-To the tune of ‘put you hand up for Detroit.’ (Apologies)
Anyone at any level of leadership knows the feeling, the dread. Booking an appointment with someone who has, to call a spade a spade; completely dropped the ball. Also, if you have made it to this stage you’ll also remember having been ‘in the shoes’ of the person you are going to go and see.
I have a question; why is it that in a community that has the grace of God as it central message, do its members wait so long before admitting that something needs to be fixed or that they need help?
I’m not talking about the ‘high end crisis’ like revelations of abuse, (though that can apply) but I’m talking about everyday situations where people are given a task or find themselves in a team, feel overwhelmed but do utterly nothing about it until there is ‘that email‘ (you know what I’m talking about) that appears on the leader’s/coordinator’s/pastors inbox on an otherwise bright and sunny morning.
Why, seriously why do we let it get to this stage? Why do we let an event or a task get away and essentially go to pot before we put our hand up and admit that we’re struggling?
Maybe there’s two reasons why it doesn’t happen:
- Me (the leader), I am not approachable.
Maybe the hardest thing to be when there is an authority and therefore power differential is approachable. No one did it better than Jesus. Heck, kids jumped into his arms. It seems that there are four big areas where we can be more Christlike here:
We need to be reasonable, listening, understanding and positive.
Reasonable means I have to be able to be swayed by argument and give ground on non-essential things. Like Jesus and his attitude to his disciples eating on the Sabbath. Ironically, the deeper our commitment to the essentials the more we’ll hold the non-essentials with an open hand.
Listening means to be (and I’m sorry for the buzz-phrase) listening not to respond but to understand. This will affect attitude and therefore body language. I am still very much working on this one.
Understanding means reflecting back to them that yes, nothing happens in a vacuum and you are aware that there are deeper reasons why they ‘dropped the ball’. It’s believing the best about someone, acknowledging to them that what they do is not automatically who they are nor do mistakes necessarily betray some evil intention.
Positive is maybe the most important one. James 1:2 commands Christians to see every trial and challenge as an opportunity. That’s because when we do that, we acknowledge that God is more powerful than anyone’s mistake and moreover, he uses these things not merely to restore but to grow us in our knowledge of his character, not just our ministry effectiveness. Show me someone who knows the power of God and I’ll show you a person who can keep a positive attitude in the midst of dealing with the greatest of failures. Jesus’ first instruction to Saul of Tarsus; the ‘chief of sinners’ was….”get up,” not “stay down.”
2. Them (the follower) give in to fear of the truth and clam-up.
Again, it is a bit of a buzz phrase but nonetheless: the opposite of faith is not doubt but fear. Perhaps a better way of putting it would be that the fear of the Lord cleanses us from the fear of man.
If that’s true, then the reason why we do not speak up earlier is because we are not enamoured enough, not in awe enough of God. If God is not awesome to you, owning the truth becomes awful. When we are not in awe of God, no task for his glory is important enough to us to swallow our pride.
That’s a tough thing to say, but let’s be brave a think it through.
This happens in two different ways:
a) We are plain scared
Imagine a person who was so convinced of their value and God’s love for them that it occupied every single facet of their being at every moment; the God of the universe personally directing history for their future restoration and glorification. I’ll bet that person looks like Jesus. Because it is. He was. In him you see what happens the closer you get to God. He stared straight back at Pontius Pilate, the one who had the power to execute him or save him and said to his face: “you haven’t a shred of authority over me save for that which is given to you by my father in heaven.”
Jesus didn’t flinch not only risking but knowing that the ‘worst case scenario was coming his way.’ He was not in fear of failure whatsoever for he trusted his father implicitly. The further we get away from the attitude of Jesus to the Father, the less and less we want to embrace difficult. Especially when it means apologising or admitting that we are out of our depth.
b) There’s a pride issue.
Our stuff becomes more important to us than God’s stuff.
Or maybe, and here is often the most common one, we’re scared to admit that we don’t know what we are doing. We ache to seen as clever, efficient, powerful or simply able. The problem is, the more you work on developing a reputation, the more it will become like a ball and chain. But not only a weight, but a weight that demands constant upkeep and lifestyle changes to adjust for it. Nothing (we think) punctures a reputation of ‘I got this’ like saying…..”actually…..I don’t”
The ironic thing is though, that when we do, what we do get is a reputation as being something far more precious; someone who lays aside their reputation for the good of the group or the task. In the end, saying ‘stuff it’ to the efforts of building a good reputation before others actually purchases us a….good reputation.
Because let’s just be honest, humble people are more fun to hang out with.
In the end, the decision to “put your hand up for some help,” before stuff gets full-on is one of the best ways to practise faith, indeed practice worship.