Friday, May 9, 2008

Trust is Earned, not Compelled

The Abbess processed some interesting stuff over at Len's blog NextReformation ... and decided to bring the comment back here. Please do read the entire post, as well as the comments, so that you have the context for what I had to say.


I had to let this one sit for a while ... it is way too close to my reality. I find it very interesting (God has such a tremendous sense of humor) that I took a 20 year path to reach ordination and, finally, paid pastoral ministry at a large church (2,000 ish), only to leave after five years and receive the vision for CovenantClusters and meet up with Alan Hirsch and Neil Cole and you and so many others ... and, basically, totally walk away from that paradigm. What a trip!


FWIW (which may be not much because you don't know me!), when you said:

"The fact of the matter is that, in general, those of us with a theological education actually do know more than the average Christian and we have a responsibility to serve the Church with it. I don’t get why people resent this and feel like this is elitist."

It struck right where I'm processing with the church where I was on staff. The problem of trust is not when someone is educated to a higher level, but more when the perception thrives that only those with such education have something to teach. And it gets even worse when those with much knowledge do not have much evidence of fruit in their lives that shows the diligent application of their knowledge.

...not to say that this is your personal situation, now!!!!

I believe that when we do not actively LISTEN and find a way to value EVERY VOICE for its perspective and contribution, then we lose truth and trust.

And when you compare expert knowledge of theology with doctors and mechanics and realtors there is something of a disconnect. This is because the very Spirit of God comes to dwell in the hearts of all those who name Christ as Lord and teaches them what it means to grow toward being like Christ. The life of a Christ-follower is essentially simple obedience to the call to love God and love others. One does not HAVE to have all the specific theological knowledge available to be obedient to love in one's circumstances.

The incredible intricacies of being a doctor or mechanic or realtor have less "competition", as it were. Although, my role as Doctor Mom sometimes rises up against the "knowledge" of doctors ... and my experience of what my car is supposed to sound or feel like sometimes rises up against the "knowledge" of mechanics. And when the doctors and mechanics do not listen to me with respect in order to gain understanding into my situation, they will be less effective in serving me and meeting my needs ... and it may cost me more money and suffering than necessary.

Any expert on anything that attempts to assume or compel trust by reason of their superior knowledge or experience or whatever will be disappointed when they are not followed ... been there, done that!

The key to your statement is in the serving of the Body of Christ, in order to equip them mature in Christ and to embrace the call to do the work of ministry. Too often the expert knowledge of church leaders leads to immaturity and dependence of the people -- that effectively inoculates them from sensing the need to step up to offer their gifts for the edification of the Body.

My experience has been that the most brilliant of the learned theologians are only truly effective as teachers and leaders through their incredible humility and transparent humanity and generous availability -- so much so that it is virtually impossible to perceive them as elitist.

In the 3rd chapter of James, he warns: "Don't be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified." (The Message) He goes on to end the chapter contrasting knowledge with wisdom ... and we all know that head knowledge doesn't always translate to practical wisdom ... and the paradox still exists that God is in the habit of using the simple to confound the wise.

Sorry for the length! But this is exactly where I'm swimming -- and the waters are shark infested! ;^)

Trusting Papa


Brad said...

As is likely to be well known among any who know me, I am one who values the process of learning and its application. Also, that I would have pursued a doctorate or two, had health allowed. In that context, may I offer what a well-educated and multi-mastered-degree pastor stated: "If we live by degrees, we die by degrees."

A piece of paper as supposed proof of trustworthiness or authorization to serve are of no more use to Kingdom culture than a heart of stone which cannot be inscribed with the New Covenant. It's always been about character, and hopefully higher education will never lower the high bar on character qualifications for leadership.

AbiSomeone said...

I'm with you, Brad. There was a number of good follow-up comments that might be interesting to read. It was a good conversation....

Thanks for checking in! :^)