Keeping the distance
One thing I have noticed about Leadership positions is that without any intention they can create clear dividing lines. This is true in all realms of life. I have seen in work when one of the shop floor colleagues becomes a department leader or a manager the whole relationship changes. That is why so many leaders end up living a very lonely existence, having no real friends, unless it is with another leader. This is almost imbred into church life and thinking within leadership training. I was told on a few occasions that I should not get too close to the sheep because those relationships were unhealthy to having clarity of vision, and it could breed jealousy etc. Things here in Wales got so out of hand that pastors even got their own elevated tables in the pulpit area for social events. The clergy/laity divide is so evident. And it is also very unscriptural. When will we wake up and smell the bacon that these so called ‘ministry gifts’ are functions and not titles and positions to be held. That the kingdom of God is not built on ladders of success and value. That a leadership position is not something to be ambitious about obtaining. That without relationship the Body is dead. It is amazing how many people that can hold positions cannot hold onto good relationships. Thinking the distance held is healthy to form respect and acknowledgment of what is being carried. One of the biggest lessons I have had to learn since resigning as pastor is that now without the position and the title I am just one of the guys. At work, one of the colleagues. Now people have to form relationship with me not for what I do but because of who I am. Not everyone will like who I am but that is the dynamic of relationships.
When I first moved into Wales I was like a stranger in a strange land. Part of the Assemblies of God and trying hard to build a few relationships with other ‘ministers’. Going along to the regional meeting was a real eye opener as it more like a trade union meeting rather than a place of encouragement. Yet there was one man there called Paul Dando. Paul had recently became pastor of the Newport assembly in Wales. He had been greatly influenced by Gerald Coates and Stuart Bell in Grapevine. He came over to chat and invited me to a small gathering at a farm for coffee and informal chat. There were about 6-7 of us there and we had a great time. Talking about ‘church’ life, praying, sharing thoughts on Scripture, laughing, eating, hearing visiting speakers etc. At the time it was a lifeline. The Message version had just been released and I remember one day Paul read from this passage
[ You're Blessed ] When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions.
I loved that phrase climbing companions. We all did because our small group were called by that name in a very informal way. Jesus was a shepherd who never never went out of His way to have a flock. Yes there were followers and those that tagged along but He loved relationship. He had His companions. In another passage when it talks about the choosing of the twelve it simply says, ‘He chose those He wanted to be with.’ He wanted to hang out with these guys. He didn’t put up with them, He loved spending time with them. They were mates, buddy’s, friends. Some were closer to Him than others. Yes they let Him down sometimes but relationship is always stronger than peoples flaws and mistakes, well true relationship. We all need companions we can climb with. In this season I believe we will find those companions.
From Isolation to Elevation
The biggest problem of walking outside the confines of the construct is loneliness and isolation. People that you once thought were friends are nowhere to be found anymore. Those that are around don’t really understand where you are or what you are going through. At times and in seasons like that climbing can be very heavy and hard work. There is a yearning for friendship, companionship and true fellowship without expectations and religiosity. I sense in my spirit a real finding each other. Climbing companions linking and relating across Nations and across the broken borders. Encourager’s and life enhancers. Drinking partners and jokers. Cross pollination taking place through not what we do but because we find people we want to be with. People we want to journey with, talk with, share with, get transparent with. Accountability through love that is natural and not something we try and create. A mutual looking out for. A place to share doubts and fears as well as hopes and dreams. A relationship where we do not have to fear rejection when we stuff up. It is a yearning of my heart, and God said He would give you the desires of your heart. David had his companions, some found at a cave of the broken. Daniel had his companions. Paul had his companions for his journeys, some travelled some of the way, others all of the way, but there was freedom in relationship. And Jesus sat down with His companions, what an inspiring picture of what lays ahead of us. Not having disciples following our teaching and under our care, but companions walking shoulder to shoulder, being elevated together to where we should be in Christ.