Yeah, you read that right.
People are weird, broken, messy sinners, of whom leaders are the chief. So when leadership involves progress or journeying toward a goal or vision, what to do about people in the journey who may not share the goal or agree with the vision?
Shouldn't people be the goal? Shouldn't people be the vision?
In Confessions of a Reformission Rev, Mark Driscoll talks about identifying your dogs -- which he defines as systems, programs, or people that prevent or run counter to your mission -- and shooting them. He says to identify problem people as dogs. And shoot them.
This strikes me as clearly logical and productive. Particularly when the "dogs" are evil, divisive people, like the few who are making the lives of a couple of pastor friends of mine a living hell. Those people need to be rebuked, and if they do not repent, kicked out.
But "shoot your dogs" also strikes me as terrifyingly insensitive. Particularly when the "dogs" are great, well-meaning people who, for whatever reason, just don't get the mission/vision of a ministry.
What happens when the "dog" is your friend? What if you don't want to shoot them?
What if you don't want to leave anyone behind? What if your goal entails everybody arriving together?
I like to ask myself, "How would Jesus lead?"
Clearly I cannot achieve this. This is my standard, but it is one I fail to live up to every single day, as some people would be very quick to attest.
In the formative stages of Element, I was very unnerved whenever I heard talk about what sort of people we wanted there. There was worry by some people that in targeting a broad demo (the fuzzy range 18 to 30something) we'd end up with "weird" older single people. I understand the concern. It also sort of irked me that they were so clearly encouraging leadership to concern ourselves with making sure only "cool" people came. Holy cow, what would we do if someone -- gasp! -- uncool came to Element. That would just ruin everything! :-)
I was teaching a small group at the time made up mainly of 40-50something year old ladies. A few of them liked my teaching and wondered if they could visit Element from time to time. I said sure. I relayed this to one of my co-leaders and he about had a heart attack. "We can't just let anyone come!"
I totally understand this approach. We are a ministry/community for the younger generation in our community. I understand that college students and young professionals may not feel "at home" in a room with, um, "old people."
But in trying to invite as Jesus would invite, generational ministry or not, I couldn't see him saying to someone who wanted to hear from Scripture, "Nope, not for you." I couldn't see him turning anyone away who wanted to hear from Him.
Yet Jesus did send people away frustrated. His mission clearly wasn't for everyone. It frustrated, it confounded, it disturbed. There were people who wanted in who were left behind because they didn't share his values.
Where do you draw this line? How do you approach this?
What if you love someone very much, very much want them to be a part of the journey of discipleship, very much do not want to shoot them like a dog, and yet they are committed to a different mission, have in mind a very different vision? There is a point at which working on changing their heart and mind detracts from changing the hearts and minds of others. Doesn't it?
I don't know. That's why I'm asking.
I see the obvious need to jettison that which is counterproductive to the spread of the gospel, to dismiss that which is hindering the progress toward a vision for gospel community. I also see that the spread of the gospel and the progress toward a vision for gospel community involves seeing people -- all people -- as people for whom Jesus died.
I guess I'm asking why can't "problem people" you are tempted to cut loose be included as an aspect of the mission field you are trying to focus on?
It is an awkward, sensitive tension between practical concerns for ministry progress and personal concerns for ministry shepherding, one which takes amazing discernment to navigate with honesty and sensitivity.
The Leadership Conundrum series is the place for you seasoned leaders, pastors, and ministry directors to weigh in with your advice and tips and practical ideology!
Previously in this series:
Leadership Conundrum: Challenging Apathy
Leadership Conundrum: Rescuing the Trampled On
Leadership Conundrum: Transitioning Generational Ministries