Are you leading or managing?

by Wayne Schwab

  • Managers make what is work better.
  • Leaders take what is and make it into something new.

It is very easy for church leaders to become stuck in managing.  The “new” of God’s New Day in Jesus Christ can become lost in keeping everyone happy.  Easiest to lose is the daily living of the members.

For church leaders, especially clergy, the “delivery point” – the measure of effectiveness or the end product – is not Sunday morning or the prayer life of the members. The “delivery point” is how the members live every day.

The final truth about leadership is that it is shared by everyone, all – leaders and members alike.  So all are responsible for how all live every day.  As the primary leaders and those with the most power to effect change, clergy have a central role in building and supporting member mission – the practice of members being “on mission” each and every day.

Abraham Zaleznik

A breakthrough in leadership theory came in 1977 when Abraham Zaleznik published an article in the Harvard Business Review – “Managers and Leaders:  Are They Different?”  Harvard Business Review,  reprinted in January, 2004.

From HBR’s introduction to the reprint:

The difference between managers and leaders, he wrote, lies in the conceptions they hold, deep in their psyches, of chaos and order. Managers embrace process, seek stability and control, and instinctively try to resolve problems quickly—sometimes before they fully understand a problem’s significance. Leaders, in contrast, tolerate chaos and lack of structure and are willing to delay closure in order to understand the issues more fully.

Zaleznik is a founder of a school thought that integrated leadership and organization studies with psychoanalysis. He was a professor emeritus of leadership at Harvard Business School, one of the few certified psychoanalysts in the United States without a medical degree, and the author of sixteen books and numerous articles.

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‘Prosper the work of my hands’

by Fletcher Lowe

“Prosper the work of our hands,” the Psalmist prays (90:17).

How often do we as Christians consider what the Psalmist asks: Connecting the use of our hands with our spiritual lives. In washing dishes, driving a car, using a computer (as I am now). In the work of the carpenter, the nurse, the surgeon, the chef, the manual laborer.

Our hands are a crucial part of our lives.  Just imagine losing the use of them, like a quadriplegic friend of mine who can no longer do even the simplest tasks with his hand!  Now don’t let me overplay this, but let’s pause a moment and reflect on that connection.

Martin Luther reflected that the handmaid on her knees scrubbing the kitchen floor was doing work that is just as sacred as the work of the priest kneeling at the altar saying Mass.  We’re back to hands, again:  Sacred hands, those of the handmaid as well as those of the priest.

The issue: How do we as Christians re-establish the connection between our daily “secular” lives and our “sacred” lives? How do we recognize that our distinctions between “sacred” work and “not-sacred” work might be artificial?

For many years as a priest I have been visiting parishioners where they work. We discuss the connection between their Sunday church lives and their Monday work lives.  Many experience an “aha!” where they make the connection they had not sensed before. They begin to realize that, as Christians, what they do in their office is just as sacred as anything else in their lives – including church. (handmaid/priest)

It does lead to a different perspective/worldview (“Thy Kingdom come”), when my job is seen in the wider context of my relationship to God. That shifted perspective puts a new light on all we do. Then we join the Psalmist, asking God to bless the world and all creation through our work: “Prosper the work of my hands, O Lord.”

Setting God’s People Free

by Demi Prentiss

With the passage of Resolution C005, General Convention earlier this year created the Task Force on Formation and Ministry of the Baptized. That group of 12 Episcopalians have been charged to “identify or develop curricula, practices, and strategies that can be used by dioceses and congregations to encourage and engage all the baptized in the work of building up the church by identifying their gifts for ministry, employing their gifts for ministry, and focusing on full engagement of their ministries in daily life, work, and leisure.” The task force is charged with recommending to the 2021 General Convention “strategies for the affirmation, development, and exercise of ministry by all baptized persons in the areas of gifts discernment, education and training for ministry, and leadership development.”

This work of recognizing, celebrating, and engaging the laity as equal and essential partners in ministry is not limited to The Episcopal Church. Back in 2017, the Church of England launched a new program called “Setting God’s People Free” (SGPF), aimed at equipping all the children of God to live the Good News of Jesus with confidence and joy, in every aspect of their lives, Sunday to Saturday.  Implementing the program means shifting the life of the church – every aspect of church culture – to focus on the whole people of God, living their lives in homes, schools, communities, and places of work, as well as the church.

The program originated in proposals from the Setting God’s People Free report written for the Archbishop’s Council and presented to Church of England’s General Synod in 2017. As one element of the C of E’s “Renewal and Reform” process, SGFP offers a series of practical resources for Monday to Saturday practices that support each church, and aim for a cultural transformation.

  • SGPF looks beyond and outside Church structures to the whole people of God at work in communities and wider society – not to ‘fixing’ the institutional Church.
  • SGPF challenges a culture that over-emphasizes a distinction between sacred and secular to a fuller vision of calling within the all-encompassing scope of the Gospel – not to limit vocation to church based roles.
  • SGPF seeks to affirm and enable the complementary roles and vocations of clergy and of lay people, grounded in our common baptism – not to blur or undermine these distinctions.
  • SGPF proposes imaginative steps to nourish, illuminate and connect what is working already in and through parishes and communities of faith – not to institute a top-down approach.

Only a year into implementation, the effects of SGFP are hard to gauge. The peer review process that is also a part of the Renewal and Reform is in its second year, and aims to facilitate shared learning as well as mutual accountability among participating dioceses.

The work of our fellow Anglicans in implementing SGFP can inform and enrich the work of the newly appointed TEC task force.  Stay tuned as the TEC task force – which I am honored to be a part of – embarks on its work.

Public service as ministry

by Pam Tinsley

In the days that led up to our contentious mid-term elections, I read an uplifting article[1] about Episcopalians from both sides of the aisle who cited their faith as leading them into public service. Just as some people are called to teaching, to medicine, or to ordained ministry, others experience their vocation as public servants. Audrey Denney, who ran for Congress in California, believes that “. . . all people are called to serve God in whatever capacity that [they] have vocationally. Sometimes that’s taking care of a family at home . . . and sometimes that’s running for office.” A consistent thread cited by the candidates interviewed in this article is that their call to run for public office arose out of a desire to make a difference. That desire to make a difference was inspired by their faith.

These candidates also revealed that their faith has instilled within them a sense of integrity and a commitment to justice – be it economic, racial, or environmental. Denney even describes her vision for the future as seeking the kingdom of God, although she acknowledges that she doesn’t necessarily express it in such terms when she is in secular venues.

These individuals – Democrats, Republicans and Independents – are living out their faith in the midst of public service by striving for justice and peace, respecting the dignity of every human being, and loving their neighbors as themselves. Their faith has shaped their values, those same values that we see in the Baptismal Covenant (BCP p. 304-5).

Our faith shapes our values. Not all of us are called to political office or public service. I certainly am not. Yet I am grateful to live in freedom in a republic, and I view my participation – by voting – in the political process as essential to my faith. For me, it is an expression of how Jesus commands me to seek and serve him by loving my neighbors – with God’s help. Just as I have been encouraged to pray for wisdom and integrity in exercising my right to vote and to pray for our nation and elected leaders – regardless of political affiliation – I encourage others to do so, as well. After all – in the words of Thomas Jefferson – we, the People, are the true leaders of our nation.

[1] Paulsen, David. “Candidates with Episcopal roots cite faith as inspiring, guiding campaigns for Congress.” Episcopal News Service. http://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/2018/11/02/candidates-with-episcopal-roots-cite-faith-as-inspiring-guiding-campaigns-for-congress.

The world needs members on mission

by Wayne Schwab

I believe that our primary purpose in creation is to build a more loving and just world.  And we are well on our way.  Humankind has come a long way toward living in more loving and just ways – away from tribal chiefs, child sacrifice, and treating illness with spells and toward more democratic governments, more responsible care for the planet, and more effective health care by doctors and their helpers.  We still have a long way to go in coping with climate change, in getting wealth out of politics, and in ending spouse and child abuse.

To continue on this trajectory, we need more members on mission who put themselves to work, making the world a more loving and just place, day in and day out wherever they are.  We need people for whom love does not give way to “me-first,” and justice does not give way to “our-crowd-first” mentalities.

Working for love and justice requires committed long-distance runners.  Long-distance runners need stamina and conviction.  With God’s help at every step, members on mission are able to run the distance.

The world needs as many members on mission as it can get.  For leaders, both clergy and lay, this is the challenge:  To connect with and support all church members as partners in God’s mission to make the world more loving and more just – for us, for future generations, and for our planet – all with God’s help.

Baptism is serious business

by Edward L. Lee, Jr.

The late bishop of the Diocese of Northern Michigan, Tom Ray, rejoiced with many others when Holy Baptism was restored to its rightful liturgical centrality in the current Book of Common Prayer. It was no longer to be a private “after hours” event on Sunday (and often a social occasion too), but rather the very sacramental heartbeat of what it means for a person to be “sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever” (BCP, p. 308), and to live in Christian community.

But for Bishop Ray and many others this centrality was only the beginning. The solemnity of Baptism has also to be entered into if the lives and ministries of the baptized are to be fully realized and manifest. Since most baptisms at the main service on Sundays are usually of infants or young children, it is understandable that the tone will be one of delight, joy, pride, even cuteness. That’s fine. But what about baptismal solemnity? How is that woven into the celebration and awareness of what is unfolding not only for the child but for the rest of us as well? In short, how do we understand and realize that being baptized is very serious, solemn business?

Perhaps the words and wisdom of others can provide us with what is the tone and substance of this solemnity.  Here’s a sampling:

“Our life is not our own property but a possession of God. And it is this divine ownership that makes life a sacred thing.” – Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

 

“I saw that God is everything that is good and energizing. God is our clothing that wraps, clasps, and encloses us so as to never leave us.” – Julian of Norwich

 

“The trouble with some of us is that we have been inoculated with small doses of Christianity which keep us from catching the real thing.” – Leslie Dixon Weatherhead

 

Flannery O’Connor

“What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course, it is the cross.” – Flannery O’Connor

 

Jean Vanier with Kathy

“We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.” – Jean Vanier

 

“To say that God is love is now too soft a phrase because of the sentimentality that has gathered around the word in the usage of the West, which enables many modern Christians to overlook the fact that the essence of the Kingdom of God according to Jesus is righteousness.” – Harry F. Ward

 

Desmond Tutu

“I cannot help it. When I see injustice, I cannot keep quiet. … The most awful thing that they can do is to kill me, and death is not the worst thing that could happen to a Christian.” – Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu

Ministry in daily life, baptismal living and dying, is both joyful yet solemn, the vocation that comes when we are “marked as Christ’s own forever.”

Healing gifts

by Fletcher Lowe

Air Force physicians in Afghanistan, 2009.

I am blessed to be treated by a primary physician who is not only a gifted and talented doctor, but a dedicated Christian.  Recently when I had some minor surgery, he said that the surgeon was also a man of faith and most probably would be praying before my and his other patients’ operations. I felt that I was in good Godly hands!

In the hospital unit where I was treated, both before and after surgery, I found the nurses and those who worked with them dedicated to what they were doing.  That experience reminded me of a passage from the Apocrypha, Ecclesiasticus (38: 1 ff) at a time when the medical profession was in its infancy:

Honor physicians for their services, for the Lord created them; 

for their gift of healing comes from the Most High…

And he gave skill to human beings that he might be glorified in his marvelous works. 

By them the physician heals and takes away pain;   God’s works will never be finished; and from him health spreads over all the earth….  Then give the physician his place, for the Lord created him; do not let him leave you, for you need him.  There may come a time when recovery lies in the hands of physicians, for they too pray to the Lord that he grant them success in diagnosis and in healing, for the sake of preserving life. 

Aware or not, those in the medical profession do bring God’s gifts of healing and provide a ministry to those of us who benefit from it. Thanks be to God!

Do you have a calling?

by Demi Prentiss

Most of us think of “a calling” as something for church people who are bound for ordination.  Those of us just trying to make our way in the world are more likely focusing on making a living and insurance coverage and work-life balance. “Calling” is not a concern for us, is it?

Mark Roberts’ recent blog begs to differ, looking at the letter Paul wrote to the Ephesians (Eph 4:1):

….This verse says quite plainly: “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” The context makes it abundantly clear that this exhortation was not only for pastors, missionaries, and other special workers. It was for all of those who would read or hear the letter we call Ephesians. It was written for ordinary Christian folk, people who, according to the Apostle Paul, had received a calling. (Ephesians 4:1 isn’t the only verse in the Bible that makes it clear all of God’s people are called. For a discussion of other verses that make this point, see this article on the De Pree Center blog “Do I Have a Calling? Or Is This Just for Special People?”)

Talking about that same Ephesians passage, which goes on to compare the Christian community to the human body, Frederick Buechner wrote in Wishful Thinking:

God was making a body for Christ, Paul said. Christ didn’t have a regular body any more so God was making him one out of anybody he could find who looked as if he might just possibly do. He was using other people’s hands to be Christ’s hands and other people’s feet to be Christ’s feet, and when there was some place where Christ was needed in a hurry and needed bad, he put the finger on some maybe-not-all-that-innocent bystander and got him to go and be Christ in that place himself for lack of anybody better.

“Anybody he could find who looked as if he might just possibly do….”   “…some not-all-that-innocent bystander….”  That sounds like it might be me!  What a thought, that God might tap me on the shoulder and get me “to go and be Christ in that place …for lack of anybody better.”

Calling – what some call “vocation” – is not restricted to church leaders. As Elizabeth Newman wrote for Baylor University’s Center for Christian Ethics, “Our vocation is a gift, not something we decide after assessing our skills and talents. To discover our vocation, then, we must learn to receive the abundant life God desires to give us.” And Howard E. Butt, Jr, founder of The High Calling, urges all Christians, no matter where they choose to devote their productive energy, to be “builders, following Jesus the builder – building our capacities and building other people up, building relationships and organizations, a company, a service, a breakthrough – building our ministry in daily life.”

Holy Work

by Pam Tinsley

I recently attended a workshop about the theology of stewardship, where the speaker, Bishop Greg Rickel, shared an unexpected story. He began by addressing our discomfort with discussing money in the church (at least the Episcopal Church), why he was an advocate for year-round stewardship, and why it is a good idea to separate time and talent from the annual pledge drive.

After talking about stewardship and ministries within the church, Bishop Rickel then shared a remarkable story. As a parish priest, he had invited each member of his congregation – young and old – to leave a symbol of their vocation at the foot of the altar. A fifth-grader brought her math homework; a nurse, her stethoscope; and a grocery clerk, his name tag.

It was a mail carrier, however, who slowly approached the altar with tears streaming down his face. He carefully laid his mailbag at the foot of the altar and turned to his priest. “No one has ever suggested that the work I do as a mail carrier might be holy,“ he said.

God invites each of us to holy work. For some, that work might be within the church. For most, that work is outside the church. Our work – be it compensated or not – is to do the work God has given us to do out in the world as baptized Christians. All of our work is, indeed, holy work.

Is your idea of church a lie?

by Demi Prentiss

Christians aren’t commissioned to “go” to church. Christians are meant to BE the church. Yet, in many faith communities, we are taught that we need permission, or facilitation, or membership, or professional guidance to participate in Christ’s mission.

Benjamin Corey’s blog challenges that standard definition of church:

LIE: Church is something you do on Sundays.

That thing you attend on Sundays? That’s not church– that’s a corporate worship service, and they are not the same thing. It is part of the thing, but not the thing itself.

Church wasn’t originally about corporate worship as much as it was about doing life together. It’s about community. Helping one another. Walking together through all of life’s ups and downs. In fact, the early church was so dedicated to this that they practically met daily– they needed each other.

 

Michael Coghlan – Flickr

They shared meals together. They prayed together. They talked about their days, celebrated in the beautiful moments, and uplifted one another during the hard moments. They were inseparable friends, because Church was designed to be a committed community.

 

In this way, “church” has nothing to do with a building, very little to do with a worship service on Sundays, but is actually more about having a circle of committed friends who are dedicated to walking through life, together. It’s about having a group of people in your life who you know will never leave you stranded and alone, no matter how hard life gets, or how badly you screw up.

The truth is that church is the web of relationship, the community that equips us to be Christ’s body in the world. Wherever we find ourselves, our baptism means we are to stand up for what Jesus stood for: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, standing with the marginalized, welcoming the stranger, resisting injustice, and always, always embodying the love that the world thirsts for.

Being part of a church can help us do that. But anyone who chooses to stand with Jesus may do so, regardless of whether they are members of a church community. And being part of the Jesus Movement means, in the words of James the Just (Acts 15:19), “So here is my counsel: we should not burden these outsiders who are turning to God.” In addition to praying for “those whose faith is known to [God] alone” (BCP p.391), we might just want to seek them out and partner with them.