When the Church Leaves the Building Review
By David Frederickson
Reviewed by Gary Amirault
Tentmaker Review: When the Church Leaves the Building.
True Christian Leadership
(The following are a few pages from a book which reveals a new kind of leadership emerging within the Body of Christ. It is not really new, but the “traditions of men which make of word of God of no effect” has so bound up the Church and its leadership that it seems brand new. It is merely returning to the leadership exemplified by Jesus Christ and His disciples nearly 2,000 years ago.)
(pages 71-73, chapter 5, “Follow the Leader” from the book When the Church Leaves the Building by David Fredrickson available at Tentmaker Resources, http://www.tentmaker.org/store ).
“Not long before I began to write this chapter, a woman called to tell me a strange dream she had. The setting was a large room where people had presumably gathered for a church function. In the center of the room was a man who seemed to represent the pastor. He was completely unclothed, yet was evidently unashamed although everyone was staring at him. Most peculiar of all was the fact that he had female parts where his male reproductive organs should have been. Finally he noticed the dreamer looking at him and he turned away embarrassed.
“The dream might well symbolize the sad condition of many religious institutions of today. Misplaced and thus impotent, they have little to give. Instead, they are continually seeking to draw resources to themselves while their adherents go hungry and the lost are left without the precious seed of the gospel. Though the Word is preached, the broken bread and poured out wine of the preacher’s life is often missing.
“Yet when a leader shares his moments of brokenness with those he walks with, it can be bread to those hungering for a satisfying relationship with Father. Jesus implored Peter to feed His sheep as and expression of Peter’s love for Him. It would be safe to assume that he fed them with more than words before he made his final contribution as a martyr.
“I must confess that I have suffered a great deal of mental anguish generated from my concern of what others thought of me. Often I would awake during the wee hours of the Monday morning regretting something I had said Sunday morning. Would the people still judge me to be just as capable a leader? Would the stupid remark detract from the high regard they had for me? I found myself searching for ways that I could be “transparent” without exposing the full extent of my selfishness. While hating the idea of being placed on a pedestal, I nevertheless clawed at the sides like a cat lest I should lose my perch!
“The freedom and peace that comes with resting where I’ve fallen is a precious gift I will fight to keep. Inviting people to be a part of the good, bad and ugly of who I really am is helping to tear down the walls of separation that were built unintentionally by the religious class system I once served. How refreshing and nurturing it has become to “hang out” with brothers and sisters, equals, friends, to share our life in Christ together and to see Him more clearly because of it!
(The following account is an example of the “bread” that can be given when we “step down” from our carnal “leadership” positions:
Through a Child’s Eyes
“’My daughter has a question to ask you.” The daughter, a shy six year old, stood before the chair where I was sitting and stared at me with wide eyes as she grasped her mother’s hand. This particular home meeting had been a bit unusual. After a time of song and praise, I had opened my mouth to begin teaching when I was pierced with the conviction that I had been selfish and discriminating in caring for others. As I began to confess these shortcomings to the 30 or so packed into the living room, I broke into sobs. Unable to continue speaking, I simply sat blubbering while the faces of the people became blurred through the tears. After what seemed to be about two weeks, I regained my composure and asked forgiveness of the people. The prayer and repentance that resulted was followed by expressions of joyful thankfulness. Now, as the mother and child stood before me, I wondered what such a young girl was so intent upon asking, but she continued to stare at me without saying a word. Finally her mother explained: “She wants to know what that light was surrounding your head.”
“I don’t know what the little girl saw nor do I remember how I answered her, but I will never forget what was impressed upon my spirit. I believe that the Lord wanted me to know that true ministry can flow only from a place of brokenness and humility; that it is as we lay down our soul life for our friends that His glory is revealed and others are invited to eat of Jesus with us. I was not a pretty sight as I sat snotty-nosed with my insides hanging out before the people. It was about as comfortable as using the toilet before an audience of thousands. But that occasion and others like it taught me that looking good and preaching a dynamic sermon to huge crowds would accomplish little unless the life of Christ within me was being released through a broken vessel.
Leading Like Jesus
“Jesus never managed anyone’s life. Nor did He teach anything that was not illustrated by His own life. Rather, He invited those who would follow Him to “come and see.” Those who took Him up on the offer saw where He stayed and how He lived. They saw Him communicate with His Father and eat with sinners. They watched Him respond to the harassment of the Pharisees and to the praise of some who heard Him teach. And as they walked with Him, he used simple illustrations to teach them how to start connected with Father and to love one another in the face of these challenges. In short, Jesus led mainly by example. His life was open and vulnerable to all who were willing to “come and see.”
“Jesus never attempted to lead a large group of people. Though he sometimes taught and fed the crowds, there were only a few who actually walked closely with Him. And so it is today. Those who are on that journey sometimes need the touch of a more mature brother or sister to walk with them for a season as they grapple with the dynamics of life as a member of God’s family They need someone to love them through their times of failure and self-doubt; someone they can feel safe with. They long for someone who has become real and touchable to them because that person has invited them into their own life. They have at least heard about and most likely witnessed God’s transforming power in the life of their friend. And as they have seen him or her follow after the heat of Father, they are encouraged to do the same. As they grow in Christ, they will find themselves leaning on the Great Shepherd in situations where formerly they would have sought out a human substitute. This way of leadership encourages a person to develop a trusting relationship with Father rather than to misplace one’s dependence upon another. Extending a leadership role beyond the temporary need retards growth and robs us of the joy of discovering Father’s heart together simply as brothers and sisters. (pages 69-70 from chapter 5 “Follow the Leader” from the book “When the Church Leaves the Building” by David Fredrickson)
Many pastors and other church leaders are often taught in Bible College and seminary to keep a good distance from the congregation. They are taught NOT to allow members to get too close to them, just the opposite of what Jesus taught. This is just one of many examples revealing that the “traditions of men which make the word of God of no effect” has crept into institutional Christianity even as those same kinds of traditions prevented the Jewish leadership of Jesus’ day from seeing Jesus as the Messiah. They called “the Truth” a blasphemer and crucified Him for being “the Truth.” The lie in their hearts hated “the Truth” which exposed the lies in their hearts. Could Church leadership and their flocks be in the same condition as Israel was nearly 2,000 years ago? Have our “traditions” crowded out room for “the Truth?” (Gary Amirault)