Saturday, 15 June 2013

God, Authority, Leadership, Church, the Future.... simple thoughts

My mind wanders as I listen to the News... let's face it, sometimes it has to protect itself.
    (fear not, I'm not about to start singing "My Inner Ninja"... although you probably are, now)

In Toronto right now, we apparently have a Mayor who is a Crack Head, a Gun Runner, a Bully, an Imbecile, a Liar, OR a Victim of nasty politics and media, a Diabetic, a Man in over his head and the Unluckiest son of a gun in the world. 
Might be any one of the above, a combination… or none of the above and it’s all been done with mirrors.  Ta-DA!!!  (Worst magic trick ever!)  
Regardless of what delights you put on your Rob Ford Buffet Plate… (ooh, a nice big helping of nasty media, a little bit of un-lucky…. And.... Hey, how did that crack get on the plate??)… most of us have lost faith in our Mayor.

Provincially, I hear a great many people opine that our Premier is a fantastic, intelligent leader with great integrity… but they also say quickly, that she’s burdened by a government with too many scandals, missteps and errors in judgment.  The alternatives for Premier are also suspect as we are invited to go forward to the 1700s or build our future homes in Cloud Cuckoo Land  (not necessarily what I’m saying, just what I’m hearing… and also a chance to once again use my vast Classical Studies background for an arcane Aristophanes allusion).   In short, we have lost faith in our Provincial leaders…

AND you do not want me to start on our Federal leaders.  Petty, small minded, corrupt, obfuscating, arrogant, entitled, dismissive and claiming to live in PEI.  (To be fair, most of the descriptors apply to most of our leaders… not all and all).  We have lost faith in our Federal leaders.

We have lost faith in our business leaders… as they reap profits while cutting jobs and imagining that a vibrant economy is one in which investors make money while workers become a fixed cost of doing business… not a part or partner in success.  
We don’t trust ‘em.
AND hardly any of us gather around the TV to listen to Coach’s Corner any more…

We don’t trust leaders.
We are suspect of authority….  Actually, we don’t recognize it any more.

Tough time to be a church. 
An institution that talks about authority all the time:  Authority of Scripture:  We read from a big book together on Sundays; Authority of professional leadership:  We sit (often quietly) while somebody in a big dress lectures us for 20 minutes (your experience may vary); Authority of values:  Thou SHALT not kill; and Authority of God:  We are not alone, we live in God’s world...

Some would say that Authority is a tough sell today that it might be best for us to stop talking about authority.  After all, we are in a time of the democratization of everything.  No longer does the Encyclopedia have pride of place in the house as an Authority for everything from Argentinian Agriculture to the Zambian Zither... Now, we have Wikipedia, an an authority that changes constantly and can be edited and altered by the user (if enough of us think that the Dodo bird is no longer extinct, we can make it so on Wikipedia).  Hard to sell a Wikipedia used an old set of Encyclopedia Britannica (partly because they are no longer published); even harder to sell them a Bible that they cannot edit and a God who is Immortal, Invisible and Unchanging (see all sorts of hymns... esp. "Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise").

So, do we pack it in?

Accept that we are selling a stock in which nobody has faith?  (wanna trade for some Enron?)

OR
   … might we imagine that in this time when we have lost faith in our leaders and have come to question the very nature of authority, that it might be time to show what real leadership and authority can look like?
What if we are not fed up with, but actually hungry for leadership and authority… and have only rejected the existing supply because they are not deserving of our respect and engagement?  Look how many people are anxious to respond when Justin Beiber recommends a video on YouTube or Fashionistas tell us that Orange is the new Black, 50 the new 40 and Foolishness the new Wisdom?

What if we talked about God, not as Celestial Concierge; Divine Doge or Eternal Evaluator, but rather as that which has Authority in our lives…. That which creates and continues to create within our lives, that which gives us identity, that which partners with us in our struggles and hopes, that which inspires us to be whole… you know, like leaders use to do. 

What if we, as church leaders, imagined that our authority came from the people we serve and the God who calls us… that we didn’t imagine that it endowed us with privilege and power, but invited us into relationship?   What if we spoke with integrity, admitted when we made mistakes without trying to win sympathy or be excused because our dogs were mean to us when we were younger?  What if we confidently, yet fearfully, went forward engaging with people, daring to be weak AND strong… not hiding our gifts, but also not imagining them to be the only gifts at the party?  You know, like leaders are supposed to do.
 
I don’t really think that people are done with leaders or authority – I think that they are just fed up with the current stock and are hungry for something better.  Perhaps it is time for the church to set itself apart and show ‘em something else… 
         If not now, when?

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