Every day as I scroll through Facebook, Twitter or any number of media networks I am confronted with blogs, articles and status updates with opinions on everything from vaccination to sport hunting to the fall of the church. The friends on my friends list hold political and moral views that cross the spectrum from far right to far left and even some who I consider off the charts. I find this interesting, I love the diversity of friends I have and how they challenge my thoughts, views, perspectives and stances. Many of my friends do not profess any faith but I also have a segment who are ministers like me.
On-line and off I consistently get asked about what I think about political subjects, tragedies, and scandals. I know that many times the real question is not “Korista, what do you think about that policy?” but “Korista, what does God say about that policy?” I am always hesitant to give a response without first praying, thinking and often asking more questions of the person who is inquiring.
Why? Because as a pastor I have a responsibility to make sure that WHAT I say and HOW I say it convey Christ-likeness. That as I enter into discourse, dialogue or just casual conversation that my words are gentle and humble.
Too often pastors and leaders come at conversations with the desire to make sure that the people who are listening know what is “right” and what is “wrong” and forget that part of the way the message is communicated can turn people off or teach them the wrong thing. I know it’s an uneasy place to allow others to actually seek out truth without just spoon feeding it too them; or shoving it down their throats! Yet, I think, part of discipleship is walking with people in their tension. The tension between doubt and faith, truth and lies. The tension places are the growth places, the places where a follower of Christ must read the Bible, pray and seek wisdom and decide what God has for them to do and believe about this tension.
I know, as leaders, tension, especially that which holds doubts, can be scary but I believe our job is to walk with people in their doubts not try to talk them out of them. Thomas doubted and when he encountered Christ, not the other disciples, but Christ himself he believed. As pastors our goal should be to create environments where the people we lead can encounter the real and living Christ…not just right thinking about scandal A and politician B.
This quote from Henri J.M. Nouwen about Christian leadership is particularly important for us to keep in mind in our culture today:
“Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have well-informed opinions about the burning issues of our time. Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus, and they need to find there the source for their words, advice, and guidance. Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen again and again to the voice of love and to find there the wisdom and courage to address whatever issue presents itself to them. Dealing with burning issues without being rooted in a deep personal relationship with God easily leads to divisiveness because, before we know it, our sense of self is caught up in our opinion about a given subject. But when we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative. For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral to the mystical is required.”
Pastors, let us become people who walk in the tension with our people and who constantly go back into the presence of Christ so that we can approach all things with gentleness, grace and humility.
“…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” 1 Peter 3:15