In Elie Wieselâ€™s book, Night, he relates a story of a man called Moishe. They would have theological discussions now and then. Moishe asked Elie who he prayed to and why. Elie asked Moishe the same question in return. Moishe said, â€œI pray to the God within me for the strength to ask Him the real questionsâ€ (p. 5). Yes, the courage to ask the real questions!
So, Iâ€™m just asking questionsâ€¦ questions that have haunted me for years and years. Hereâ€™s something that directly applies to the ministry and church life. Read this and ask, â€œHow does this fly in the face of popular religion today?â€
â€œThe desire we so often hear expressed today for â€˜episcopal figuresâ€™, â€˜priestly menâ€™, â€˜authoritative personalitiesâ€™ springs frequently enough from a spiritually sick need for the admiration of men, for the establishment of visible human authority, because the genuine authority of service appears to be so unimpressiveâ€ (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 108).
Leadership is a hot topic today. Everyoneâ€™s reading about it. Me too. But Iâ€™m having problems with what Iâ€™m reading. I agree with it on one level, but then my mind IMMEDIATELY asks the question: But does this apply to pastoral ministry? Does it apply to the church? Iâ€™m serious! Does it? To put Jesusâ€™ statement in question form, â€œIf the kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, is this how you are to behave?â€ Whatâ€™s most interesting is that this comment of Jesus is in reaction to the disciples: â€œA dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatestâ€ (Mark 22: 24f). Dynamic and deserved leadership was the rule back then too. Look at this:
â€œLeaders have always played a primordial emotional role. No doubt humankindâ€™s original leaders- whether tribal chieftans or shamanesses- earned their place in large part because their leadership was emotionally compelling. Throughout history and in cultures everywhere, the leader in any human group has been the one to whom others look for assurance and clarity when faces uncertainty or threat, or when thereâ€™s a job to be done. The leader acts as the groupâ€™s emotional guideâ€ (Goleman, Boyatzis, McKee, Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence, Harvard Business Press, p. 5).I have no doubt this is correct, but for some reason I donâ€™t think it always should apply to spiritual leadership. God granting Israelâ€™s demand for a king like other nations was a concession that lead to innumerable woes. Moses was not a natural leader, and he knew it. Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, now THEREâ€™S emotional assurance! Paulâ€¦ emotionally compelling? Jesus? How did Jesusâ€™ emotions fair in the field of â€œtalent retentionâ€ (Primal Leadership, p. 5)?
I donâ€™t knowâ€¦ just questions. Another field that has incredible popularity these days is money and wealth. Book after book is being published and read. I read them too. But even though I agree with what they say, I have a very hard time applying their principals to my life. In his book, Five Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me, Evans claims, even before you hit lesson number one, is that I have to decide RIGHT NOW, before I read on, that I want more than anything else to be a millionaire. Same with Harv Ekerâ€™s book, Secrets of a Millionaire Mindâ€¦ before I go any further, I must decide that becoming wealthy is my number one priority! Well, I can understand that. But I have a huge problem jumping over this first hurdle to enter that kind of race. Do I want wealth acquisition to be my first priority?
Back to Bonhoefferâ€¦ what kind of church did he envision with the kind of leadership he wrote about? The pressure to be a charismatic, influential, contagious, and attractive leader is enormous today. But it seems that if you want the kind of church that is most desirable today, you have to agree to play by its rules of leadership. Like the books I mentioned on wealth: am I willing to jump over that first hurdle in order to enter that kind of race? Am I willing to be the kind of leader so promoted today in order to get the kind of church so proudly paraded today?