Balancing Simplicity and Empowerment

Leading a church requires delicate balance.  One often must work a fine line in between two equally worthy ideas, which are oppositional to one another.  I suspect you need an example, because you are already wondering how two oppositional ideas can both be worthy ideas.  The topic of this article is one such example.

One of the principles I choose to emphasize in my church is empowerment.  I believe any church member might be led by God to start a new ministry.  If they are committed to this ministry they can approach the church with a workable plan and gain approval to form this ministry with the blessing and support of our church.

On the other side of the coin is the simple church principle.  This is the idea that if the church is too busy doing a diverse collection of ministries they will soon not be doing any of them well.  Instead of all the different ministries making disciples they will be competing for the limited resources, money and workers, the church has to offer.  Instead a simple church will have one path of discipleship, one process of disciple making, one plan for turning out disciples.

I believe in empowerment. If God did not want to put every member of the church to work, why gift every member with different abilities and passions?

I also believe that if the devil can’t make you bad, he will make you busy.  The church that is exhausted will not be nurturing maturity.  Burnout is a poor substitute for discipleship.

Somewhere in between these two poles is the path that God want’s the individual church to take.

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Net Neutrality

One of the more obtuse political footballs this winter has been “net neutrality.”  Whatever that is.

The general idea intrigued me, so I attempted to do a little bit of research about it.  First thing I note is that it’s hard to find arguments in favor of removing net neutrality.  The second thing I note is that the arguments in opposition to removing net neutrality made no real sense.

Here are some examples.

A man says he came to America from a country in South America, and when he lived there he had to pay before he was allowed to tweet and he was protesting to avoid that happening here. 

Does he not pay for his internet access here in America?  I pay for a cellular data plan on my phone, I pay again to have internet at home and again at my office. The only way I tweet for free is if I find a public wifi, in which case someone else is paying for the connection, but that is not the same thing as it being free.

A common illustration is that net neutrality prevented people, and corporations from creating fast lanes which get all the service while everyone else is crowded into slow lanes.

I pay extra for fast internet at my house.  I used to pay a little less and eventually decided to upgrade hoping the speed would make life easier.  Companies pay according to the amount of bandwidth and speed they want.  I started this plan long before net neutrality was repealed, and it has always the case that better service costs more.

Another argument is that large corporations will be able to force out smaller businesses by controlling how others access them on the net. 

I have a friend who had a profitable small business.  He was proud of the fact that in the narrow market that he served he would show up on the first page of most search engines. Then suddenly, he stopped showing up at all, and he stopped getting new orders.  He learned that google had caused this calamity by changing their ranking algorithm.  There was nothing he could do about it quick enough to save his business. This also happened before net neutrality was repealed.

 

I think the people who were against repealing net neutrality would probably call me an ignoramus and say that I just don’t get it. I would ask if they are sure they get it.  If they do get it, why have they not found a way to express the problem in something other than the above non-sensical arguments.

I think the real problem is that we have become a nation of near sighted sheep who are too easily led. The right spin can rally people to a cause and they don’t have to understand the issue.  These citizens will act as instructed, simply because of their blind allegiance to political parties, news outlets, and social media.

The Gift of Leadership

Leadership is important in every situation.

When the general yells, “Charge!” the soldiers had better run forward ready for battle.

When the CEO says, “We need a software update.” the engineers will begin brainstorming ideas for the next version.

When the Pastor says, “We need to add more Bible study classes.” the church can expect to discuss and may or may not decide what to do about a deficiency in the Bible study hour.

All three of these are leadership, but did you notice how different they are?  One is dictatorial, barking orders that will be followed instantly and without question. Another recognizes a need but unleashes others to work out all the details only maintaining loose oversight. The last one points out a problem, allows others to discuss and decide what do even if the decision is not what he was hoping for.

The point of this exercise is to help remind us that different styles of leadership are appropriate in different situations. If a surgeon ever wants to operate on you and promises to handle the surgical staff democratically, find a new doctor.  Why? Because if a vein is nicked you don’t want him calling for discussion or forming a committee to study it. You want him to fix it. Immediately, before you bleed to death.  You want your surgeon to be dictator.

On the other side of the coin if you are in a volunteer position and someone in the group, leader or one of the other volunteers, is ordering everyone around and refuses to discuss anything, you can expect the volunteers to thin out.  Quickly.  Volunteers almost always want to have a voice in their work, and not just have orders barked at them.  In other words, volunteers want their leaders to be teambuilders.

When it comes to the church, you are working with volunteers.  In a Baptist church it probably has a member empowering, congregational method of carrying out decision making.  Leadership in a situation like that requires learning a different skill set than leadership in business, in the military, or in academia.

In church leadership, the goal should not be getting the church to do what you want.  Instead in some cases it will be, helping the church see what the Lord wants and enabling them to follow Him.  In other cases, it isn’t obvious what best serves the Lord.  For example, maintenance and upgrade issues of the buildings, equipment and even the programs will likely not be addressed by Scripture. In these cases, the church leader should help the church see what it wants and enable them to accomplish it.

It is more important to have unity in the group than to have things done any certain way.  In fact, it more important to have unity in the group than to have things done the best way.  It is better to be unified with problems than to be broken apart and ‘perfect’.  It is better to be thriving and chaotic than to be well oiled machine that is losing membership left and right.

This makes church leadership frustrating for people who have lead in other arenas successfully.  Nevertheless, if they can adjust their style of leadership sufficiently, a person with the gift of leadership can be one of the greatest assets a church has.