Friday, December 29, 2006

Drawing Near

There’s a common refrain in many of my recent interactions with church leaders. The commonality is not in the “problem” as it is presented, but in the root issue that underlies the situation. In one, a church had been split in an ugly conflict over the senior pastor’s leadership. Elsewhere, a “second chair” leader has felt unappreciated by his senior pastor and wonders what the future holds. Another church has struggled to find its direction and reverse a pattern of decline.

What is the common denominator in these disparate situations? In each case, there is a sense of pulling away when the right solution is to draw near. Many of the problems in our churches – at the individual and organizational levels – would be resolved if people would draw near.

Draw near to what? First, we need to draw near to God. We need to constantly seek His guidance for our lives and admit that we are dependent on Him. The spiritual vitality that this fosters puts everything in proper perspective. We also need to draw near to each other. This kind of relational vitality will not eliminate conflict, but it will lead to a very different outcome in times of turmoil.

Before you give up or pull away, no matter how difficult the season or the situation, try drawing near.

7 comments:

Stew Carson said...

What a great word for reflection in the New year. Thank you.

BVincentE said...

Drawing near... great word for the new year. It was timely since I just had a conversation with my first chair leader today about how MUCH distance has cropped up in our relationship over the past year. Although he seems willing to take steps to repair the breech, I find myself slightly unwilling to take the risk again, after having been seriously hurt and disappointed in this relationship in the past. Thoughts?

Mike Bonem said...

I can understand the reluctance to draw near after being hurt. But the reality of the second chair role is that you can't be effective without a close, healthy relationship to your first chair. It's like a marriage - a couple may drift further and further apart for years. They're still "married" but there's little vibrancy in the relationship. Especially if your first chair is willing to take some steps toward you, find ways to draw near.

Dan said...

This post describes the kind of things that happened in my church. And we needed so desperately to draw near to God and to each other. I'm a "second chair" leader who has been the sole ministerial staff two times in the history of our church. The times were brief, but still they were challenging times. Anyway, I pray that our church will do these things well: drawing near to God and to each other.

Anonymous said...

I'm wandering about your comment "But the reality of the second chair role is that you can't be effective without a close, healthy relationship to your first chair." And my question is what if your first chair is not a healthy person & his interaction is not healthy? In 4 years, we've lost 5 staff members, all in direct conflict with him. He has little day to day accountability and I feel trapped at times by that. Even if I were to address the issues, his reaction would be defensive & would not take responsibility at all - and it wouldn't go any further than right there, because he has all the contact with the higher level leadership. They would never get a truly accurate picture of the tactics used to intimidate, bully and/or manipulate us. It leaves me discouraged and fearful in a church & ministry that I enjoy and otherwise seem to be "successful." I want desperately to support & play second fiddle with all the harmonic texture I can, but when you hear & see the first chair so out of tune and off pitch, it's difficult to feel like I'm the one who should suffer by leaving or being asked to move on because I simply don't scratch the itch of the day.

Mike Bonem said...

The situation you describe is the most difficult for any 2nd chair to face, and one that we didn't adequately address in our book. Of course, we could write another book on this subject, and still not cover all of the different problems that 2nd chairs encounter with dysfunctional lead leaders. Some of our interviewees had endured just such hardships. The good news is that they experienced God’s provision in the midst of these difficulties. Just as Joseph learned, the prison experience may be long, but God does not leave us.

I encourage you to lean even more on God's grace, knowing that He will always be with you and that His ways are higher than ours. Continue to serve as best you can for as long as God calls you to remain in this role. And look for the community of other 2nd chairs from outside your congregation, people who can pray for you and encourage you in this difficult season.

David E. Gregory said...

The problem I find, as one who has studied the Word long and deeply, is the whole concept of THE PASTOR, and thus the FIRST CHAIR. I thought only Jesus sat in that one, and that all of us were mutually submitted to one another. I find not one verse in Paul's teachings that elevates one man to a position of single superiority over the others in a local congregation. So where does that leave me? Outside the institutional church I'm afraid. I think that's what Hebrews 13:13,14 is talking about.