I recently posed a question on Facebook: “OK, I have a serious question to pose for leaders: We all hear incessantly about apostles and order, and how we’re supposed to be here for order. So why is it that every single time we seek to establish order, people start rebelling? If they acknowledge that’s what the apostle is for, why is it such a problem every time we operate in and function in our office? And if they truly believe – as they claim – that’s what the apostle is for – why are they even surprised when we get on them for kicking up?”
I asked this question in genuine sincerity. I wasn’t asking it to cause trouble or offense, and I am not writing this note for these reasons, either. I am in no way calling out anyone’s answer or criticizing anyone…everyone’s responses made me think, even more about the question and the issues we, as a church are facing. And, given I tend to write on my reflections, I wanted to share those, here. I am hoping that through some dialogue we can talk about some of this stuff and come to some answers. It seems like, as I look over the church today, we are surrounded by questions, just as the one I posed. As leaders, we are often left standing back, holding the bag, not exactly sure what happened or why, but we are the ones who have to deal with it. While yes, I acknowledge and admit that being a leader does involve that, I also wonder…where is the rest of being a leader today?
I’ve been in ministry for seventeen years; I have been ordained for twelve of those seventeen years; first as a pastor, then as an apostle, and now approaching, as of August, as a bishop. I have seen notable changes, having worked in ministry for so long, in how things are done and in how we treat people. In days gone by – and it’s not so many that I can’t remember, which means that things have changed of recent. I’m not talking about stuff from fifty years ago, or even twenty years ago – our attitudes are different in how we respond to things, in the here and now.
I should probably back up and explain where the question came from in the first place. The problem with that is the question goes so far back, I’m not really sure where it began. I’m not sure it has one beginning, and that means it probably doesn’t have one ending, either. In the more immediate present, the question arose after I was viciously attacked by someone who had been under my ministry for approximately 3-4 years (and known me for approximately 8) and by another person who had also known me about 7-8 years, but always remained on the “outskirts” of the ministry. As a leader, I’d seen things in both of these individuals for quite some time. I did my best to instruct both of them, as they both came for instruction at different points in time. I was always consistent with them, even though other people might have come and said things to me about them. I was always a leader; I was always their leader. I was involved, concerned, and attentive. In hindsight, and this is after much thorough examination, I know my leadership was not to blame, with either woman. I am humble enough to admit when I am wrong about something, and have learned much over the years from those who left the ministry and their reasons why. This instance, it wasn’t what I had done, or not had done. The only thing I might have done was be too available as a leader for whatever needs might have existed in each situation, but I do not feel it was wrong to make myself present. I have always made it a point to avoid being an “absentee” leader, one who is constantly “too busy” to bother with their people. If that’s wrong, then that is what I did wrong. I also do not question many changes are happening in this ministry and God is moving quickly. He is, however, moving it in a way so that none are neglected and nobody is being left behind unless they so chose to stay behind. Nonetheless, it does not change the fact that the actions of these two people in question was thoroughly uncalled for.
To make the very long story very short, the one who was under this ministry got herself in a nearly three-month snit because someone else under the ministry was disciplined and she found out about it. The matter had nothing to do with her, but she still felt the right to have an opinion on matters. The matter festered within her, instead of coming and talking about it with me, to the point where she separated herself from everyone else and then felt as if she was being treated unfairly. She went, in turn, to this other minister mentioned earlier, and the two of them concocted a long, complex story against me that involved other ministers and my home life, as well. Instead of letting it rest at that, they went elsewhere with their mess.
I am the first one to get on leaders who don’t uphold the integrity of the offices. I am the first one who, when they make mess of ministry, need to be disciplined. I do not question, however, that there is an order to things and it is not just the job of those submitted to leadership to walk around like a bunch of cowboys and start imposing disciplinary measures against leaders. It is also not appropriate for people to go around making stuff up against leaders because they are angry or feel slighted. In days gone by, not only would this have never been tolerated, it would never have gone to the levels people seem to take it to today.
Now, back to the question at hand.
I asked the question because this is not the first time something like this has happened among leaders I know. When things like this happen, I wonder why they seem so common today. There are no “isolated cases” anymore. The first people thing start on when we talk about issues like this is “bad leadership,” but that’s just not fair. The problem of people’s actions is not bad leadership, it is something else – but rebellious people are not always the product of a rebellious leader. It seems like more and more, people feel they have the right to behave however they so feel and they so easily justify their actions in the name of their “spiritual perceptions.” Nine times out of ten, they aren’t picking up on anything but their aggrandized feelings and emotions that have been spun and spun until they can’t see anything but them. It seems so easy for people to say and do whatever they want, with no regard nor respect for others, especially leaders, and the sacrifices that are made for them. The answer to my question is that people do not have respect anymore because they do not fear God, and they do not fear God’s authority in their leaders. The consistent answer I seemed to receive to my question was the same one I always seem to receive, no matter what the question is. The underlying explanation I receive is always “human nature.” Somehow, it is always implied that this is just how people are and that we can’t do anything about it. Someone also always adds, without fail, that Jesus had to put up with it, too. I don’t know how much these answers are acceptable to me anymore. I’m not Jesus, leaders here are not Jesus. We aren’t divine and while I understand that persecution does come upon believers, we should also be aware that we are being attacked by people who are supposedly believers, with the Holy Ghost operating inside of them, and these are people who know enough of Jesus to know better. People who believe in Jesus shouldn’t flippantly institute persecution upon other believers and their leaders. The Word tells us that we shall be persecuted by the world, not by those who are supposed to be in Christ!
I also don’t question the human element in matters, but we all have to admit that there was a time in the church when we, as leaders, weren’t so apt to tolerate “human nature.” When things were wrong, they were wrong, and they were dealt with immediately. There were immediate and dire consequences for behaving in rebellion. If you came against your leader, or you came against your church or denomination and your credentials were stripped, you didn’t just go to another church or another leader and tell a sad tale of woe to them and get reinstated somewhere else. We took things like disfellowship and losing our credentials seriously. Accusations against leaders were never randomly made, and were certainly not made in a disorderly way. If someone had an accusation, it wasn’t based on what they “felt” spiritually, it was based on evidences and realities. This isn’t “human element,” it’s diabolical, plain and simple. It’s people, so full of self and so full of themselves that they chase after every whim of everything, feeling totally confident that if they behave badly in one place, they will be able to find someone, somewhere, who will believe their stories and “reinstate” them. Instead of disciplining diabolical natures, we have become apathetic and simply accept it as part of ministry leadership.
It’s not that we trust the wrong people; as in my incidence, when people had nothing to work with, they just made something up. I’m tired of the implication that this is the way things are for leaders and that we should just “get used to” things like this. If they were random occurrences, that would be one issue. These are not isolated cases. This means that the church’s authorities need to come together on these matters and start disciplining people again. If we expect to be respected, people need to have a good, healthy realization that leaders are authorities and that authority will be exercised as necessary. We need to make ministry mean something again, which means we need to mark those that cause division and back up other leaders unless we have a reason not to. It’s time to stop lying on God and stop telling people how they “know better” than their leaders and how they should just go off and disconnect from everyone else and do whatever they want. Gifts are not everything. It’s great to be gifted, it’s great to have spiritual gifts, but if you aren’t disciplined enough to make them fruitful, then your gifts aren’t any good to anyone. It’s a myth that titles are unimportant, that we don’t need them, or that they don’t matter. They DO matter, they DO mean things (that is why we must be rightly aligned with God’s call for our lives), and we need to live up to exactly what they mean until this rebellious, disobedient church is either reduced to an obedient remnant or people come around. My ministry will line up. I will line up. What you do is up to do, but I do hope I will see you in the remnant. Oh yes, and if you cross anyone I am connected with wrong, I will mark you myself if need be. Mama ain’t playing anymore. If we are going to be in ministry, we are going to line up and be as Christ desires us to be: not half as Christ desires, not with the “American” version of what God desires – but His Kingdom beyond a cutesy buzzword to print on a t-shirt.
(c) 2014 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.