The Opposable Mind

The Opposable Mind

Our culture is polarized in almost every sector of life. Recent data published by the Pew Research Center suggests that the trend towards entrenchment in ones ideology, theology, philosophy, and political leanings is growing at an alarming pace leaving little room for the common sharing of ideas and potential solutions to complex problems. Turn on the television day or night and you will be blasted with venomous language from divergent sides of an argument with little to no effort made on any side to listen or to value the opposite opinion. Politicians, political candidates, religious leaders, and media hucksters capitalize daily on this growing divide and often pour gasoline on the burning fires of rancorous behavior for profit or personal gain. The environment for offering thoughtful solutions or even new ideas for consideration is polluted by accusations of biased influence and prejudiced indoctrination. Faith communities and faith leaders are unfortunately right in the middle of these cultural battles. Churches are often a hotbed of conflict, and thousands of people are choosing to spend their time elsewhere rather than fight or argue in a place where “people of peace” presumably reside. As one of my friends who recently took leave of church quipped, “I can get that junk (arguing, fighting) anywhere!” The Balkanization of church communal life has risen to epidemic proportions and often prohibits the ability of our faith communities to thrive and stay on mission. Roy Oswald and Barry Johnson writing in, Managing Polarities in Congregations, set out to identify and clarify the opposing ideas we live with every day in our congregations. They identify eight polarities which...
Leadership is overrated. There, I said it…

Leadership is overrated. There, I said it…

Leadership is overrated. There, I’ve said it… Recently in a meeting of church and educational professionals I voiced this bias and received a less than enthusiastic response. Most of the persons attending the meeting had some investment in the leadership juggernaut which has dominated Christian culture in the United States and beyond for the last three decades. I might as well have questioned the validity of the Trinity given the reaction! Mega churches, judicatories, national denominational bodies, and parachurch organizations have sponsored leadership conferences in spades over the last several years featuring the best of the best from corporate, education, political, and military life. I have personally enjoyed and benefited from these offerings, digesting and passing on bullet points, quotes, and strategies from these experts. However, I must confess a certain weariness has set in as of late. I am tired of being advised on “how to be a better leader”. Blasphemous, I know. Bill Self, my friend and wise pastoral sage, has often quipped, “The Christian leader may be the most “advised” professional in the world!” Given the difficult landscape we face on a daily basis in the local church, and the tectonic shifts in our culture at large, it’s no wonder we line up for any and all the help we can get. Our churches are struggling and we long for success.  It is actually quite sad how dependent the Christian community has become on the so called leadership experts given the richness of our theological identity as followers of Christ. Recently a college admissions officer shared that out of hundreds of applicants who were asked whether...