One of the things that has become apparent in the last couple years is the self-fulfilling bubble. In other words, we have built ourselves into tribes where we hang out and listen to people who are like us, who think like us, who look like us, who hold the same convictions, etc.
The benefit is affinity and familiarity. I spent last week with over 12,000 brothers who have the same convictions on theology, Christ, mission, and the church. It was really cool to see the fellowship formed. But if that's all we do, if that's only who we hang out with, if all we're doing is spending time in totally homogeneous circles, we're missing what God has done in designing His church.
I preached Sunday through 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, and one of the richest things I saw in that was the fact that God has woven a heavenly tapestry in the Church, and it doesn't always look like us. So as leaders in ministry, here are three questions for us to ask ourselves regularly:
1. When was the last time I spent time with someone older/younger than me? In the book Spiritual Leadership, J Oswald Sanders makes it clear we need a Timothy, a Barnabas, and a Paul. A Timothy is someone younger than us, someone we're investing in. A Paul is someone older who's investing in us. A Barnabas is someone in our situation, an encourager. God has designed the Church to be a multigenerational fellowship. Younger guys, those older saints in your church worked hard to provide for their family and build the congregation you serve. They may not like your music or agree on everything with you, but you can learn much from them. Older guys, don't let your last chapters be filled with regret or bitterness. Invest in the young men who will be leading the Church after you.
2. When was the last time I spent time with someone of a different race than me? The first step here is to recognize that our racial background has a way of not only informing our worldview but also how we're viewed by the world. The experiences of our African American, Hispanic, and other racial minorities are very different from ours. We can no longer live in mono worlds, and if we're going to lead well we must take the initiative to engage with others who aren't like us. I'm grateful for the leadership of Family Church in West Palm Beach Florida and how they've recognized the cultural and ethnic melting pot of South Florida and sought to intentionally minister.
3. When was the last time I spent time with someone who votes differently than me? In our cable news cycle world, we've forgotten the lost art of civility. It's discouraging to see the rhetoric on all sides, where anyone who doesn't agree is Hitler. In 2014 Pew Research found out that there was no ideological overlap in the Senate, which had historically been the deliberative body of compromise and mutual engagement. Unfortunately, in the Obama/Clinton/Trump climate we've seen for the last few years has caused us, on both sides, to dig in trenches. Our churches have people of good conscience on both sides of the political aisle, and if we read the Gospels we'll be quick to see that Jesus cannot fit our political spectrum and cannot be hijacked to fit our expectations.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.