Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Diversity 4 - The New Wineskin Challenge

Some of us will recall when our churches went through renewal – typically, the Baptist church I attended went through this in the 70s and 80s when services were a traditional hymn/prayer sandwich - our theology was a little bit liberal but getting more Bible-based. In charismatic renewal, churches started to talk about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit started to take us back to Scripture and to new wine in new wineskins.

I got saved at 19 when Christians began looking like they believed it. I observed that leaders/pastors struggled with renewal – there was a personal challenge, pressure to change, conflict in the congregation – the leaders knew change was needed but didn’t know what the new wineskin looked like.

That’s how I feel sometimes about diversity – I feel uncertain and unsettled. Not a great place to be when leading a church. Am I getting it right? Am I getting it wrong? Where do I go now? Am I under-reacting - or over-reacting? It’s unsettling for both leader and congregation. In renewal, it led to conflict and sometimes to a number of people leaving. Some of us were part of that migration to house churches. The churches that made it through were often led by experienced pastors who had been there a long time – they had a strong trust deposit, went slowly and got the pace of change right. They didn’t lose the pioneers nor did they let the conservatives keep things the same.

At Kings, as we registered the need to re-engineer the whole church, we looked round the world to find models to help us – to Jubilee Church in Cape Town and to David Anderson’s church, Bridgeway Community Church, Columbia, USA. There are no well worn paths here…

Recognizing Leadership

I am a leader – it’s my primary gift and I have learned that I can recognize other leaders very quickly and want to place them in a leadership role. The trouble is – it’s a white leader that I recognize. When a black leader walks in – I’m still trying to learn what the reference points are and don’t always see it so instinctively. In a cross-cultural situation – one side of me can see it clearly but the other is unsure. It’s confusing and can lead to avoidance if we aren’t careful. In our church we are always looking for leaders – if we ‘see’ white leaders quicker, being under pressure to recruit can reinforce the bias as white leaders come through more rapidly. It’s unintentional but reinforces the problem. The process of vetting black leaders can take longer because we can misread the qualities of cross cultural leaders.

Within the Newfrontiers’ movement we recognize leaders – we give space as God raises them up for their gifts to develop and we recognize them. In African culture there is a high value on being submissive to authority (a good value!) and not so much on the need to be pro-active. So, if we wait for leadership to emerge western-style, we can wait a long time. We can see potential black leaders as passive if we are not fully aware.