A Culture of Cowardice (part four)

I’m a leadership coach to pastors. We’re nine segments into a series on Leadership Courage. This is our fourth pass exposing a Culture of Cowardice that I believe has dominated much of the Church in North America.

These observations are confined to North America because I have very little exposure to non-Western churches and leaders. Since the US has been exporting what we call “the Gospel” in earnest since WWII, no doubt we’ve packaged and shipped our cultural preferences along with it.

Regrettably, we may have exported a Culture of Cowardice, to the foreign field. You who minister cross-culturally can offer your observations from around the globe, by commenting below.

In A Failure of Nerve Edwin Friedman identifies characteristics of chronically anxious families, communities, and societies. While I see ample evidence of these features in American society it’s stunning to consider how these traits apply to Christian churches today.

9 Flannelgraph JesusRecently, I suggested that the insipid capacity of the typical congregation to tolerate discomfort has accelerated our orientation away from bold, courageous leadership and centered it on the most needy and emotionally-regressed among us. Two segments ago, I opined that religious political-correctness has become so toxic to courageous leadership that Jesus – not the “Flannelgraph Jesus”, but the historical Jesus of the New Testament – would embarrass many in church today.

Do you find this stunning?

I work with pastors in dozens of denominations—each with their peculiar polity and priorities. Some systems locate leadership responsibility and authority with the pastor. Others load the pastor with responsibility and deny her or him the authority to lead. Still others withhold both leadership responsibility and authority from their ministers. Regardless of denominational polity, no one has as great an opportunity to influence the culture and values of a local church than the Senior Minister. That is why I’ve dedicated my life to standing with and strengthening them.

9 car conversationYou who stand in pulpits determine – more than anyone else – what your congregants talk about. To the degree that you choose your title or topic or text when you preach, you inject that into the “congregational conversation” that takes place in cars and restaurants and kitchens of those who hear. You don’t determine what they say about your topic, but you do get to decide what that topic is.

Think about it.

Does your preaching provoke people?

Do your sermons unsettle them?

Do your messages undermine the mediocrity of most of your members’ lives?

Do you challenge your congregation to change?

If not, why not?