The State of the American Church: The Narcissism of Minor Differences

With the coming of 2010 I’ve made a commitment to take a decidedly different turn in the focus of my future efforts.  It’s a focus toward something and away from something else.  Let me explain.

For 37 years, I’ve focused on the church as a movement.  Leadership in particular has been one of my favorite subjects; and the practice of leadership, an art with which I’ve been fascinated.

I’ve had the privilege to live through some true revolutions in the way church is done in America.  And yet today, with all of the tools we have available to us, I feel somewhat bored with the whole movement.

I wondered why and thought, “maybe it’s me, maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s what I’ve been through with bumps and bruises along the way.” But I’ve come to realize it’s none of these.  It’s my assessment, and remember it’s only mine, one little opinion that what we’re stuck in today is not revolution but evolution.

I know that’s a dirty word for most Christians but that really is what’s going on in the American church leadership scene.  We really have no revolutionaries, just people re-saying old things in (at least sometimes) interesting ways.

With blogs and social media, with all the tools available to us, every person can become their own authority.  And some can even attempt to become a rock star.  It’s easier than ever to produce CD’s, DVD’s, books, have tours, networks.  It seems like everyday a new coaching network pops up.  And when you dig down below the surface, basically you have someone trying to build a clientele.  And I’d be the first one to admit that there is nothing wrong with that.

As I’ve gone to conferences and perused the ones that are available that I’ve decided to forego, I’ve come to this conclusion:  Leadership in the American church right now seems to be mildly to strongly narcissistic. It really is all about the coolest, hippest, hottest, new, semi-super star on the scene.  I could tell you that there are a few super-stars out there.  I won’t name them because you’ll shoot down the list.  But they’re there; truly great men and women who have led revolution.  But most of the up and coming leadership, as smart and bright as it is, are imitators.  I call it the narcissism of minor differences.

Here’s why I’m turning my focus away from the subject of leadership.  It’s because we do have some truly great leaders; a lot of great things are being said.  But it’s the old things being said again, which teaches me this: it’s very easy to get lost in the art of leadership and forget what and why we’re leading.

The church of Jesus Christ is not an institution, as much as we’d like for it to be.  As much as we try to master the skills of organizational building, of finance, of public relations, of marketing and advertising.  The church as a spiritual movement cannot be contained. It breaks out where it will.  It grows where it will.  Most of the pastors of the great growing churches today really have no idea why they are growing other than a simple commitment to the deep and profound truth that God loves us as we are and not as we ought to be; that He has sent His Son and created a massive, worldwide movement of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation.

I’m not saying “I’m done” to leadership.  I’m just done with making the subject of leadership more important than it is.  I’m going to begin to focus on people, the effect the gospel has: the three R’s – redemption, restoration, and reconciliation.  The truth of the matter is, it’s all about relationships; connecting people to God and each other for the purpose of changing the world. Not studying the latest book, or worshiping at the altar of the latest guru, or reading the latest blog, or being fascinated by the latest twitter of some really cool something that someone has done.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about what my new passion is and how that focus is going to change everything I do.

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