What Is Church?

A couple of kindergarten-level drawings may help us finally get an unforgettable image of the church in your minds. Take a moment to imagine yourself sketching a picture of the church on a restaurant napkin. What did you picture? I’ll be it was a square or rectangle with a pointed roof line, topped by a cross. Right? It would be so much better to draw a bunch of stick-figure people doing life and mission together. I’m not down on buildings; I’m up on the people of God. I want to make them the center of our image of the church.

Working against the image of the church as a sent people are three common misconceptions. The vast majority of Americans would define the church in one of three ways: church as a place, an event or a famous pastor. Hope to change these wrong ideas without casting local churches aside as irrelevant relics, I offer a definition of church that puts it in its proper, penultimate place: The church is created and governed by the calling and sending activity of God. The church is secondary to the kingdom of God in that it is the instrument or means through which God regularly expresses himself.

As long as local churches see themselves in this light and conduct their activities for the purpose of equipping and releasing God’s people to follow Jesus and serve others during the 167 hours of a week they are not in church, they are doing fine and need not be criticized. They have a legitimate, God-given role to play. These “team meetings” can be design to help people perform better as followers and servants in the real game being played outside of the church building.

Any church can do this. It is not necessary to have a big building, a big budget or a well-known pastor. All it takes is hearing the new story and deciding to organize around it. That decision is, of course, an act of leadership. In my many years in church work, I’ve never known someone so incompetent that they couldn’t make a decision like that. They may not have the gifts of persuasion to win the argument, but that’s okay. Even biblical leaders – including Jesus –heard the people say, “No way. We’re not following you into that story!” (Christianity Beyond Belief, p. 67-68 – Todd Hunter)

Ancient-Future Practices For Contemporary Times

Anglicanism has the reputation of being rigid and bound by the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nice Articles. But Anglicanism has also, among its most gifted and courageous leaders, not been afraid to pursue fresh expressions of evangelism and church. The Anglican Church has a way of staying anchored to the ancient tradition while being in tune with the ever-changing times.

Anglicans don’t do this merely for the sake of institutional survival, but as a first principle. In face the preface to the Book of Common Prayer calls for the church, in terms of its mission, to be continually led by the Holy Spirit. Within the framework of keeping the faith whole, the Book of Common Prayer encourages new practices for the sake of “the edification of the people.” It allows innovation “according to the various exigency of times and occasions.”

The Book of Common Prayer, being the central rule of faith after the Bible, guides and encourages Anglicanism as it adjusts and thrives as a faithful witness to the gospel of the kingdom. The men I have highlighted in this chapter missed complete orthodoxy and Spirit-led creativity. As I have come to see and know this mix of Spirit and evangelistic entrepreneurialism, I have found a home.

Moreover, I have found a model of leadership. Adjusting and thriving are not accidents. They come from leaders who humbly discern the voice and movement of the Holy Spirit and, having done so, lead with humble confidence. (The Accidental Anglican, p. 102-103, Todd Hunter)

Secrecy. Is it a bad thing?

Secrecy. Is it a bad thing? Doesn’t the word secrecy have undesirable if not immoral connotations? The notion of secrecy often calls to mind clandestine activities and cover-ups – like the Watergate scandal or tapping the phones of governmental leaders.

But in the context of servant leadership the practice of secrecy is born from a spiritual motivation rooted in a God-centered world-view. For would-be servant leaders, secrecy is this: in favor of the Divine Audience of One, we abstain from allowing our good deeds and qualities to be known. In secrecy, we cultivate a deep relationship with God that flourishes independent of having to manage the opinions of others by boasting of our goodness, rightness, or power. This is a key discipline in the spiritual formation of servant leaders.

I know of a man who quietly made a huge difference in one of the most intractable racial problems of the twentieth century. He did not tell a soul until it was privately coaxed out of him just before he died. When asked about keeping such an astonishing secret, he explained that he experienced freedom, joy and power in the discipline of secrecy.

We all know the unpleasant feelings associated with doing something wrong. We run a red light only to see a cop in the rearview mirror. Now filled with regret, fear, or shame, we say things not fit for print. The reverse is true too. Keeping secret our commendable behavior provides a full range of ethical power in our leadership. It brings peace and joy, contentment and satisfaction. I sometimes experience it as an inner giggle. I know something others don’t: God is working through me, and it is our secret. This inner reality brings poise that radiates to others. Thus the environment around us receives a great means of peace, joy, and confidence.

Our Character At Work, by Todd Hunter, pages 82-83

Fighting Fear with Love

Fighting Fear with Love

Most of us hate vulnerability. We see it as weakness, as being soft. And no one, we surmise, can make it in today’s marketplace if they are weak or soft. But what if vulnerability is not the path to spinelessness but the road to power?

We hate vulnerability and trusting others in ways that involve the possibility of failure. Why? Because we are self-centered. But if we can break out of this egocentric fear, we will find something fresh, better, and stunningly powerful: the transformation of our leadership. This transformation is worth the effort and has whole-life implications. As author David Benner writes, the “bondage of the self is always the enemy of genuinely self-surrendering and self-transcending love.”

If we can break out of this egocentric fear, we will find something fresh, better, and stunningly powerful.

[E]mployees respond to love. Customers are drawn to environments, products, and services marked by love. By love I don’t mean mushy platitudes but the power of caring for others. However, we can’t get there as leaders or lead our corporate culture there if we insist on me as the basic point of reference for our common work. Author David Benner states, “Ultimately, taking care of Number One takes care of no one.”

Thus, betting on love actually aligns us with the most fundamental reality of all creation: God. Love will transform the self created by years of fear-based, power-oriented, untrusting leadership, management and supervision.

 ~ Our Character at Work, by Todd Hunter, p.59