I knew I said yesterday "nothing but Bucks posts from here until Saturday", but this blog is meant, to among other things, keep those interested informed of my studies here. More importantly, it is a record of things I have learned that can be accessed later. I've made over 140 posts on this blog since 2005 when I got the half-baked idea that I needed to start some sort of journal as an exercise in personal discipline, and I can access any one of them right now. I am finding now that this ongoing record is becoming invaluable as I track out my life, and particularly my spiritual journey. I'd encourage all of you to do something similar... on-line or hard-copy.
Besides, the Bucks will figure into this.... just be patient.
Since Monday, all day, every day, we have been in class with Dale Galloway, founding pastor of New Hope Community Church of Portland, and before that, and also Grove City (Ohio) Church of the Nazerine (for those who remember Wayne Sharpes, the former Senior Pastor at Lima Community Church of the Nazerine, he followed Dale at GCCN before coming to LCCN). Dale has literally forgotten more about ministry than most of us practitioners will ever know. He made his mark in Portland starting a church back in the 70's at a drive-in movie theatre, him preaching and his wife singing on the top of the "snack shack" each and every Sunday. Ultimately, New Hope grew to over 6000 in membership, and 5,000 in worship in what was, and is, one of America's least churched cities.
Make no bones about it, Dale is "old school". There's no fluff in his presentation. As a matter of fact if you sat in on the class, you'd probably spend your day saying "well, that makes sense", "I knew that already", or "well, that's obvious", which is really why everything so helpful. The instruction we are receiving is so practical, that's it hard to argue with much of what is being said. But every so often, he throws a curveball.... good ones!
I have heard Joseph say this many, many times.... leadership is all about influencing others. The importance in earning this influence and how it is used all stems out of the character and integrity of the leader, who seeks to be in relationship with others. I think particularly coming out of the Pacific Northwest, Galloway has a pretty good understanding of how important influence is, because unlike, for example, the buckle of the Bible Belt, there is generally not as much authority ascribed to a pastor simply because s/he is the pastor. As the culture has become considerably more wary of authority and institutions, the only authority you own in any church is that which is granted by the people as they continually trust you, and they only trust you as they grow to know who you are.
The danger in all of this is that a pastor's authority and influence are constantly being re-calibrated. For example, if you engage in secret behavior that is inappropriate, and it becomes public knowledge, by compromising your own integrity you'll cut your own throat (the latest, most visable example emanating out a well-known church in Colorado). Just as problematic, however, is how a pastor deals with situations either in the church, or the world, s/he did not create but effect the church all the same. We spent a good amount of time on staff issues today, and the stories Dale told us that he dealt with over the years pretty much would curl your hair. Stories of infidelity, theft, rebellion.... crazy, crazy stuff.
Like, what do you do if a staff member comes to you and says that they are no longer in love with their wife, and will be seeking a divorce? Or if a youth pastor makes the decision one day to denounce your ministry as being theologically inappropriate and not biblical? Or, what if a counselor on-staff engages in an affair with the wife of a couple who had come to him for counseling? Or what if all these things happened over the course of a 20 year+ pastorate... how do deal with things, and keep a ministry moving forward?
Dale's concept of "in order/out of order", where maybe something fishy is going on, but the truth or final outcome of the situation is not yet know, which was presented today, is a very intriguing idea. That is to say, for example in the first case of the staff member who wants a divorce, but no motion has been filed, the idea would be to agree with this person that his life is "out of order", and then place them on a paid leave until the situation could be sorted out. No admission or wrong doing has been made. The family and congregation need not have any immediate fear that the family effected will suffer economically, and the church can begin to craft a plan to work with that staff person through whatever comes. The idea is that the staff person is given the space to get their life "in order", which is really the most compassionate thing you can do. And you don't just pay lip service to the idea... you actually try to work with the couple to get them some counseling to find out whether or not this marriage can or can't be saved.
But the genius of this policy is that generally, with some patience and prayer, the facts of the situation can begin to sort themselves out, and a clearer picture of what to do emerges. In Dale's case of the staff member who wanted the divorce, it emerged that this person was actually carrying on an affair with the church secretary, which then enabled the church to deal not only with the staff person and the secretary, but with the staff person's wife and children.
By gaining some extra time to sort this situation out, the leadership of the church had a better understanding of what they needed to do. If they had just let the staff person go, then no care could have been provided to his family, while at the same time alienated those in congregation who might have felt that termination at that juncture was overly punitive. By waiting a couple more months, the church not only got the staff person out of the limelight, tried to provide counseling, and continued to pray for clarity, but in the end discovered information that made it easier to figure out what to do, with much less opposition. In an institution that is primarily relational, that kind of information can make a huge difference in how people conceive the church, and the pastor. Hadn't heard that one before, and it's one I'm taking with me.
The other thing that is becoming apparent to me through Dale (which is another thing I knew, but just learned differently again) is that if you want a career where conflict is minimal, then don't go into the ministry. The depth of spiritual connection you have with God, the more secure you are in Him, and the clearer you see yourself as His child, the greater the likelihood that you will not say, or do, something destructive. But, that being said, just expect that destructive things, even for those deeply rooted spiritually in Christ, are gonna happen. Pastors and lay-leaders can never shy away from problems that will arise in ministry. You do your best to anticipate courses of action, do the necessary planning in advance to minimize the "lostness" one feels when conflict inititally arises, and you do the work in your prayer life that no one sees so that in public you can respond to the situation... not react to it. But not doing something so that no conflict will arise isn't what the Gospel calls us to as we seek make the Kingdom of Heaven real in the world.
I sense that seeking a solid relationship with God in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and reading about how others dealt with being his child in positions of leadership scripturally, for better or worse, helps us remember that our worth isn't necessary derived in being right, but in being faithful as we seek righteousness. Being right comes out of winning the argument. Being righteous comes out of seeking direction in humility.
Anyhow, the longer Dale speaks, the more I appreciate what he is saying, and the more I'm getting out of the presentation. Righteousness, out of a sense of humility, I think describes the man very well.
And, what's more, since Dale was born in Columbus, he's a huge Bucks fan, which makes two of us excited about the big game. Since he's an "old school guy", here's an old school Bucks clip in his honor....