What’s Up with Pastor Todd 5-29-20
This past Memorial Day, my family and I traveled to my brother-in-law’s house nearby for what one of my friends joking calls a “get apart.” (You know, a physically distanced “get together.”)
Our conversation covered a broad range of topics–as it usually does–including our common situation of global pandemic. My brother-in-law, who works as a federal prosecutor, noted that New Zealand and some European countries (like Germany) were able to much more effectively contain the virus because, in his opinion, in general their citizens have much more trust in their federal governments than, for example, the U.S. does.
While trust is only one factor affecting a government’s coronavirus response, it reminds me how critical trust is to human flourishing. In many cases, it is literally a matter of life and death.
Trust is also a critical factor in congregational life. One of the foundational tasks of transitional ministry is building and maintaining trust among congregation members and between congregation and leadership. Steven Covey in his book The Eighth Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness writes about “the speed of trust.” High trust levels in organizations allows them to move quickly to adapt and address problems. If we had higher trust levels in the U.S., would we have been able to move more quickly to prevent infections and deaths? It is a sobering question. This is a critical question for maintaining our national health. It also illustrates why high trust levels are so important to congregational health.
How does one build trust in a congregation? Three tasks: competence, compassion, common mission. Competence: leadership has to prove to the congregation that they can do the job in a consistently competent fashion. Show up for meetings, do your homework, strive for excellence. If you don’t know something, get training or ask for help. Compassion: people have to know that you have their best interest at heart. You need to demonstrate that you see your role as promoting the health and well-being of the congregation as a whole, not your personal needs for power and control. Common mission: this is illustrated by a Scripture text for this coming Sunday–Pentecost Sunday.
The Old Testament reading is from Numbers 11:24-30. Moses’ father-in-law Jethro tells Moses that he can’t lead God’s people on his own. Jethro recommends Moses appoint 70 “elders” to share the leadership burden. Moses follows his father-in-law’s advice. Moses gathers the 70 elders around the tent that served as the holy space for the people as they may their wilderness journey. God’s spirit “rested upon [the elders] and they prophesied.”
Here’s the part I love: a couple of the elders didn’t make it to the tent for the ceremony. For some reason they had stayed in the main camp with the rest of the 600,000 or so Israelites. Nevertheless, God’s spirit had gone out to them as well causing them to prophesy among the people in the camp even though they hadn’t gone through the formal authorization the others had. Joshua, Moses’ right hand man, said, “Moses, stop them!” Moses responded, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!”
Moses was clear about his role as leader among the Israelites. It wasn’t about him, his status, his ego, his power. His role was to work with God to create circumstances in which God’s people could flourish. His job wasn’t to control the process but to bless, notice, and name God’s spirit wherever and however it shows up.