Leadership Courage Series # 26

Edwin Friedman in his stellar work A Failure of Nerve challenges his readers to “disengage from an unreasonable faith in reasonableness.” It seems that the Church in North America is reasonable if it is anything, and that reasonableness has got us stuck.

“Syncretism” is what scholars call it.

I call it a blight … and a foundation to the culture of cowardice that’s commonplace in the Church today. One way to regain our verve and our nerve, it to take an axe to the roots of a commitment to being reasonable.

Trouble is, there’s comfort in reasonableness.  There’s a degree of security there, too.  The moderation it provokes can masquerade as wisdom after you’ve had any number of flame-outs when taking bold steps of faith.

I was discipled as a new Christian in a church system that regularly twisted scripture and abused power … scarring people both emotionally and spiritually.  Annie and I invested ourselves without reservation  in a church plant that imploded after an extra-marital affair.  Years ago we gave what for us was a breathtaking sum of money for a church building campaign, and later learned that a person on the inside had misappropriated tens of thousands from that campaign.

Sad.

If you’ve been around the Church for any time, such scandals are nothing new.  How the perpetrators can sleep at night remains a mystery to me.  What is not mysterious is the pressure these setbacks have exerted on my enthusiasm to live “all-in” for Christ. It’s as if powerful spiritual forces conspire to soften and weaken my commitment to live boldly for Christ.

They do.

A “voice of reason” resonates inside my head coaxing me to be moderate.  One prevailing Christian paradigm suggests that we hold our faith as we would a country club membership or allegiance to a political party: one of many important commitments.  Important, sure, but not essential.

Nothing to lose your head over.

Yet, in the scriptures, moderation in living for Christ is never esteemed.

Who was moderate?

Peter in Caiaphas’ courtyard?

Thomas, before he believed?

Judas Iscariot?

Jesus is unambiguous: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” [Lk 9:23]

Clear as a bell.

“No one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other…” [Lk 16:13]

As a leader, who you are is more important than anything you say.

Who you are is more important than everything you say.

Ministers, often times, are master pulpiteers.

Skilled rhetoricians.

Gifted orators.

Big talkers.

But talk that’s not backed by a life has a hollow ring. And that hollowness drives people away… away from church… away from the Church.

When Winston Churchill addressed the Harrow School in late October 1941 his speech included these most famous words: “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

His words, then as now, ring true.

Why?

Because he didn’t give in.

Neville Chamberlain, the famous appeaser, could not have made that speech.  If he had, it would never have been remembered.

The words didn’t match his life.

 

 

Do yours?