christianity

Christianity marked by not in how we agree

Reverend Ryan Kiblinger is a doctoral candidate for a PhD in the area of Christian catechism. He and I have known one another for a while now and we have come to engage in a handful of intellectual spats over the years. It is clear that am very much out of my intellectual league when I am in his presence. It is also clear that he and I do not agree on a number of what many might consider to be "critical aspects of what it means to be Christian". And, to be clear, every time I see him, I rejoice in our interactions and friendship. 

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After a heated bit of conversation at a meeting of laity and clergy around the area I live (this meeting is called "Annual Conference"), Ryan gave me a hug.

He and I spoke with one another and I thanked him for his kind words of support. Then Ryan said what I am not smart enough to come up with on my own and was the best part of my whole three day experience. To paraphrase Ryan:

Christianity marked by not in how we agree but how we disagree.

The best part of my annual conference experience was being affirmed by someone who I disagree with and being reminded once again that they will know we are Christians by our love.

Thank you Ryan

The Absurd Leadership of Jesus

Stated by Albert Einstein (not pictured)

Stated by Albert Einstein (not pictured)

Jesus is a unique person who did things differently. Christians identify Jesus as the perfect Love of God incarnate, so surely what he does is something we should imitate. The ever illusive search for best leadership practices leads some to consider if Jesus had any leadership practices that may be helpful. I am not the first to engage in this practice, there are many others who have done this. However, let me offer just a few leadership tactics from Jesus for your consideration.

  1. Communication is key. So, do not speak directly but speak in parables where your followers do not understand you. This way you can ensure maximum confusion and misunderstanding on what the mission of the cause is. 
  2. Get the right people on the bus. Be sure they will abandon and disavow ever being a part of the movement. 
  3. Put Judas in charge of the money. The person you may have the most reason to distrust and the one person who garners the most suspicion of the group, yes put that person in charge of the money.
  4. Build an organization around an idea that no one wants. Picking up your cross and following the Crucified One does not test well in focus groups.   
  5. Mentoring is invaluable. Be sure to locate the leader wearing camel's hair and eating locus by the river. Ask that one to mentor you.

The absurd leadership of Jesus is something not often discussed in leadership circles. But Jesus was not always the best leader by today's standards. If a leader today did much of what Jesus did then we may call into question the sanity of that leader. 

Jesus is much more complicated that just a list of "best practices," and to reduce Jesus to such a thing belittles the mission of his life, death and resurrection. Additionally, church leaders who look to Jesus for their leadership model may be on the wrong end of the institutional/organizational goals and values.

There are many leadership teachers out there who all teach a fine model of leadership: Jim Collins, Seth Godin, John C. Maxwell, Gretchen Rubin and whoever is currently on the best seller lists. All of these leadership styles sell because they are are reasonable and sensible. 

Jesus is absurd. Which may be why he has to call us.

How Jesus Knew The Church Would Always Be

Jesus says in Matthew 26:11, "For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me." There is a lot of conversation about what this means and if Jesus was endorsing a social structure that keeps people poor. In the discussion I offer up the idea that Jesus said the poor will always be with you in the same spirit that he said, "Follow me." That is he said this as an invitation. 

As long as people are following Jesus and giving everything up, then there will always be 'the poor." In fact, being poor is one of the categories Jesus says is blessed in the Beatitudes of Matthew 5. I confess that I am not the best at being poor in finances. Frankly, I am often embarrassed by what I do have, and tend to brag about the things I do not have. Even as a clergy person, I am not immune to Sin and in some ways. As a person with power, privilege and influence, I am often more in danger of the power of Sin. 

Jesus knew the church would always exist, even after his death, because there will always be people to take the invitation of let go and follow Jesus. There will always be people poor in spirit and poor in resources - these are the ones that Jesus blesses and even says he would be dressed as in the final judgement (Matthew 25). 

The "B and A Eaters"

Two times a year I visit this healthy restaurant in my neighborhood. It is a nice place, serving people in the community for several decades and it really does serve good food. I intend to go there more often, but they are only open one day a week, only for breakfast, and by the time I remember this is the day it is open, I am very tired and have other obligations/options for breakfast. In fact, I have gotten to the point that I really enjoy eating at home with my family and friends, so unless they are going to go with me to the restaurant, I do not go. Except twice a year, my birthday and anniversary.

Photo by  Rachel Park  on  Unsplash

Photo by Rachel Park on Unsplash

The restaurant regulars know me as one of the many "birth-aversary eaters" or, for short: "B and A eaters." 

The people there are nice, to be sure and I know they are trying to welcome me to the restaurant they love so much. They tell me how long it has been since they saw me last and even talk about how great the food is or how I should meet the new chef who is doing so good cooking these days. All of it is okay, but a bit overwhelming. I sort of feel guilty when I am there because I am reminded that I generally do not eat healthy for breakfast all the time. I also feel a bit bad because I live so close to the restaurant, and feel like I should support local business and yet cannot seem to make it there more often. 

It really is a fine restaurant, and I support their work. I believe in eating local and supporting the community. I left a tip that was a bit more than I normally would leave as a way of saying thank you. And I am sure I will be back on the next anniversary, but I hope they would stop calling me a "B and A eater." I hope the chef does not point me out and say, "it has been so long since I saw you last, you should come more often!" I hope the guilt I naturally feel is not compounded by the regulars who do not see that I notice their disappointment when I am sitting in their usual spot. 

All I really want is to not feel guilty for going to breakfast. Maybe something is off in me? Or maybe something is off in the culture that does not know what to do with the occasional breakfast eater.