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The Roots of Discontent

8 November 2006

In his blog today (11/8/06), Mike Cope posed the following scenario:

I spoke with two men.

One is unhappy at church. Some changes have him feeling uncomfortable. He just doesn’t like it. He doesn’t want to be so uncomfortable. He doesn’t care for the way the church is heading. He’s exploring other options.

The other has never been happier. He was lost and is now found. He was unemployed and through a ministry of the church has just been hired. He is pouring himself into outreach. He, with his broken, difficult past, has become an informal leader of the church. The shade of his skin, the level of his education, the type of home he was raised in — all are quite different than many others at the church. But he smiles and laughs as he talks about his new family. He grins as he introduces me to others as “my pastor.”

Both men matter. Both deserve pastoral care.

One respondent from Mike’s blogosphere then said:

But I do have a question. When and where do we find in the Bible we are suppose to be comfortable? I hear that so often. “I am just not comfortable doing that.” Why do we think we have to be comfortable in everything we do? We don’t expect that in our jobs, at least if we plan to keep a job long! So why do we think we should be comfortable in everything at church?

I don’t think it’s helpful to suppose that people think they “have to be comfortable.”

Much of the change around us can easily appear arbitrary because (a) its motivations are absent, (b) its motivations are poorly communicated, (c) its motivations are NOT communicated or (d) its motivations are not interpreted in the context of what the plausible alternatives were. It is also possible, of course, that they appear arbitrary because the observer is (A) lazy or (B) simply incapable of seeing what many think self-evident.

I would hope that folks would extend the charity of Christ to the observer long enough to discern whether the case is (A) or (B); and in the meantime, elders need to take a long look at their pastoral and institutional assumptions – not just once, but continually – to discern whether there are contributions from (a-d).

All of those things, to the extent they exist, may arise because of any number of institutional pathologies. On the one hand, the church may have invested too much power and discretion in one man, who then feels no urgency to communicate well – in two directions, we mean, taking the congregation’s pulse before moving ahead with significant change. (Some might apply the term, hubris, to that phenomenon.) Or the elders may have decided that good, transparent, open-minded communication as ideas and plans develop is too risky, that it invites discord, so they demur from openness until the train has left the station. And there are probably other possibilities. In each case, though, one can easily suppose that the tendency to control and manipulate the future shows up at different stages and at different levels of authority.

I guess what I’m saying is this: to jump right to the assumption that the observer is lazy is itself lazy. Surely we can be more thoughtful than that.

qb

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