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I met up with a long-time friend. He is a pastor whom I respect, and we have been on the same team for years. I exited full-time ministry in 2017, and we have kept in touch. 

In the middle of our conversation, he leaned in and told me that he had been reading my content and could sense that something was going on in my heart. Yes, there is a lot going on in my heart.  

Our conversation shifted to discussing the recent Springfield, MO, controversy with John Lindell and Mark Driscoll. Long story short, James River Assembly invited Mark Driscoll to speak at their men’s conference, and let’s say that it didn’t turn out the way that John Lindell wanted. If you’re going to do some research, google has plenty of commentary.  

I don’t want to go into detail about what happened at the conference. Both leaders were inappropriate and, frankly, just too comfortable with their self-imposed leadership quarantine. When leaders surround themselves with people who only agree and don’t have the ability to exercise proper accountability, things get weird. This happens when leaders appoint their board, hire excessive family members who get elevated to unjustified levels of authority, or find a lane of fame through celebrated success or branding. 

In full transparency, I have been a champion of hiring family members with the past leaders I have supported. I don’t necessarily regret those decisions. It is short-sighted to believe that the family members will only use their access to senior leadership for good. I have had great experiences with this dynamic but have also seen it go badly. Far too many times, relationship dynamics with non-family team members become isolated and complicated. The emotional and psychological needs of the family members took precedence and made way for their opinions, justified or not, to get priority. 

Ok. Back to the James River debacle. 

John Lindell used Matthew 18 as a biblical foundation for calling Mark out. He used his platform to call Mark to publicly repent his behavior since he believed that Mark was “unrepentant.” He boldly claimed that step 3 of Matthew 18 was to take the issues to the church. At this point in the story, John reads personal and private text messages and recounts private interactions between Mark and his kids (who are team members).

I think this is where I started to relive some past trauma and begin to cringe.  

I have a rough time believing that Jesus intended mass humiliation as a protocol for “church discipline.” I have a hard time believing that he meant that if your “brother” has wronged you, schedule a church meeting in front of thousands of people, who will now be subject to only one side of the story, and broadcast it to all of your campuses, stream on youtube and social media and call for the excommunication of the “brother” you are in disagreement with. 

Again, I believe both leaders were wrong. But in a world desperately needing hope, this is not what we need to see or experience. 

My conversation continued with my friend, and he said, “It’s hard because we want to complain about how mean the world has gotten…But I don’t see the church as any different. They are just as mean and, in some cases, worse.” 

Yep. I agree. 

I am writing this more for processing and self-therapy than anything. If a person in church leadership has ever violated you, you know that it hurts and it’s complicated, but you also need to keep moving. I chose not to walk away from my faith, but I am indeed being way more careful and selective. Am I skeptical? Yes. It’s justifiably a resounding YES.

Here are a few things I have been processing and living by over the years that may help if this resonates with you. 

  1.  Show the grace and love that you would need. If you are in church leadership, maybe recognize that the convictions you live through are merely excuses for you to propagate hate. I am not saying that this is always the case. Whenever emotional reaction is involved, convictions become an incredibly convenient platform. Show the grace and love that you need. I promise there will come a time when you’ll want and desire kindness from people. Talk to someone if you are more on the receiving end of this. I am sorry for your personal experience. There is a better way. 
  2. Surround yourself with the right people. I wish I had learned this when I was ten years old. You are the sum average of the five loudest voices in your life. We are wired to be with people, even if we are introverts. But here is the deal: we get whatever we belong to. Do you see “Godly” qualities manifested in the lives of those you run with? Do you want to be a kind person? Surround yourself with people who believe kindness is an engine, and watch what happens. This has more to do with the type of person you want to become than your experiences. 
  3. Don’t be stupid. (No offense intended) Don’t be a victim. Don’t stand by and watch people get hurt and say nothing. Be a champion for good. Don’t repeatedly put yourself in harm’s way and expect a different outcome. We all do “stupid” things for one reason or another; for me, it was the desire to belong to something bigger than me. You have a purpose. You are not less than. Remember that. 

Life has an unusual way of throwing curveballs. They make us think and sometimes even wake us to a new reality. Sometimes, they expose humans’ fallibility and how desperate we need a loving God. Or how we need love in general. 

From all accounts, I understand that Jesus has never changed his mind about how He feels about us. But if church leadership doesn’t start to adapt and address these issues, the “church” might change its mind about how it thinks of itself. 

Michael King is an executive coach renowned for transforming complexity into clarity. With over a decade of guiding Fortune 500 leaders, Michael is the visionary behind the Apex Automated Coaching System for teams. Known as the TEAMS Coach, he empowers tired executives, who are frustrated by the exhaustive demands of their roles with minimal return, to radically enhance their productivity and results. Michael’s approach is straightforward and impactful, focusing on actionable strategies that energize executive teams and catalyze their ability to thrive at an entirely new level. If you’re ready to multiply your outcomes tenfold and lead with renewed vigor and precision, Michael’s robust frameworks and innovative methods are your gateway to unprecedented success in today’s dynamic business environment.

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