My experience is minimal…but not myopic. It isn’t.
The foci are ministers and churches. The experience is, especially after a few years, at least two, the congregation’s attitude and approach to life, especially regarding each other’s, those for whom contempt computes naturally, is impacted and formed by the attitude and approach to life by their pastor/leader.
For instance, names excluded, I knew a congregation who lapped up hate when regarding anyone the minister didn’t like. They didn’t know they were miserable until the minister left. He left his boot print on their psyche and with profound personal regret, upon their heart. It took an incredibly “opposite in attitude” pastor to begin the corporate change.
Size of church didn’t matter. A small rural church, actually two, were in our denomination. However, when the United Church of Christ declared that sexual orientation was not a decision it was a discovery, and we ordained our first openly gay minister in 1972, those two churches kicked up their heels. Not in jubilance, but in utter disregard and threatened to leave the denomination.
As Conference Minister I visited each of the churches, met with their Church Council and pastor. The first was following their pastor who said, “The denomination has no value.” They nodded. Slam-dunk. Rope in their hands it appeared, metaphorically. And then the head of their Council said, who happened to be a Deputy Sheriff, “If you show up at our meeting to vote out of YOUR denomination, I’ll have some of my men keep you out.” Gosh, folks, shall we visit some more? NOT.
The second church was about to vote, but the pastor was into thievery, got arrested. The vote to leave lacked two votes and then the congregation terminated the pastor. That church is still part of our denomination. The point, though is how leadership impacts and shapes and governs followership.
I know a church where a minister didn’t believe religious faith ever was gathered unless it came through the mind. It was religion via thinking only. The congregation followed him…they balked at faith through the heart. Woe was my regard. A challenge when the minister left to do whatever could be done to bring balance, at least, in the pursuit and acceptance of God’s will and word and way. And. To my relief, we succeeded.
Then. A church whose pastors were both pastors and prophets. Who refused to amputate the Gospel, who never missed a parishioner’s surgery to share a prayer at the bedside and who preached with holding the Bible and the newspaper and the church roster in their hands. The congregation was the most balanced…impacted by the manner of leadership and commitment and belief that without God we are nothing and with God we can be more than nothing. Not perfect…but praying for effort more than victory.
Where is all this going? It’s going to the national manner of life and judgment happening in our country. The current national leadership is turning our nation into experts in hate and rejection and being combative when we don’t get what we want. A belief, being naturalized, that doing others in is the only option. That’s not to say the untowarding leadership creates turmoil. I may be wrong, but I think what leaders do is tap into something “that’s already there,” in terms of what we believe and how we order our lives…and what we like or don’t like. Like the old song, “People are taught to hate.”
It’s more than sad. It’s tragic. Horrific.
At least that’s my “heart-take” of life today. That means I will not give in to hatred. I will not. I will do my best, although faltering at times, to declare my will to understand be far more than my need to judge. Leadership should bring out the best in us…not the worst.
Leadership matters…for good or for nil value. It’s my story.