I had an English prof who threatened the class with sarcastic feedback on the essays we wrote for him. He said, “If I ever write the word ‘bland’ in the margin of your paper, you’ll know you’ve just received the worst comment that I could give you.” I guess he meant that any writing that was lively , no matter how poor, was better than writing that was boring and colorless. Sort of like being luke-warm and spat out.
The classis that worries me most is the classis that tells me their meetings are bland and lack-luster. “We’re just plodding through the business that’s before us.” “ It’s ok, so-so, but nobody has time or energy to try to make it more significant.” “Classis is doing what it’s supposed to but no more.” Nobody wants to make a cocoon in which the plump munchy caterpillar can go through the wrenching change required to produce a butterfly.
Change is hard, tiring, conflicted, unpredictable, and who knows what bad stuff might emerge…. Besides it takes time away from other important matters. Worst of all, it’s risky to people and institutions.
If our tradition hasn’t totally lost its way, we do still believe reformation is possible. Even of institutions. EVEN of classis! But sometimes we literally CANNOT change – why? Because we are suffering from what a colleague of mine calls the syndrome of “terminal uniqueness”. NOTHING can help us, because we are SO unique! It just won’t work. We can’t use that idea because it’s not right for…. this kind of problem, this kind of organization, this time in history, people like us… and the real stopper is – the church is uniquely unique and so nothing that works anywhere else can work here. And if it can, it shouldn’t.
So what’s needed to ignite the reformation process in the church, at the classis? Sometimes it’s crisis, or pain. But what about when it’s bland? Our man Crabtree says
we need two new attitudes – teachability and trust
. Then and only then will we be able (willing) to be open to the knowledge and insight that will transform regional associations (classes). “Local church leaders will need to develop teachable spirits and renew their trust that these associations have something to offer them. This task is not trivial. If taken seriously, the redevelopment of a regional association will impact every aspect of its organization beginning with the kind of leadership necessary for its success.”
Those of you out there who have experienced renewal, does this ring true? Unless someone stops me, I’m planning to work through more of Crabtree in coming weeks, focusing next on leadership.
Teachability and trust…. Do those sound like the characteristics of a disciple of Jesus? They do to me!
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