Getting into the Mess of People’s Lives

I don’t like messes! It is somewhat therapeutic for me to say that but on the other hand I am aware that trying to avoid messes can be a very difficult and sometimes tall order. I am a father of two girls who both like to make a mess on a daily basis. I am also a Pastor and in my job I am required to deal with people who are not always at their best. I am asked to insert myself into their mess! For me that is not always a pleasant experience but one that we need to be comfortable embracing. I have been very challenged by this idea recently as I see in the life and ministry of Jesus no hesitation to insert and in fact place himself directly into people’s messes.

In the gospel of John chapter 9 we see Jesus directly get involved in the life of a man who had simply been born blind. His disciples were simply passing by and took the occasion to ponder the ramifications of our sin upon our bodies. Jesus turns the focus of the discussion off the circumstances that resulted in this man being blind into healing him and the act of the healing being a catalyst for further dialogue between Jesus and the Jewish leaders who were seeking a way to get rid of him. Notice how Jesus inserts himself into this man’s life.

Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing” John 9:6-7 (ESV)

 And after literally getting himself dirty by ‘spitting on the ground and making mud with his saliva’ Jesus continued to be involved in this man’s life because his healing created another set of circumstances that saw this man standing before the Pharisees and answering questions.

Sometimes getting involved in someone’s life does not end with one-act, but may require a longer commitment. This is the part that is troubling for many of us. We like the kettle outside of the retail stores at Christmas because we simply throw some money into it and go on our way. Volunteering to go down to the Salvation Army and actually having to spend time with people and getting to hear their story. Too messy! The reality is that a majority of the people who walk into our churches each Sunday have one mess or another going on in their life. Some people have done a really good job of hiding their mess so that it’s hidden from plain sight, but it’s still there! We need to be comfortable with messy people and be willing to insert ourselves into their lives because the end result is life change. The man born blind saw his life changed because Jesus was willing to get messy are you?

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A response to ‘2 unintended consequences of the idea that “anyone can lead a group”

Last week Eric Geiger wrote a post on his blog in which he talked about two of the ‘unintended consequences’ that have come out of the method that some churches use like Saddleback of recruiting people to be hosts for their small groups. There are many churches, because of their size, that need to recruit a lot of leaders and they have adopted a pragmatic philosophy that in order to lead a small group you do not have to be super spiritual, or posses a Bible College degree. You simply have to be open to leading and have a growing relationship with God. Geiger says that this creates an identity crisis because you are asking them to fill a role of leadership when they are not fit or ready to lead because you have not asked them to be a leader but a host. I would disagree with Geiger that ‘not just “anyone” can lead them. If “anyone” can lead them, then the groups cannot possibly be expected to provide nurture and community that is rooted in the Word’. Have we not moved beyond the battles of clergy and laity? Must these people be in full-time ministry to lead a small group? or pray? Or provide accountability? I think we would all agree that anyone can do these things and can be trained to do them. Maybe it is merrily and argument of semantics but in my view a leader and a host are not that much different but it ultimately comes down to what is the church asking these people to do in the role they are recruiting them to? If we are asking them to just host some people and not provide any leadership then it incorrect to call them leaders. But say we call them ‘hosts’ and we train them to do all the things a leader does, should it matter that they are called a ‘host’? I think the bottom line is we have to be clear in explaining the role we are recruiting people to volunteer for and if it is a leadership role then we need to have a process of leadership development in place to train people to lead others. Geiger’s second point is in my opinion akin to stereotyping and name calling. If the goal is that people are getting into community (which he admits is good) is it fair to criticize their method for doing so? While I agree with his premise that just because you can place play on DVD player does not mean you are disciplining people. I would not label any church that is using this method as “consumerist’.  This sort of pontificating and broad-stroke stereotyping is exactly what we are not called to do as believers. I would suggest that instead of criticizing their method that we challenge them to consider how they will use their method to ‘make disciples’ and if they cannot give a good answer to sit down with them and help create a plan for making it happen. FInally, blogs of this kind make for good copy but in the end all they end of doing is create more disunity. This post contains no suggestions or action items for church who are using this system to be challenged to examine whether they are being effective. Is it just one person taking a shot at an entire system and that to me is sad. My prayer is that we can just agree that people need community! People need to be discipled and we rally around how to see that happen and not criticize the methods that we employ to do it.

Must you be organized to lead?

LeadershipI have been thinking a lot about leadership and specifically the organizational ability of the leader. There are two ways of looking at this issue. The first is that a leader is anyone who can influence others and that organizational ability is something that can be delegated to someone else. The way of looking at this is that while you may be able to lead through your influence, you will be less than effective because the inability to organize, plan, create systems will hold you back.

If history is any indicator then it has shown us that a lack of organizational ability has not limited some of the great leaders throughout the ages. Part of that many be due in large part to their ‘personality’ as people often are attracted to larger than life figures who capture our attention. There are countless examples of these kind of leaders and when we look back on them we often think of them as a ‘leader’ but not necessary dwell on how organized they were or were not.

Question: Is being organized an integral part of being a leader?