Becoming More Humble!
I used to think that to be effective we the Church had to have all the money, all the answers, and be at the center of power in our hood. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe Jesus is the answer to the transformation of my hood and that His Church has a key part to play in that. What has changed in my thinking is the notion that we the Church have the corner on Jesus, and that we own Him and His Kingdom.
My blinders were that somehow His Kingdom was contained within the Church, and that the Church was the only vehicle through which Jesus would work to change our hood. This translated into an attitude and approach towards my hood whereby we would come charging in like modern day crusaders to save Bowness. It was a subtle arrogance that needed to crumble.
Throughout history when the Church has had a ‘unholy alliance’ with political or economic power, and perverted or twisted truth to control people, we have been guilty of the sins of ‘colonization by violence’, and abuse of power rather than the Jesus way of letting go of systems of power and serving through love. We are so slow to learn from history, and end up repeating the same sins in the present. The upside down way of the Kingdom is that when we are weak, we are strong!
Here is my confession. Like most leaders, I like to be in a position of strength not weakness. I like that feeling of importance that comes with having all the answers and being the spout through which resources flow one way. I dare say that most leaders are a bit narcissistic. We like to be at the center and feel indispensable. I like having all the resources to dispense to those without. I don’t like to be in the place of need where I become vulnerable, and need help from others.
Especially us leader types need to open ourselves up to receiving, and not always be in a position of giving. When people feel like they have nothing to offer you it is demoralizing, and breeds an unhealthy dependency that constricts the 2 way flow of resources. This is the problem with much of the work to overcome poverty both in the developing world and here at home! When giving is a one way street it weakens and devalues the relationship.
Yet it is in that place of need when others can give to us that we experience true friendship. I call this lateral or sideways giving and receiving versus top down giving. This is the Kingdom way of sharing. It is not that we all have equal resources, but we all have something to give, and we all need to receive.
The last 10 years have been a humbling journey of loss and letting go. I have come to the place where I have as many questions as answers. My posture has changed to one of being a fellow seeker of truth who is just beginning to get to know Jesus the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In many ways I feel like I’m in kindergarten again, and discovering Jesus in people I would never have expected Jesus to speak through. This last year I had a profound experience of a person who I didn’t know, and who is not a church goer receive a dream from God for me that was life changing!
I am a broken person needing grace and healing, and a sojourner looking for some friends and a community to go on the journey of life with. We need each other, and we all have been given a little bit to share. As we offer up the little we have, God can multiply it to change a hood. No one agency, church, government program or person can do it on their own. God designed it that way so that we become interdependent!
I have watched God work through all kinds of people and agencies including, but not exclusively through the church to transform our hood. The Good News is that even when I, or we the church make a mess of things God is not flustered or panicking! He is saving our hood, and simply invites us to join Him, and watch what He can do. He doesn’t need me on His dream team, but He really likes to hang with me. When we all offer up the little resources we have amazing things begin to happen. God takes what seems so small, and multiplies it.
After 13 years of coaching some of the same boys and girls in spring soccer and hockey in the winter, I have had the privilege, honor, and invitation to walk with these kids and their families as they have celebrated big and small milestones such as a first goal, or making it up a mountain that they didn’t think they could climb.
Together we have suffered through some hard times like the flood a few years ago, the trauma of a receiving the news of a family members illness, or the tragic break up of a relationship. These children and their families have changed me as we have invited each other into our joy and pain. In the solidarity of suffering and sharing, we have experienced a taste of the Kingdom to come.
Over the years, I have seen Jesus and experienced His upside down way of forgiveness, generosity, hospitality, and serving through folks inside and outside the church. The humbling part is that we have received as much if not more than anything we have given. For example, one of my neighbourhood friends invites me every winter to his cabin to hunt in prime moose country, and in the spring phones me up to going fishing on his boat for lake trout. I can’t afford to own a cabin, and I don’t have a fishing boat, but my neighbour generously offers me hospitality, friendship, and opportunity to do what I love.
When my wife was diagnosed with cancer last year we were surrounded by friends inside and outside the church who walked with us, supported us, ran for us in cancer charity runs, brought us meals, and loved us through. In our position of weakness when we didn’t have much to offer, we were saved again and again!
I’m slowly getting it. The Jesus way is that we are most powerful when we let go of power! This way is so contrary to our thinking that we need to have it all together, or come in a position of strength to be effective. In our weakness, we realize we need each other, and that we really need Jesus to show up or we’re in trouble!
By Tim Schultz