This is our second of five posts introducing and discussing the core values discerned at our congregational gathering in September 2013, this time the core value is leadership. This one actually came as a bit of a surprise to me when the search committee tabulated the results from the event in September. I really expected to see “mission” here, the more I thought about it, though, it did make some sense. There are several important aspects to this core value.
First, as we have (re)discovered over the last 5-10 years and as the song by Avery and Marsh articulates so well, we are the church. At times in the past, we’ve become somewhat complacent and tended to rely too heavily on the pastor/staff to run everything. This isn’t particularly anyone’s fault, but it is a habit we must guard against because in the long term, this isn’t a sustainable plan and it isn’t what Jesus calls us to do. We, as the members of Grace Church have been stepping up and doing our part as evidenced by the Fun Fest we’ve done the last two years which was the brainchild of Tammy Townsend, the four members who have preached on Sunday morning in the last year and a half, the work that the boards have been doing, and much, much more. We are called to lead wherever God has given us the gifts to do so, and God has given us all gifts to lead in some way. As Paul writes in Romans 12:4-12
For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
Secondly, the United Church of Christ as a denomination is rightly proud of the many “firsts” that it and its constituent predecessor denominations have achieved over the years and how it has led the way on issues of justice and peace. These “firsts” sometimes made (and still make) even our members uncomfortable, but then Jesus made folks uncomfortable all the time. A listing of some of those firsts can be found at http://www.ucc.org/god-is-still-speaking/firsts/ucc-firsts.html and some of them are mentioned in the video below
Finally, and most importantly, Christ made clear, however, that true leadership is about serving. “Leading” with a spear, pitchfork, or club isn’t going to bring the Good News to anyone. In order to do that, we must first gain people’s trust and that can only be done, by living as Christ taught. Only then will the people who have been victimized and abused in the name of the church or whose only exposure to the church has been what they’ve seen on television and in the news be open to hearing and ultimately accepting the love of God. Jesus puts it quite clearly in John 13:12-17
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
and in Matthew 20:25-28
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
So, we are called to lead by example, to serve without thought to what might be in it for us. Just like with our previous core value, love, leadership can be hard, but it is central to what God is calling us to be as Grace United Church of Christ.