the little things of life.

Over the past three months I've taken my health more seriously; reading, writing, reflecting, walking, exercise, sleep, etc… I've found that it's all very holistic…and I've found that when one of these important life-giving activities is compromised, the weakness is not isolated to the particular activity…but insidiously creeps into the rest of life, and before I know it…everything is a off…then more off…then more off; but ironically, I don't really see it because I'm so busy and because the demise is slow enough for me not to notice. This is the progression that ultimately led to my crisis. Like the "frog in the kettle" - the water of my life was slowly turning into a hot boil…and had God not brought a catalytic event into my life, I would probably still be in the water today - just dead.

During this season of more intentional reflection and prayer, the things I've been learning can be summarized in three statements. 1) Intellectual growth is not spiritual formation; and if anything can become a barrier to formation. 2) The vision God has called HIs church to is far greater than human strength alone can achieve and my leadership has got to model this for my staff. 3) The two cultural lies that are slowly killing me: 1) busy = important and 2) working harder = being more effective.

Two pieces of literature that have been used by God to metaphorically give me insight into my leadership and growth are: 1) The Rock (T.S. Elliot) and 2) the image of the harpoonist in Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

To unpack the Harpoonist illustration, Melville says, "to ensure the greatest efficiency in the harpoon, the harpoonists of this world must rise to their feet out of idleness and not out of toil." So as the rest of the boat is working furiously trying to keep up with the whale…battling the sea…strong winds…screaming and yelling….the harpoonist is at rest…waiting for their moment to take place. And frankly, if the harpoonist screws up…the rest of the boat might as well have never left the dock.

This is a great picture of pastoral leadership. Pastors have to intentionally go against the grain of our frenetic and busy society. We cannot buy the same lies about value and identity that shape our culture. We cannot live by the same rules. In that way pastors (church staff) are subversive…we are against the grain of culture…we are not "seeker sensitive" at all. We are productive - yes…but led by the reigns and bit of culture we are not. And hopefully, when our moment to "throw the harpoon" comes….we are ready, we are effective, we are spot-on.

In many ways I struggle with this; who wouldn't. The staff I lead are normally working beyond their capacity and busting their butt because "it's the church." Ironically we pastor and executive leaders not only allow this…we encourage it. GIving myself permission to rest - to not be working at the same frenetic pace as my staff - to leave the office when they cannot - to spend time reading and reflecting when they do not….it all feels quite wrong to me. Now..I understand that it isn't wrong…intellectually. But emotionally I believe I am not of value or helpful to my staff if I am not toiling with them. This is where leadership rubber meets the road. Do we have the convictions and ability as leaders to model something that isn't currently happening? To pave the way towards a better reality that isn't yet realized? To go against the grain of the culture so deeply rooted in the church that it's a wonder we know how to minister to those outside the church?

Reflecting on my 2nd point - (vision is too large for human power alone) - this issue of "counter cultural leadership" is probably the single most important element of the Rock being able to go to the next level. Can the leadership of the Rock conduct themselves in such a way as to demonstrate that the vision God has called us to is HIS - not ours to achieve? I suppose in my own way…this is what I'm wrestling with.