Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A NEW KIND OF CHRISTIAN: update #2

Would you agree that pastors are not, to quote Neo, "regular people?" Why or why not? Does this tension contribute to the difficulty Dan has with self-disclosure? What risks are involved when a person cannot be honest?

Well, ignoring the obvious pun in my mind about NO pastor I've ever met being normal...I'd say that we, as the lay people, make them abnormal.

Let me explain: whether consciously or not, we place them on a pedestal. We look to our leaders to be strong moral guides, which is what they should be. Those who lead ARE held to a higher standard, but that does not mean that they should be or can be super-human and unable to be real.

As a lay leader (please SOMEONE invent a new term; I'll give you $5), I find that I am placed on a pedestal by many people. Its very, very, very difficult to be open at first with people who look up to you. I could site examples from the junior/senior high school kids I work with and/or the college and singles there are some people, who -- developmentally speaking, cognitively, emotionally and/or spiritually -- are not in a place where they can accept their leaders as human.

And we who are the leaders (God help me if I ever worked full-time in a church; I'd either be loved or burned as a heretic) do this to ourselves as well. Think about it, those of you with me or who are like me, those of us who serve as leaders: can you honestly say that you put on your true face when dealing with your peers? I know that sometimes I don't. To be certain, I don't lie or put on a false face, but do I at times put on a lovely veneer of everything is alright in Sonnyland JUST because I find it hard to say, "I'm hurting about this today" or "I haven't felt as close to God as I think I should," or something similar?

When you can't be honest with your peers, your friends, colleagues and FAMILY in this struggle of life -- you can't be honest with yourself. You wind up believing the lie that everything is alright, and as someone whose degree is based in Counseling: that's a load'a crap that will hurt and potentially destroy you further down the road. It almost did me.

Why? Why can I not just look at a friend and say I feel like crying today? Why? Why can I not just feel comfortable enough with a brother or sister whose opinions and advice I routinely seek about comparatively trivial matters...why can I not just open up to the...to show the wounds, struggles, fears, pain and love that I have inside?

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What kind of posture do friends take towards one another? What postures do we normally assume when we talk about matters of faith? What do you think it means to use a term like posture when talking about how people engage each other relationally?

Ha. Posture. Good one -- this is almost a no-brainer: think about how when you're talking to someone that you care about and you feel comfortable with. Duh. Your posture is eased, relaxed -- you don't sit or stand there with folded arms, or with any other kind of overt body language that might make you come across as guarded. But -- and this just occurred to me -- I think one of MY problems is that I presume that many of my friends will assume my same posture/stance on an issue (if not physical stance), and I think I come into these discussions a little more unguarded than I normally would.

This translates especially into my discussions about faith with my friends. We all tend to gravitate and hang out with people like us, people that we feel comfortable with. Our posture and stance again, both literal and physical, tends to be one of a more "chill" 'tude than anything else.

You know, I almost blew this question off as being too simplistic, until the idea of a stance as a position on an issue AND literal stance -- as in how we physically manifest our body language to one another -- crossed my mind. Guess this means I'm not too big of an idiot if I can get multiple meanings from one word.

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What is the role of a leader in the church? Do we pay pastors to be the answer-men and -women? What is the cost of such an approach? How might the way we train such leaders dictate the kind of leaders we produce?

...and here is where my academic snobbery will burn brightly through...

I. Hate. The. Way. Modern. Churches. Exist.

Maybe I've been in academia too long. Maybe I enjoy the way I debated/argued as an undergraduate and as a graduate student a little too much. But I personally can not STAND the way we exalt preachers and even lay leaders to be THE answer to-go-to people. Yes, there are some very easy faith-based answers that pastors SHOULD be able to rattle off with ease and are for Christians not open to debate (salvation; Christs death and resurrection; etc.). But we have placed a human in a state of authority as one point, one person, one lens to focus all answers through -- and you know what? THEY CAN BE WRONG. They can even be right on answers, but they give the correct answer through their point of view, and their answer is not exhaustive, complete, or potentially even reflective of MY point of view.

To be sure, thats why we have connection or small groups some would argue. That's why we do life together with other people.

Bull.

That's one of the reasons, yes, and potentially one of the healthiest reasons. We tend to feel safer in a smaller environment, where we feel we can let down our guard and be real. But what does that say about the man or woman up on the stage? Do we force them to be LESS real because they have to be all things to everyone, but not in a way that is reflective of what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 9:21-23 when he stated that he was all to all -- but his was for a case of inclusion, and less political correctedness.

We, the Western culture, are so accustomed to everyone -- from Ms. Lyons, or whoever your first-grade-teacher might've been, on to your high school teachers -- we place so many of these people in a position of yes/no, right/wrong, black/white authority and answer people that we fail miserably to understand and appreciate the complexities and beauty of discussion and hammering issues out rather than just accepting facts, and sadly more often than not, just sheer opinion from these in authority.

We pay leaders in a church to hold the course. To speak the truth in love. To teach. In a totally Socratic method. Or, to give out a major old-school shout-out to mah boyz in geekdom: GIGO.

You know what? I want someone one time to one to tell me they dont know the answer to something. Or at least not act like they know what they're talking about as they tell me that they don't know.

Leaders lead. They guide. To me, the best leaders point out the path, stay on the path with you as you walk down it, but they do not tell you what steps to take, how many steps to take, or even where the steps lie. You find your own path, with them as a guide. G-U-I-D-E. Faith is not paint-by-numbers, nor is it a one-size-fits-all idea or mentality. By perpetuating the idea of leaders who tell us what to do ("Just pray this simple prayer and God will give you the blessings of [fill in the blank]"), what to read, how to pray, when to pray, to adhere to bumper sticker theology (oh, I'll talk more about that later), and to follow them

They hurt the children: us. The children of God. The ones Jesus warned about damaging, or else they've have -- I believe it was a "millstone" placed around their neck and thrown out into the water or something like that. They're the ones who burn people out of faith, and from God. They're why people turn from the church, and run to people and/or ideologies what will embrace them, and accept their thoughts and questions.

...but you know what? Look at a question mark. It looks like this: ? Doesn't that resemble half of a heart to you? And, appropriately enough, don't our questions cut to the heart of who and what we really are?

[TO BE CONTINUED]

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