dare to speak your mind

dare to speak your mind November 3, 2011

This happens in many organizations. You all know the high risk of accepting from authorities the invitation to speak your mind. When you dare speak your mind, you can feel something drawing a bead on you. You know you’ve opened your mouth and shared your thoughts and feelings to your peril. You learn pretty quickly that you keep your finger on the edit button.

Good friends and families are different. They can and should be places where you can be authentic and honest. That’s what good friends and families are… places you can be you with your distinctive personality, feelings and thoughts. The edit button is rarely played.

What’s the difference? Organizations have a purpose. They have visions and goals to be achieved. You are a cog in the wheels of the machine. You are there to serve that purpose and not irritate it. With friends and family there is no purpose. There is no vision. There is no goal. They just are. They are sanctuaries of being.

Now, organizations such as churches who determine to be a fellowship of friends and a family of loved ones… now that’s something to see.

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  • So what you are saying is you want people who will just let you be whoever you want to be without challenging you to live up to all you can be.

  • Tara

    As far as I can see, he didn’t say anything about not challenging people. Organisations are mindless machines that don’t care about the people within them. Friendship groups don’t have an ulterior motive, so they care about the people within them.

    Churches should care about the people within them – we are supposed to be known by the love we have for one another, after all – but all too often they run like mindless machines, following a specific purpose and not caring who they mow down in the process.

  • I’m sorry Tara but he did. Growth and change are goals and David advocates churches without goals. Any organization which isn’t about improving me isn’t worth my time, and those people aren’t really my friends. I believe what David is advocating amounts to very superficial yes-man type of relationships. Not healthy at all.

  • DrRRobert, Surely if churches have any role it should be to be places, like families, where we can truely be ourselves; to develop into the unique person that God wants us to be. Unfortunately too often they have become places which exist to further their own organisational structure and anyone who challenges that is seen as challenging the church.

  • Every group determines what is/is not acceptable. Churches are more stringent and will make you feel like crap (even ostracize you) if you dare to step outside the lines of their rigid ideals. Churches are cold and calculating where people are unable to explore and challenge and question and actually grow. Churches are about numbers and rarely about personal growth. Accountability groups are a reinforcement of further invasive tactics, driven by programs from a book.

  • @Robert

    “Any organization which isn’t about improving me isn’t worth my time…”

    Really? So what you’re saying is that you have no time for organizations which don’t impose their idea of what ‘should be’ on you? You don’t have the ability/confidence to discern what improvements you may need to make yourself?

    What I look for in an organization is one which works with me to help me to improve. Those organizations are about offering me opportunities. They are about creating a safe(-ish)environment to grow as needed and to find out all that I can be/are, and more recently, all that ‘we’ can be/are together.

    Organizations are not people They gain an essence of their own (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts?). Trusting an organization with ‘improving’ me is analogous, to me, with letting a computer program decide who my friends should be.

    The impersonal being of ‘organization/institution’ should be a tool, not the craftsman. If we let it be the craftsman and ‘improve’ us we tend to end up ‘improved’ into being as impersonal as it is and turned into a component of the organization.

    Robert, what your approach seems to advocate amounts to sublimation from human being to organisational project. Dare I say it: Not healthy at all.

  • David, David, David: of course we take a bead on each other. Yes…BUT is almost the first words out my goodwife’s (50 years) mouth when I say anything, weather, children, politics. Don’t keep turning up the victim-ness that goes with being a person, an individual. In church, in the office, in school, in family, among friends. Do you want to whine and complain forever? Abuse. “For your nonconformity, society whips you with its displeasure: ()Emerson) That word abuse (or stress) hadn’t been invented (used, abused) n the old good days. Now it’s all bully and wounded and heal heal heal. We’re damned (damaged and damaging if we do or don’t. That’s a given Get used to it.

  • Hugh- I agree that churches should accept us for who we are, while “spurring us on” to become all that God desires us to be. When churches fall into survival mode (no goals, no vision, etc) they become what you describe. That is not the way it is supposed to be. I apologize to you if that is what you have experienced.
    David W.- I apologize to you for the way you have obviously been mis-treated by the church. I do not at all find the ones I work with to be unaccepting of challenge and questioning (just sometimes unprepared to deal with it.)Churches do many times get focused on self-preservation (numbers), but it should always be about personal growth. This is what I travel around the country stressing. It may take time, but it will catch hold. Thank you for seeing the need of what we do. Accountability groups can be very helpful when the principles are true spiritual growth principles that we have said we are committed to. You can’t hold someone accountable to something they never said they would do. At the same time, it takes a true friend to risk confrontation, and hold us accountable to that which will make us better.
    David H.- Your picture with this post made me think of some of the people who post here, and what often happens to them when they disagree with you. Just sayin’

  • JP

    Bob Mansfield – why do you keep apologizing on behalf of the church? (in comments above and on the “naysayers” comments I believe). I’ve heard this kind of thing done many a time by ‘leaders’ and may have done it myself while pastoring. The apologizer assumes a certain authority here, and while the sentiment is appreciated, it can also come across as patronizing. How can you speak for the whole church?

    Empathizing seems different to me … as in, “I’m sorry your father was so cruel to you” (e.g. Judge William Adams) or “I’m sorry that you’ve had such bad experiences within church meetings or church organizations.”

    Forgiveness is a tricky issue in terms of who is authorized to ask for it and under what conditions is forgiveness given (does forgiveness mean no punishment or accountability?). Not trying to attack you here Bob, just trying to “challenge” and “spur on” some thought here. We all need to be challenged, so I’m calling out your self-appointed position of authority (do we have to call you “doc” by the way?)

  • John- Please don’t distort what I say. Read everything in it’s context. (One of the issues I see on this blog is that people try to isolate a statement that maybe doesn’t totally express the author’s intent, and jump on it in order to try to win an argument, instead of dealing head on with the real issues that the blog raises.) I determine what I need to grow- based on the word of God. I then only bother to associate with organizations that facilitate that growth. Simply put- I don’t just let the world decide for me what it thinks is good, I go instead to the Creator.
    You are correct when you say it is the people not the organization itself that helps with growth. Maybe it was wrong to make them analogous, but I believe that is what has been done here all along. If I carry out that argument, it is not really The CHURCH that is the problem, only the people in it (and I would add the people outside of it who leave it in the hands of the wrong people). We need to find the people who help us grow, even if we don’t totally understand what that means ourselves (how can we truly grasp a concept we haven’t gotten to yet), and keep looking for them until we find them, not give up because the last group we were with didn’t help us- by our definition.
    So no, I do not believe in sublimation to an organization, but I do believe in submission to my Lord.

  • JP- I’m sorry you took it that way(oops- guess I shouldn’t have said that).
    Seriously, as an ordained elder in the church I am not “self-appointed”. I have been called by God and that calling has been recognized by the church. (Much the same way the state authorizes me to solemnize marriages- as a representative of the church.) I think any representative of an organization can apologize for the behavior of the organization- it happens in retail all the time. Thus I do not claim any special authority beyond that established by God. I do grieve with and for those that have been hurt by an organization that I am an active leader in. Maybe I didn’t word it to your liking, but again, look to the meaning, not the poor way it is expressed. I am sorry that discussions like this are even necessary. I wish humans weren’t flawed and that the church ran the way it was intended. It’s what happens when sin enters in. As has been said in a couple of previous blogs, the only real cure is the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of each one of us.

    PS- Bob is fine.

  • I love the church I am in.

    We are free to speak our minds. We are free to have our doubts. We are free to be (and admit being) the real sinners that we are. There’s no phoniness/self righteous projects that are propigated. The opposite is true.

    It is a place where we can can come and her the truth about the way things actually are. In the world, and with ourselves.

    And then we hear what Christ has done about it.

    Not that we are perfect. We aren’t. But we theology of the cross types are certainly not utopians. We call a thing what it is, and we know that before the resurrection happens, we must first go through the cross.

    Freedom.

    What a great gift our Lord has given us.

  • jeremy

    there is a difference between a Goal and a Hope. If David didn’t “Hope” for people to grow, he would not make himself available in the ways that he has for people that are hurting and struggling…

    I also think David IS spurring people on towards “better”… free-er … self-liberation… spiritual liberation.

    And i think churches should “hope” for people to grow in their freedom (spiritual). You can challenge people to re-think their thinking without making them feel like shit… without making them feel like they are less spiritual/smart/connected as you. You can challenge people while allowing individuality and without cookie cutter paths.

  • I’m no longer a churchgoer – quick get me out of here!!!

  • Thanks for this man. I’ve been in a church organisation where I was made anathema for protecting others I would not allow to be demonised. I understand all too well. However I’m now part of a church organisation where the leaders let their faults & failings hang out. Disquieting for many who prefer ‘faith’ to mean prosperity, strength and blessing. Yet their humanity, warts n all, gives the necessary space for the community to grow right – without the pressure to perform, just to be. Its not slick or shiny and to call it professional deserves a belly laugh. Yet broken souls, like me, can find a space there due to thier courage.

  • Jeremy_ I don’t think I have an opinion on your first paragraoh. I totally disagree with your second, and totally agree with your third. I think Steve and Mark prove the point.

  • Second your post: DrRobert

  • JP

    Bob – thanks for your response. I liked the language of “I’m sorry you took it that way”, especially the singular personal pronoun 🙂

    In terms of calling and authority – God may call, or perhaps does indeed call, and that calling is recognized (accurately or not) by different groups of people. I would say that one segment or tradition within the church has “recognized” or “affirmed” your sense of call; maybe they were even the vessel through which God’s call to serve as an elder came.

    I’m not sure if you were implying that “the church” as a whole (visible, invisible, true, untrue, whatever …) recognizes your call, so I don’t want to put those words in your mouth. However, as a point of discussion, I think people are recognized as persons of authority/leadership/spiritual gifting/ etc. by particular groups and it seems that God has established not one authority, but multiple Christian authorities who agree on a lot and also disagree on a lot too. The plurality of Christian voices and dissenting opinions makes the question of who has more truth, or the truth, or authority to represent the church accurately, murky.

    JMHO – thanks for the dialog.

  • One might take the stance that you either accept the corporate culture and choose to operate within the clearly defined guidelines for behavior, or you don’t.
    One cannot, for example, join the Democratic Party and then cry foul because it is not identical to the Libertarian Party. That holds the Democratic Party to an unrealistic and unfair standard. If, for example, an individual or group of individuals effected change within the Democratic Party to make it identical to the Libertarian Party, then it would be the Democratic Party in name only. I would think that those in “responsible charge” of the organization have an inherent right and/or duty to prevent this type of change from happening unless there is a majority referendum within the group to back such change.
    Now, if the organization attempts to stifle dissension that does not in any way threaten the existence and identity of that organization, then we are talking about a level of control that can only be described as suffocating and evil. This I’ve witnessed many times in many place, not just churches.

  • Jesse

    I think what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone, some want to be challenged, some dont. Some want help with self improvement, some realize the only person that can help them is themselves.

  • @DrRobert Mansfield,
    “…I believe what David is advocating amounts to very superficial yes-man type of relationships. Not healthy at all.”
    I took the exact opposite away from this post. I saw it as a protest against those organizations that would look to weed out and eliminate those who are not ‘yes men’.
    Either our interpretations are colored by our different world-views or I missed something important…

  • TGM- (a moniker I doubt is totally accurate)
    What I saw that concerned me was the idea of a fellowship that was all about feel good. Don’t say or do anything that ruffles my feathers- tell me I’m ok, even if I’m not. I would much rather have friends who once in a while step on my toes and help me succeed, then just commiserate with me because I failed, when I didn’t have to.

  • @DrRobert Mansfield,
    Ah, that reminds me of my business partner before we straightened things out. He claimed that by being critical, I was not being fully supportive. Ughhh…we went back and forth forever on that point…what a pain.
    Yes, I get what you mean. I guess we just took away different things from the post. It’s what makes the world go ’round.
    BTW, The Godless Monster thing is a carryover from my younger days when I was active in fundraising for anti-communist, conservative causes. I even got a signed letter of praise and support for my work from Robert K. Brown, the founder of the Omega Publishing Group who put out Soldier of Fortune magazine. I was what you might call “extreme right-wing”. I considered Reagan a liberal. But I digress…
    I often referred to commies back then as “godless monsters”.
    Still a staunch anti-communist, but now an atheist. 🙂

  • Robert, please note that I took what you said in context. There is no argument to be won here. I offered my perspective and asked some questions in order for you to clarify any misunderstanding. The language of the part I quoted said something fundamentally different to me to what you said in the clarification. There was no distortion, only a genuine reading of what was put, even if it did turn out to come across in an unintended way.

    Just on unintended meanings: I didn’t say it was the people not the organisation which helped. I believe that both can. Were we get into trouble is when we allow the organisation to continue long enough to become master rather than servant, the craftsman rather than the tool.

    I know this explanation gets long, but what I see happening all too often is an organisation is started up by people to serve a need or answer a question, then the organisation develops its own needs (eg. it needs to survive in order to be in existence to serve the need it was founded for, it needs resources to achieve the goals set for it), the organisation then somewhere along the line becomes more important than the people it serves and the people begin to serve it. We’re then in a situation where people have to change to suit the organisation. The organisation has a life and demands of its own. It’s not human life, it’s an organisation’s life (the life of an ‘other’). When people are no longer able to work within their needs and the needs of the organisation at the same time there is a clash of needs and the organisation’s needs tend to win. At this point the power balance is far in favour of the organisation over people.

    That’s when speaking your mind becomes particularly dangerous and, unfortunately, that’s how organisations naturally develop. The payoff is that an organisation lives beyond the lifespan of its creator/s. For many on this blog, and I’m finding that for many in what we might call the ‘post modern’ generations (born after 1980), the price is no longer considered worth the payoff. It seems to be preferable for them/us to have a personal but temporary solution to a question than a permanent but impersonal solution.

    @Mark, that’s a great description of your current group. I really hope I can find/gather a group over here much like it.

  • Sometimes it might be a matter of confusion over roles or our place within the group or the universe at large.
    There was a Lt. Colonel who I was assigned to protect and he tried (unsuccessfully) to treat me as if I was one of his troops, even though I was a PMC (private military contractor). I reported to the man, but my ass belonged to The Company and it just ate him up to no end. It was a conflict that never should have been.
    In the case of believers, they have an obligation to report to this or that individual or group within their organization. Still, the leaders should never lose sight of the fact that their flock belong (according to their beliefs) to a higher entity and that free will and free expression are something that emanates from that entity. The organization should avoid incursions into those domains that they do not hold claim to.

  • David Taylor

    Many (myself in the past included) have mistaken the organism (a living body) for an organization (a business with officers, goal, profits etc…)Most of these “organizations” have a very low view of the Holy Spirit’s ability to lead into all truth the way Christ said he would. They trust the educated leader to lead into all truth. They have a low view of the “New Heart” as well to listen to the Holy Spirit and grow, change, learn and hear Jesus voice (I seem to remember Jesus saying his sheep could hear him).They often tell their people what worthless sinners they are and how properly disciplined the leadership is. Living things seem messy and inefficient to many business minded believers who often wind up as leaders in church. They run the organization with a what’s good for the organitazion in mind and often the people who want to ask questions, who struggle to meet performance expectations {the christian walk is reduced to performance giving, serving -the church organization, keeping sins off a particular list (ignoring the heart)and an ability to regurgitate spoon fed theology}the low performers are “disciplined” into performing outwardly regardless of inward conditions or are left in the dust of the organizations progress. Those left in the dust are vital body parts not to be left behind because they are messy but vital parts in an organism (the living body of Jesus). In an organization we replace the ones we’ve fired for poor performance with new converts who will better perform up to corporate expectations. The true body of Christ is shredded and bleeding and scattered on a thousand hills while the organization marches onward churning out sucess as they define it. What carnage the organization is leaving behind favoring an organization over the organism. Church is not an organization of believers…it is the believers. Having been a church leader I realize I have much to learn about how sheep follow shepherds who care for them like Jesus not ones who have a goal to grow the biggest flock and want all the sheep to march inline. Sheep are really lousy at organization but wolves are the masters of it…just to provoke the pondering here.

  • @David Taylor,
    Awesome comment. You described a Church of Christ congregation I used to belong to many years ago. Good points you made here. I wonder if any of this might apply to non-religious organizations?

  • David: I love your last sentence best. perfect!

  • David Taylor

    Perhaps my last line could inspire a cartoon…. I’d be honored… 🙂

  • There is something I remember about the church not being about “making nice people nicer.” If it is about self-improvement then I really should go to the gymn and to the hair salon. Truly.

    The way we are transformed in the church is through the humility of receiving from God and from each other. And asking, praying for help from God and from each other. This mutuality without pride or pressure is the wonderful thing.

    It is easily ruined, but that’s where we start again from the beginning, get up again. It is endless while here.

    A family and an organization are not that dissimilar. In a family and friendship circle you also have dynamics, and often highly destructive ones, at that. This is nothing new.

    What someone said the other day among my FB friends: “What does the church do? The church prays.”

    It is the right posture and when serious about that, the right things will happen. (First commandment first.)

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