GPS Leadership

With a bone crunching weariness I slipped the car into park and shut off the engine with a satisfied sigh. The 4 day 1500 km road trip to Montreal & Ottawa to check in with 6 leaders and their new churches was now in my rear view mirror. The challenges I listened to from these men and women were numerous: not enough resources to meet the overwhelming needs of their communities; not enough leaders in their faith community to share the load; good leaders leaving to find work in another city; immigrants trying to understand Canadian culture. I must also say that the joys that breathe life into their long days are plentiful enough to keep them at their tasks with confident smiles on their faces.

All I can do is listen attentively to these anabaptist leaders and pray that the few words I choose to share will bring encouragement to their spirit.

At times I fantasize about what it would be like to hand these leaders a road map with all the twists and turns, breath taking peaks and soul sucking valleys already mapped out. In my car I managed to navigate these two world class cities without taking one wrong turn. Even where all signage is in French I didn’t get lost, not once. Although there were a few times when my GPS quietly, non-anxiously said “recalculating”.

Leaders don’t get to have detailed road maps or a GPS. Instead perhaps the best we have to offer the leaders in our sphere of influence is a listening, understanding ear and a heartfelt non-anxious word of encouragement. It’s what leaders and I suppose the GPS get to do. – BCB

You Can’t Save The World

For one day this holiday season or perhaps even two or three days leaders need to do their utmost to forget that they are leaders. Your world can hopefully survive without you for a little while.

I have vivid memories of my extended family coming together at Christmas for the exchange of gifts and sitting down for the turkey feast. Every year the family would turn to my uncle Lester, a pastor, and ask him to say the prayer before the meal. After all he was the Holy man in our midst. Every year my uncle would resist this invitation. As a child I didn’t understand his reticence but I think I get it now. On that festive day with family he didn’t want to be the professional pastor. He just wanted to be Uncle Lester. He didn’t want to be the leader all of the time.

In this season it is important to find rest. Even presidents and prime ministers get away with family and friends. I hope that in those settings they are treated as just one of the crew instead of the captain of the ship. The challenges and the joys of leading will still be there after your retreat from the front lines of leadership.

Every leader needs to escape lest they start to believe they’re indispensible. It’s Christmas so please surround yourself with family and/or friends or perhaps you just need to be alone with a good book. Do anything but lead. Merry Christmas! – BB

Jim and Casper

It sounds like the set up for a classic joke:  “A Christian and an Atheist walk into a church together…”  But it’s no joke, it actually happened.  In the summer of 2006, Jim Henderson, a former pastor, and now publishing executive went on a road trip with his best friend, Matt Casper, an avowed Atheist.  They visited eleven churches across the USA:  mega-churches with superstar preachers and mainline congregations with mind-numbing liturgy and an Anabaptist-related house church (way to go, Jason!).  They pooled their insights into a book:  Jim & Casper Go to Church (Barna:  2007).  www.amazon.com

At the end of the book, Jim reflects: “Casper saw and experienced – over and over and over again – what Christians do when they do church.  He saw it done with big budgets and no budgets, in large stadiums and in small buildings.  The same format repeated itself regardless of the setting.  The greet-sing-preach-collect-present form played out in front of us with unrelenting predictability.  And when it was all done, he would turn to me and ask, ‘Jim, is this what Jesus told you guys to do?’”

Ouch.

Jesus told us to go into the world and share the victory news that God does not hate anyone for anything; that God loves everyone, all the time.  Only then can we baptize – forming communities of Jesus followers.  Together we figure out how to live faithfully, in love with Jesus.

Yes, sometimes we get it backwards. We figure out how people should live; try with all our might to assemble a group of those folks; then tell them God loves them.

Is that what Jesus told us to do?  What would it look like to start a church whose focus was not on the “show” or the “shoulds” but on the good news?

Faith cultures

I think a great deal about cultures: I much prefer one airline over the others in my country, because of what I perceive as very different corporate cultures. All faith communities also have a culture. When I walk into a church, I get an immediate sense about the culture present. In the church world I wander in, I’m often discouraged by the culture I encounter: Too often it seems focused on a particular family group, dominated by white folks past retirement age. A church I visited a while back was lamenting the fact that their church was declining because it was “out in the country” too far removed from an urban population. My thoughts went to a church a few kilometers up the road from them that was thriving and building an addition. It seemed to me that “out in the country” had become an excuse which made it nearly impossible for them to see their potential in that rural community. The church had an identity rooted in an old self-understanding which produced a very tired, uninviting culture to anyone who was new in the neighbourhood.

What are you doing as a leader to keep the culture of your community current and inviting?
JLT