“But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 KJV)
I think lessons of surrender are often the least heeded by church leadership. Not all that unlike the camel that is loaded with years of ministry experience that must be unloaded to enter through the same small gate we all must enter, the selection of leadership poses the greatest difficulty for the modern church in the practice of love. To qualify this thought, I do not think it is necessarily the selection of senior leadership that is the primary problem. It is in the senior leadership’s allowance of laymen into the fundamental ranks of Sunday School teacher and small group home based community leadership that the process stumbles. Unlike the missionary or the relief teams that are eagerly commissioned and sent forth into all the world, the laymen leadership is local. They are the real reason that people connect and keep returning to a church for years on end. They are the closest to the needs of the community and the most accessible friend in a time of need. Unfortunately, the practice of filtering candidates for these positions more closely resembles that of a club to which you are initiated. Even though you are not necessarily a paid staff member nor are you generally considered legally liable for the content of your lessons (I am sure a few exceptions exist), the volunteer’s passion is filtered with a microscope that not even a Nat could escape. I will spare you the entire paper I can write about the unreal screening process that a simple volunteer must endure. It can range from simple background checks to providing attendance records and tithe receipts to being forced to attend weekly meetings to being handed a lesson plan that they must follow to the letter. Similar to a peeled carrot that has lost it’s nutrients, it may have been peeled so it looks more palatable. Even worse, little to no peer review or other follow up from senior leadership is generally present, so a teacher who wants to improve has no assistance from senior leadership in doing so.
In the process of bringing laymen into the fold, the practice of developing people in love is lost in the actual process of managing the castle. The surrender that it takes to watch a brother in Christ step out of a comfort zone and learn to strengthen his faith so as to publicly present it is increasingly absent. We treat the laymen teacher more like a rival politician that we are running against for the same office than a brother who needs to be connected with. The fellowship with this individual needs to be thought of as critical enough to make sure that it is never lost. Connection is critical to growth. Fruit is possible on a fruit tree with proper watering, sunlight, and necessary trimming. Yet, none of these elements matter at all to a branch that is not even connected to the tree. Nutrients are only possible to connected branches. Healing and regeneration are also only possible to connected branches. A severed branch only wilts in the heat of the day. It is one thing to find something inerrant in a certain part of the body and try to heal it. It is another to find the same inerrancy and cut that part of the body off altogether by chasing it away. Some may even argue that discovering what was wrong with the lesson makes the participant think, reflect, and research whereas the perfect lesson is forgotten the moment class is over. This is not to mention that it is often the teacher which is actually learning the most from the lesson as it is he that must prepare it, present it, defend it, and calmly receive constructive feedback from the audience. A person who is questioned about their beliefs will generally seek out real answers which inevitably strengthen their grasp on what scripture actually says. Chasing them away because the lesson is not perfect looses a brother who is capable of learning. Not giving them the initial chance because they do not fit the leadership criteria by the inner ring is to effectively turn said committees into a tourniquet.
Sadly, that which was designed to keep an inner ring pure has turned out to be a tourniquet which re-manages the flow of blood to certain parts of the body while others are cut off completely. There are many trials, tribulations, and challenges that anyone stepping forward into service will face. Experience brings knocks, bruises, and sometimes broken bones. Yet we should use caution when washing to scrub dirt and not passion away. The new volunteer will need much prayer. He will need much encouragement. He will need good evaluations and follow up discussions. Experience will connect many dots in reality that go beyond those on a theological white board. Filtering the volunteer’s passion completely out should not be one of our choices. We want every seed that is a good seed to grow, and seeds are planted in dirt. God grows the plant; not us. If John the baptist can claim that he must become less and God must become greater (see John 3:30), should that not apply even more to the senior leadership who ought to be interested in seeing the crop grow? We spend a great deal of time managing the gates of the castle and too little humbly working with those who need the love, patience, and guidance to fill our most effective positions. Where have we surrendered that our faith might show? Is it the enemy who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy the passion and resolve of a volunteer or us? God does so much more than we can ever imagine. If we want to partake of it, we must learn to trust Him more completely.
“Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, Behold, if the LORD would make windows in heaven, might this thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.” (2 Kings 7:2 KJV)