The Vision Coach: So, just so you know, you're not going to be invited to speak at one of my Leading Leadership Seminars.
Mike: Well, I hope I can still subscribe to your weekly "Leading Leadership Direct" DVD shippings.
VC: No offense, here, partner, but I read an entire executive summary of this "book" of yours, and it never once tells me exactly how we're supposed to "do" church. What good is it then, if you don't give us a how-to? This is America, dang it.
That was probably the central fallacy of the church growth movement - the idea that church can be modeled and then reproduced in a variety of contexts. It didn't work. The models may have worked great at Saddleback or Willow Creek, but their imitators came up with all sorts of wackiness.
I hope this book creates some space for people to imagine new alternatives to church-as-we've-known-it. Our experience in South Florida will look different than inner city Chicago or rural Arkansas.
VC -- By the way, in your very humble opinion, for our reader, here: What's the answer -- in your little opinion, which I don't necessarily agree with -- to your question, "What IS church?" Please feel free state your opinion, which you're certainly entitled to, and I'm pretty sure is nuts.
Church is pretty simple actually. It's God's people, living together. That's hard for us to accept because we relate to each other primarily as consumers, looking for entertainment and a social identity. We might recognize other Christians at the Christian book store, send our kids to the same Christian school...even listen to the same goofy DJ on the local Christian radio station...but without the social identification that we go to First Baptist or Calvary Chapel, we're lost.
What if our identity as the church was that we did life together with these people? We were friends, raised our kids together, helped the poor / sick / lonely together, were being transformed together, and...dare I say it...had fun together? I think that's an extremely attractive vision of church.
VC-- That's not "church", son. That's a mess. We're all about leadership, here. Your little cabal -- house church? small group? -- needs strong leadership. Why don't you believe in leadership?
In my book I mention a story about Nelson Mandela. In his autobiography, he recalls how a leader from his tribe in South Africa talked about leadership: "A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind." What Mandela recognized is that there are some leadership tasks that can't be accomplished directly, from a singular place of power.
Our faith community is comprised of a lot of thoughtful, gifted, and capable people. I believe what passes for leadership in most churches is an insult to the average Christian. We don't need to be herded around like cattle by one guy riding on a white horse...we need to be set free to explore new territory for the kingdom of God. True leaders will recognize this and serve people to that end.
VC -- "Where there's no vision, the people perish." That's in the Bible.
You're right! Whose vision do you think that verse is talking about?
VC -- Speaking of the Bible: Ever read it?
I pretty much get all my ideas from my Dad, Bono, and Napoleon Dynamite. And the Bible, of course.
VC -- If you're not going to take the bull by the horns and tell us how to lead people, and how you've done a masterful job of it yourself, why should someone even bother reading this book?
Wwe don't need another expert book about church models or leadership. We need to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are so many Christians - and Christian leaders - who love Jesus but have all but given up on church. Many still go through the motions, but are secretly longing for something simpler, meaningful and connected to their real lives. We've found that the journey from there to here is filled with pitfalls and uncertainty.
Although the 'expert' books can be helpful, the most valuable components is having friends and allies along the way. That's my hope for all who read this book, to know that they are not alone, there is a way forward, and there are those out there who will stand beside them as they continue the journey.
VC -- Whatever.