On Thursdays for my leadership article series I’ve been revisiting a letter my father, Keith Drury, wrote way back in 1981, back when Dallas was the most watched TV show and Raiders of the Lost Ark ruled the box office.
Last week we talked about the risk of “spiritual coolness” involved in working in a denominational leadership role. That one hit home… Let’s look at the second one on his list. (Again, I’m not editing his original text as it’s now almost old enough to have Archive status – seriously, we have an Archives at TWC and this should be in it soon.)
Dangers of Denominational Leadership Work,
“2. To get out of touch. As you come into this responsibility you are exceptionally “in touch” with the church. But, if you are not very careful you will get out of touch quickly. If you do very little travel you will probably be attending a church like Trinity* — and worship with three or four hundred people every week. Over the years you can come to think this is an average church, and not an exceptional one. If you do travel, you will be invited mostly to the larger churches that can support the cost of your travel and speaking assignment. After years of speaking at the largest couple hundred churches you may begin to conclude that this is indeed the average church. It is not. You will work in an atmosphere were people are professional, well trained, and very denominationally oriented. You might even come to think that this represents the average church. If you are not very careful you will get out of touch quickly. You will be tempted to become a “cheerleader” for the institutional church, rather than the kingdom of God, or the local church. You will resist being prophetic, and will be tempted to see your job as building loyalty to the institutional structure of the church. If you are not very careful you will quickly get out of touch.”
*I should point out that the church he mentions above, “Trinity” is one near the Wesleyan Church HQ in Indy, but the principle applies to any similar church one might attend as a denominational leader.
Response: Yep–this one hits home for me well too. For years I’ve worried about this problem–the apparent lack of awareness of local church concerns. As a pastor in the local church I can start to think: “They don’t know or care about the problems I’m facing.” I see here some of the problem is related to having too narrow of an experience… in churches of just one size or kind. Also, the matter of “preserving institutional loyalty” is keen. I’ve often felt that denominational leaders seem to be focused on this “loyalty for loyalty’s sake” instead of focused on some bigger mission for the whole church, and local churches. I need to be different than that.
Resolution: I will seek to have a diversity of church connections. If I find that most of my time is being spent with large church leaders, I’ll focus some time with small church leaders. Same goes for rural/urban, mono-ethnic/multi-ethnic, rich/poor, east/west, north/south, etc. I need to ensure that I don’t get tunnel vision and out of touch on the local church. Also, I need to clarify what the mission is–so that my talk about the denomination is not full of “you should’s” and “you have to’s” but instead is full of “what if’s” and “how about we’s.” Vision should lead or connectionalism… not tradition. We should have a relational and missional loyalty to each other–not a structural or hierarchical loyalty.
What added advice do you have for me, friends and readers? What do you think about us “getting out of touch” as I and others make this transition? (We’ll talk about other categories later but I don’t want to steal Dad’s thunder now on those other matters.) How do you think getting out of touch is a danger in this transition and what would you do about it?