I read an article this morning that got me thinking about church, being apprenticed to Jesus, and leadership.
Auxano church publishes regularly their Sums which is a 5 to 7 page review document of a book they have read amongst their staff together. They reviewed Andy Stanley’s Deep and Wide and included the title of the second section which reads “Our Story — Walking Towards the Messes.” While I cannot comment on the book or chapter specifically (I’ve not read it!), it strikes me that one of the values of the Kingdom of God and likewise should be embedded in the follower of Jesus is a prior decision to walk towards the messes people are in and get themselves in. One of the reasons we all applauded and marveled in some of the stories that came out of the bombing at the end of the Boston Marathon finish line were those first responders, trained and non-professional, who didn’t hesitate to walk into the mess and chaos the explosion left behind (see this inspiring video clip of a trio of those first responders who saved a university student: http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/51652344/#51652344).
Sadly, many of us in the church value tidiness and control far too much to embrace people whose lives are messy and chaotic. One of the values we aspire to in thethirdplace is reflected in Romans 15.7 (my loose translation): “Embrace one another just as Christ embraced you; this gives praise to God.” Why does this give praise to God? Because it boldly and proactively demonstrates his values of the Kingdom being lived out.
In reflecting on Stanley’s book, the compiler of this version of “Sums” (Mike Gammill) writes “As leaders, we are never responsible for filling anyone else’s cup. Our responsibility is to empty ours.” While the language is a bit “churchy,” it still reflects a pair of biblical truths. First, the follower of Jesus who in turn leads others has to take seriously the “emptying” Jesus demonstrated: emptying of pride, selfish ambition, need for recognition, and “control. Second, and at the same time, one cannot dictate what is received and acted upon by another in whom we invest. How another responds to the grace and truth we pour into them is not only beyond our control, it is outside of our realm of responsibility. That’s the nature of discipleship; one’s own and the other person.
It sounds counter-intuitive to “embrace the chaos”; but isn’t it the only way to really live abundantly the life of following Jesus?