I have been having a lot of conversations with young people who deeply love God and who long to follow Jesus, and are deeply wounded by the church. As someone who hasn't been that wounded by the church, my instinct is to give a compelling argument and challenge them to push through. But, as you could guess, that strategy is not working.
There is a giant cultural shift afoot and every institution is under assault and being taken down. Some of this is healthy housecleaning for sure. While we continually need to be reflective, own our garbage, repent and change, we must still move forward. What is happening is different than that. What seems to be happening is everyone is waking up and realizing the institutions they have put their trust in have betrayed them or those they love and in doing so have become totally unsafe.
I do not use "being unsafe" in any sort of light way. Unsafe in this context is not simply a skinned knee unsafety, but a true danger that could lead to death.
It is hard to really get our heads around how unsafe we feel as a culture and how much we are in a protectionist stance towards the institutions that have wronged us and those we love. The sad reality is that most young people can't even remember a time of deep trust. They can't remember seeing an icy pond and only imagine ice skating, hokey, fishing, snow machining, or whatever people like to do on the ice. All they see a potential death trap with the stories of those who didn't make it across the pond and ended up dead on the bottom.
This icy pond represents their families, their dating life, their friendships, the government, and the church.
The institutional church has just wrecked young people. We have broken trust. And the worst part is that nobody in leadership realizes it. We are asking them to come and play on this incredible icy pond, and they see all the death just below the thin ice.
The reason this is important to understand is that many church leaders long to be good leaders. We read books and we go to seminars and conferences. We work hard at it. We have a vision of where we want to go and we want to learn how to implement a plan to get to this destination.
But unless we realize that the number one ingredient for someone to follow you is that they MUST trust you. And part of trusting you is trusting the organization you lead. For those in the church, all the personal trust in the world will still keep people at bay because they are not sure the institution we are leading is worthy of our trust.
If we are going to be faithful to our calling and lead our churches to the places we think God is calling us to go, we must recognize our charisma, our power, nor our plan is going to get us there. We must be willing to move more slowly, own our garbage, recognize the lack of trust that has impacted our culture, particularly the culture of young adults.
Building trust must be the aim of this season of leadership, not building organizations. For without trust, no one will follow!
This is a brutal hook to kick of #orangeweek and get people to sign up for the Orange Conference. Part of the Orange Conference is a leadership track that is incredible. In fact, any one who wants to grow in their leadership chops should make this conference a priority. You will be challenged and encouraged to be the leader God has called you to be. You will learn all sorts of ways to organize your life so you can implement this plan. And all of this is great! But unless you have trust, you have nobody going with you.
Why don't we spend these months leading up to the Orange Conference moving a little slower, listening a little better, being a little more free with our repentance and humility as we seek to understand the world we are doing ministry in and to build back some of the trust that has been lost? And who knows, maybe if more leaders understood trust as the foundation to their leadership, they would be much more effective in implementing their plans!