The Language of Leadership: Adopting a New Language Posture

Originally uploaded by Dave Gray

Originally uploaded by Dave Gray

A postmodern geographic culture shift has occurred. Many philosophers, theologians, and churches try to communicate with people, especially young people, in modern terms located in outdated cultural understandings and geography. Speaking broadly, Church wants to tell people what to believe and the way to believe because that is the way it is according to the Bible or name your authority.

Words, even from scripture, are greeted with suspicion by post-moderns and often proved false because they are often times culturally and geographically framed. Therefore our language makes no sense and is irrelevant.

Take my friend *Jane for instance. Jane was at every church event, leading Vacation Bible School, her family was plugged into church stuff and she gave generously from her resources. Her Dad was an Episcopal priest and she was baptized Episcopalian as an infant. She was not a member of the church I attended. She was not allowed to be a member because by our church’s belief in what the Bible said she had to be baptized by immersion. She was not allowed to vote on church issues.

In the same church, a person who was baptized as a 10-year-old that never came to worship, never helped with anything, and never gave of their resources for our common mission was considered a member who could make official decisions about the church. That person could vote. Something about this belief made no sense to me and still doesn’t when I encounter it in various Baptist churches. Jane was a great church “member!” I’ll take her any day over the lukewarm bench warmer that was baptized when they were 10 years old.

Language

The method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way. Any nonverbal method of expression or communication

The days when the people in the neighborhood walked to the nearest local church left the Washington, D.C. region long ago. People moved into the neighborhood and they believed all sorts ology’s and isms. They had all sorts of different life experiences. They could not belong to the local church though and therefore it became irrelevant to their life. They spoke a different language.

To share the love of Christ with people surrounding us we must learn a new language from which to lead. We must learn a language that helps restore and reconcile and give hope. We must provide postmodern geographic mutts an opportunity to belong before they believe. To do so we must adopt a particular language posture.

Posture

Posture: A particular way of dealing with or considering something; an approach or attitude

 
Example – How does the word “justice” posture us? Let’s look at Isa. 1:17: Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.What does adopting a specific “language posture” mean? It means we work to adopt the values of biblical narratives through the language of words, images, and actions.

What does “justice” mean to you having read this verse? Why does it mean that? This verse invites us into a certain way of living. Based on how we understand the language we can learn what our trajectory is and invite people to belong to that posture with us. It becomes a way of being. Who will you be because of how you understand this Bible story and how will you lead others?

Why the language of leadership? I do believe that unless our churches adopt a corporate narrative we will struggle to locate ourselves in each other’s stories and in God’s story. Put simply, unless we identify a common language we will find it hard to collaborate with a group of people towards a unifying principle.

Think about it. Language is the starting point for significant participation in any particular field like law, engineering, or theology. For a church immersed in a postmodern context that is often times geographically diverse that language needs to be a particular “way” in order for people to belong. It cannot be particular words. Words are relative until we agree on the common story. The truth in the language we use is found in the way we live those words out not in the definitions give them. In our case, I suggest the way of Jesus to get at the truth of the matter so that we can join with God in co-creating his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Tom Lynch lives in Arlington, VA with his wife Lore, son Joe, and daughter Evelyn. He serves as associate pastor for youth and children at McLean Baptist Church and as the Director of Ministry Rotations for the John Leland Center for Theological Studies. He holds a master of divinity from the Leland Center and a bachelor’s in communication from Michigan State University. He volunteers as a justice advocate for International Justice Mission and serves on the board of trustees for The Network for Theological Education.

 

A Time For Waiting

Theologically speaking . . .
The entire Church waits now as they have for weeks. Little ones wait naively for the human celebrations that many will have on March 31. Some are waiting for a new human leader to emerge in Rome during this time of Lent. Millions are waiting for a glorious experience, sitting on the cusp of Passion Week, a week full of services, tragedy and joy. The entire world, if not all of creation, waits, unconsciously, unknowingly, for hope. We are in a time of waiting, awaiting a time of redemption, a redemption we cannot initiate.

Let us ponder what drives God toward this redemption only God can offer, while we wait together lacking any power to save ourselves. Compassion drives God to offer redemption. Ancients in faith discovered that the characteristic of mercy drove God’s actions of redemption. Later, some saw this mercy as compassion, a major characteristic of the promised Messiah. It is this compassion which drives the passion which we will celebrate one week from now.

A congregation is the space where faith is practiced, rather than one in which the Christian faith is merely discussed. Clearly the Christian congregation may not become the only place that those who follow Christ express their faith. Wherever those who follow Christ go, they should express their faith in both word and deed.

Congregations should not only wait patiently during this time of Lent. They have the opportunity to practice the faith in the Messiah, demonstrating compassion, even mercy. Doing so such congregations will be driven to passion, participating in the redemption which all the world awaits.

How can academic communities wait patiently during this time of Lent? Certainly, these are not congregations, but their students and faculty take part in congregations gathering across diverse areas. An academic institution could become a catalyst for compassion among those who participate in a learning community as well as among those who are touched fully by its life. While waiting patiently during Lent, let us practice the compassion which leads to our passion.
Dr. Robert Cochran

Ineluctably Created to Worship

Let me begin by quoting a few lines from a now well-known commencement address by David Foster Wallace, on the occasion of Kenyon College‘s 2005 Commencement [published later as This is Water]:

Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship…. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you.

The notion that everybody — including atheists — worships, in some fashion, is of course not original to DFW.  Nor is this notion uncontroversial.  One problem being how we should define or describe “worship.”  Be that as it may, let us move on by saying something less controversial: if not everybody, let’s say, many, many people worship some thing or someone or some ideal with the implicit hope that the object of worship will bring about happiness or beatitude in the worshipper.  This common feature indicated to Henri de Lubac, SJ (1896-1991) that humans are endowed with a desiderium naturale ad videndum Dei — translated as, a natural desire to see God.  Drawing on the medievals (Bonaventure, Thomas, and Scotus), de Lubac explains this combination of the natural and supernatural by parsing the natural in terms of desire and the supernatural in terms of how that desire is fulfilled.

Given this natural desire to see/experience God, what happens when something other than God becomes the object of that desire?  It is impossible to speak of all cases but we can say that in many, many cases the “worshipper’s” desire is not fully satisfied.  This dissatisfaction, in turn, can be an opening in a conversation that can eventually lead someone to God in Christ.  In a marvelously insightful and inspiring book, Desiring the Kingdom, James K.A. Smith offers us a deeper, truer understanding of ourselves — not primarily as thinkers (“I think, therefore I am”)  nor as believers (“I believe in order to understand”) — but as agents of desire or love (“I am what I love”).  Homo Liturgicus.  Smith writes, “Like the blind men pictured in Rembrandt’s sketches, for the most part we make our way in the world with hands outstretched, in an almost tactile groping with our bodies.  One might say that in our everyday, mundane being-in-the-world, we don’t lead with our head, so to speak; we lead out with our heart and hands” (p. 47).  This appreciation of ourselves and of one another as more than thinking things or as believing believers, but as creatures with a built-in desire to see God, creatures of heart and hand, creatures for whom God is the only true source of rest and love (recalling that old Augustinian prayer, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee”), should, I hope, inform how we reach out in conversation to those who do not yet know salvation in Christ.

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