This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.
Last week I wrote of a veteran employee who tends to go against the grain in his ministry organization.
He has set up his own little fiefdom where he enjoys successful ministry along with several devotees.
Additionally, it’s not hard to imagine this person as somewhat intimidating to other employees and even management.
So, from the perspective of organizational leadership, better to leave him alone in his domain, right?
Accept the benefits of his success? Allow him to color outside the lines? Allow him to be an exception to all the rules?
* * *
A parishioner of a megachurch in my town once quoted his pastor to me, thusly:
“We don’t reward disfunction.”
Translation: We don’t put tons of time into appeasing or even fixing persistent dissent. Rather, we ask the person to make a change or leave the organization.
Harsh words to the sensitive ears of Americans who love an antihero.
But, in my estimation, wise words nonetheless.
I have a mental image of an older ministry specialist who’s been around the block many times.
Could be a pastor, professor or other ministry professional like myself.
Let’s say the person is male.
He has a certain way of doing things that the organization has left behind or never embraced in the first place.
To protect his interests, the specialist carves out his own domain and rules it with an inflexible hand.
By many standards of measure, such as participation from lay people, spiritual growth, conversions, etc., success is evident.
Additionally, the man has a small cult following of loyalists who share his passion, philosophy and methods.
How does the organization (church, seminary, college or parachurch) respond?
Despite the man’s success, in the bigger picture the organization is hindered from moving forward until he leaves or retires.
But that could be another 10-15 years.
Decision time for the organization: Removing the man would come at great cost. His devotees might lash out in anger and rebellion.
Financial support could be lost.
A major confrontation would be necessary. Could be a messy scene and involve publicity, a review board, appeals . . .
Is it worth it?
I’ll offer an opinion next week.
Looking back we rightly ask, Is this process trustworthy?”
Were mistakes made?
Did the early church get the following “big rocks” correct?
- Doctrine of the Trinity
- Books of the NT
- Nature of Christ
- Justification and sanctification
* I have no problem with God doing miracles of any sort. But when we think of God’s activity as being restricted to the dramatic and sensational, we miss out on many of his main works.
As I read about major events in the life of the early church, I’m struck by how human everything is.
Yes, perhaps there is an invisible divine hand at work behind the scenes.
But on the surface, God seems to have allowed flawed human beings the privilege of figuring out a lot of major stuff.
Just read about the contentious issues surrounding the selection of letters for inclusion in the NT.
Or which version of the Trinity — or the nature of Christ — would be adopted as the orthodox position.
Or whether clergy who “lapsed” under persecution could subsequently perform valid rites and
sacraments in the church.*
Or whether Greek philosophy should be thought of as a helpful tutor (or hindrance) for theological understanding and defending the faith in the Roman Empire and Middle Ages.
Inside the historic accounts you’ll find flesh-and-blood mortals — some brave, some heroic, some disgusting — fight, scratch, claw, take sides, condemn, ex-communicate, denounce, and make arguments and counter-arguments about the most foundational issues of all Christendom, for all time.
What this mixed bag of saints and not-so-saints haggled over for 16+ centuries has a direct effect on the thinking and behavior of today’s (and tomorrow’s) Christians — that is, our orthodoxy and “orthopraxy.”
So is it all trustworthy? Were mistakes made? Do we now have it right? What sort of God would leave these matters to us?
I’ll write about it next week.
* The Donatist controversy
Last week I mentioned my 4-step response to the critic’s charge of “Christians behaving badly”:
- Acknowledge harm
- Don’t blame the hammer
- Reject impostors
- Remember the good
- Habitat for Humanity: a Christian organization that has built over 500,000 homes for low-income families.
- Health care in the west. Do some research on health care practices in the Roman Empire, Middle Ages, and all the way into the 20th century, and you’ll find it dominated by Christians and Christian principles.
- Education in America: Check out the origins of Harvard, Yale, Princeton. Again, Christians were the main impetus.