Reasons Why Churches Often Don’t Work Together #1: Introversion Among Church Leaders

teamwork

Image courtesy of Tim Ellis, licensed under Creative Commons

To begin with, it is true that some churches do work together. When this happens it is excellent. In this series, I want to address misunderstandings people commonly have about this. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and it may sometimes not even be desirable. In this post, I’ll tell you why. Today we’ll take on the first reason that occurred to me.

Reason #1: Introversion among church leaders.

Can introverts be in church leadership?

Absolutely. The reality is that introverts are in church leadership—I’ve seen studies that estimate anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of Protestant pastors are introverted, with an even higher percentage among Catholic priests.  Interestingly, it seems that the larger churches are, the higher is the percentage of introverts leading them. A recent survey reports that 45% of megachurches are led by introverted pastors. Erwin McManus, Dan Kimball, and Mark Driscoll, among many others, are self-confessed introverts.

Source: Christianity.com

Are introverts the “problem” when it comes to churches not working together? Most introverted pastors would say it’s not that they are the “problem,” it’s that they do not agree with how extroverted pastors frame the issue of working together. Extroverts often cannot wait to get together with new people and “network,” exchanging names, phone numbers, and ideas. Introverts tend to be uncomfortable in these situations and do not know how to be authentic. When they are authentic (which often means quiet and withdrawn) they are often seen by extroverts as arrogant or rude.

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Your Marriage: How to Move from Pain to Peace

broken-marriage

I have mentioned Mort Fertel before. Mort is a marriage educator who has a pretty unique approach. I came across his website a few months ago and immediately signed up to receive his email updates, since that’s a great way for me to come to understand a person’s approach to helping marriages.

Today’s post is from one of Mort’s email updates. These updates contain some of the most solid marriage guidance I have ever seen, and I recommend that every person reading this who needs marriage help sign up for the updates at MarriageMax.com. Though there are no miracle cures when it comes to healing marriages, Mort consistently offers some of the most practical and excellent insights I have seen, and I commend his approach wholeheartedly to you.

Hi David,

When it comes to your emotions, there’s a big difference between being in pain and true suffering. What’s the difference? And how does this relate to your marriage? Let me illustrate with a story.

There once was a man who was sentenced to 25 years of backbreaking labor. His wrists were tied to the handle of a huge wheel that was inlaid in the wall. His job was to turn the wheel 10 hours a day.

For years, day in and day out, the prisoner would wonder what he was doing with this wheel. What was the meaning of his work? What was on the other side of this wall?

Was he grinding grain? Pulling up water? Moving some sort of conveyor belt?

For 25 years he contemplated the meaning of his work, and for 25 years he spun that wheel. It was grueling, but he survived.

When his sentence was complete he was released from prison. The first thing he did was run to the other side of the wall to see what he had been doing all this time.

What did he see?

Nothing!

There was nothing attached to the wheel. For 25 years, 10 hours a day, he was spinning a wheel for absolutely no purpose. When the man realized his true sentence, he collapsed and died.

The prisoner was able to survive 25 years of backbreaking labor, but when he realized that it was all for nothing, he couldn’t survive for another moment.

So what’s the difference between pain and suffering?

Pain has a purpose.

Suffering is true torture because it has no meaning.

Pain is bearable. Suffering for no reason is devastating.

Ask any woman about child labor. How was it? Would you do it again? Most women will answer: It was painful, but I didn’t suffer. I would do it again.

This is the key to surviving marital problems and making it through to a new love and peace with your spouse.

If you think there’s no purpose to your emotional hurt, you’ll just want out. You’ll run from your kids, your responsibility, your vows…you’ll run from it all just to get relief from an unbearable suffering.

But if you can come to understand why you’re in this situation, then you’ll succeed to make it through like a woman in child labor.

Why is this happening to you? What are you supposed to be learning from all of this? Can you see how your marital problems are really an opportunity for you and your spouse?

I remember when my wife and I were going through what seemed to be unbearable emotional pain as a result of the loss of our 3 children and our marriage problems. But now I see it all differently. Yes, we were in pain, but we didn’t suffer. And although I might script things differently if I were God, my wife and I now feel a sense of peace and happiness that we wouldn’t trade for anything. Yes, we lost a lot, but we gained each other and forged a marriage that has become a wellspring of joy in our life.

Since those painful times, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to lead thousands of people who are suffering in their marriage to a new peace and happiness with their spouse. I’ve found a way to do it even with the most difficult and unusual situations.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Mort in any way. I am not selling his products, nor do I receive commissions from people who buy his products from my referrals to his website. I have nothing to gain in commending him to you, other than believing I am directing you towards someone who really gets it and who will, from all appearances, be able to lead you along right paths. As always, your results may vary, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Remembering 9-11

When speaking of 9-11, people sometimes say “May we never forget.” As if, for any of us who lived it, who saw those buildings fall, who saw people jumping out, or walking dead, covered with ash — as if we ever could. I remember going to the store the next day and noticing that people were walking around in a daze. I remember feeling like every human being I saw knew exactly how I was feeling and that I knew how they were feeling. I remember having nightmares for days where I would keep seeing people jumping out of those buildings. I remember wondering if the world was ending. I remember seeing those buildings falling and thinking, “This only happens in the movies. It cannot be real.”

I remember how President Bush inspired America and the world as he stood on top of the rubble with a bullhorn and made a promise to America that the people who did this would soon be hearing from us. And of course I remember the incredible heroism of those who died (and are dying still) trying to help.

To every American who reads these words and remembers, this is what it feels like to be united and not divided. In the words of one of my favorite songwriters, “Pain is our mother, she makes us recognize each other.” We know it’s true. We’ve been there. Many of us find ourselves there again today. A part of all of us died that day and we lost an innocence we will never get back.

Love and peace today to all of my American brothers and sisters, especially those who lost loved ones, and the families of those amazing people who ran up those pitch black stairs while everyone else was running down.

 

 

The Role of Anger in the Spiral of Violence

rage

From Rage game, developed by id software.

Right now in politics, as it usually is in relationships (both personal and international), it’s not about seeking truth, and it’s not even so much about being right. It’s about the other guy being wrong. Tempers flare and people go to greater and greater lengths to convince the other guy he’s wrong. It starts with dismissal of the other person, then moves into exaggerating his/her offenses, then moves into lying, shouting and anger, then into pushing and shoving. From there it moves to throwing punches, and eventually to murder. That’s the progression (the spiral of violence) and whether it goes as far as murder or not, its starting point is false. Preoccupation with the wrongdoing of others, instead of honesty with ourselves ourselves about our own role in the word’s badness can never lead to a true place. The root is bad, so you can count on the tree being bad.

The mere presence of strong emotion (intensity, anger, outrage, bitterness, profound frustration, wanting to commit violence) is a sign that a person has “identified” with their emotion. They now see the emotion as part of their identity. (This strong identification with negative emotions and thoughts) is what religion and Carl Jung have called “the false self.”) They have a “right” to it because they have been so wronged. They clinch it tightly to their chest and refuse to let go. They justify it, defend it, nurture it, protect it, excuse it. They spend time feeding it daily. They become angrier and angrier at those who disagree with them because their attachment to their opinion, rightness, worldview, and perceptions is so powerful that it actually owns them. They think they have this anger, but the anger has them. They no longer know who they would be without it, and they deeply fear anyone, anything, and any idea that threatens to remove from them this great love.

From this position, a person is almost incapable of seeing clearly. While it seems obvious that the person who angrily points out someone else’s anger is part of the problem with anger in the world, it feels completely justified to the one who feels it. The hardest thing we ever have to do in this world is realize that those strong emotions and our tendency to embrace them, feed them, make love to them, even to baptize them in religion, is what is most deeply wrong with the world. I have those tendencies. Everyone does. Until I see that fact clearly in myself and learn to identify it and start separating from those strong emotions, so that they no longer control me, I am what is wrong with the world. What’s even worse is that until I learn to identify myself as the source of what is wrong with the world, I will identify you as that source. And you probably won’t appreciate that.

What’s On Your List?

tasks

Image courtesy of Paul Gorbould, licensed under Creative Commons

After church recently I was introduced to a first-time guest who spent about 40 minutes gently (that’s not sarcasm, he was very kind and low-key) informing me how inadequate the church was “for him.” At the end of our conversation, that man got to the point. He said, “Again, all of this is just me and my perceptions. Maybe I need to consider why it is that I haven’t been able to settle down in a church over the last year.” Bulls-eye. The issue for that man was not my church, or any other church. It is something in him that is agitated and irritated. He can’t be still. I don’t know why that is, and it’s not my job to figure it out. It is, however, one of the most important opportunities in this man’s life. He will grow closer to God finding an answer to what that’s all about than by finding a church that’s doing everything right.

The knowledge that I was not this man’s problem, of course, does not absolve me of the responsibility I carry to make the best decisions I can with regard to the church I lead. But that’s me. That’s on my task-list for each week, and those are my great opportunities.

Jesus said, do not worry about things you cannot control. Let today’s trouble be enough for today. One of the ways I gave up worrying was by getting up each morning for a few weeks and writing at the top of a piece of paper, “Today’s Trouble.” I would then list the things I needed to do that day. They were usually pretty small, mostly doable. Pick up milk. Make some phone calls. Follow up on some things. Make some decisions. Fix the car. I soon realized my problem was that I was worrying about stuff on other people’s “Today’s Trouble” list.

For example, what would Barack Obama’s “Today’s Trouble” list look like? Figure out what to do with Iran. Fix the economy. Find out what’s going on with Israel and Palestine.

I’m glad those are not my troubles.They are not on my list. They are certainly on someone’s, beginning with the president and his advisors and administration. Most of my troubles and worries come because I worry about things that shouldn’t be on my list. The man I spoke to Sunday has things on his “Today’s Trouble” list that are not his concern. He doesn’t have to worry about those things and there are many days I would envy him for that. When he realized he needed to look not at me and my church, but at himself, he got the right list in front of him. That one he can do something about.

Lesson: Don’t spend time fretting about things that belong on someone else’s list.