First. This post has nothing to do with Barack Obama. Or the ’08 US election in all its permutations. It does, however, have to do with leadership.
I met Brad Sargent at the Allelon Missional Order gathering this past fall. He’s both very funny and very wise. Brad comments here on occasion – often with real insight. But his deepest thoughts on life and the church are to be found on his blog, FuturistGuy.
“Poor Mr. Darcy,” Jane laments, then looks astonished: “Poor Mr. Wickham! There is such an expression of goodness in his countenance.”
Again Elizabeth laughs, “Yes … I’m afraid one has all the goodness, and the other all the appearance of it.” She goes on to say that until that very uncomfortable moment of reading Mr. Darcy’s letter, she never knew herself.
Elizabeth and Jane go on to talk about whether they should disclose the details about Mr. Wickham to others, whether that would block him from the possibility of making a fresh start, whether they would need the permission of Mr. Darcy to disclose, etc.
I see many parallels to the difficult but necessary responsibility all of us have to learn to discern between good and evil – and discernment is, according to Hebrews 5:14, is a sign of spiritual maturity. I won’t go into all the possible spin-offs of this illustration with discernment and disclosure, but here are at least some “starter thoughts” on the subjects.
This problem of appearance versus substance is critical in discerning the actual status of church systems and leadership.
While I understand the need for leaders to keep some details about decisions and processes confidential, I also see that there are things done behind closed church doors and hidden away that need to be brought into the light. Like Mr. Wickham, toxic church leaders show consistent talent at maintaining the appearance of propriety. Their systems, strategies, and structures may look perfectly good on the surface – but underneath, there is either no biblical substance, or, even worse, there is anti-biblical substance.
Our boys have a band called Substance over Style. Too often, church leadership is all about style over substance. It’s about the appearance of leadership – rather than the reality. Rather than operating in transparency, many leaders in the church are like the Wizard of Oz. Pulling the levers from behind the curtain – while projecting themselves as larger than life. Woe to those who attempt to pull back the curtain.
But this tortured metaphor reminds me of what happened at the point of Jesus death. The veil was torn. The curtain that separated us from the Holy of Holies in the temple was torn from top to bottom – rent asunder. How is it that church leadership wants desperately to sew that curtain back up so they can perform "their leadership" from behind it.
Please head over to read the rest of Brad’s more cogent post.
UPDATE: Brad points to John’s Third Letter – these particular verses:
Earlier I wrote something along this line to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves being in charge, denigrates my counsel. If I come, you can be sure I’ll hold him to account for spreading vicious rumors about us. (MSG – 3 John 9-10)
Any of you who know Imbi’s and my story from earlier this millennium will understand why this resonates.