With Hurricane Sandy beating upon the Eastern seaboard … and headed north toward my position in New England … let me share with you a few provocative quotations from my soon-to-be-published book on church conflict (called Church Coup) before the power goes out.
While these quotations have been wrested from their context, they are designed to make all of us think.
Here’s the first one from Lloyd Rediger on page 53 of his book Clergy Killers:
“Because the church as a whole has succumbed to the business model of operation . . . the pastor has become an employee, and parishioners the stockholders/customers. The pastor is hired to manage the small business we used to call a congregation. This means his primary task is to keep the stockholders happy; the secondary task is to produce and market an attractive product. When this mindset infects the church, the church is no longer a mission but has become a business . . . the introduction of a business mindset is producing dissonance in the church continually. For though businesses advocate mission and discipline, the budget is necessarily the bottom line. This is the reverse of how a healthy congregation functions.”
“Administration is a necessary part of directing a church’s life, but administration must always be a means and never an end. When deacons and other lay leaders see themselves primarily as administrators, then control is likely to be more important than ministry. When deacons emphasize that they are a ‘board’ (not a biblical concept), or when elders call themselves ‘ruling elders,’ watch out. Control will become the primary issue.”
Here’s a third quotation from page 53 of Peter Steinke’s book Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times:
“When we are flooded with anxiety, we can neither hear what is said without distortion nor respond with clarity. Bruce McEwen, a neuroendocrinologist, comments that stress limits our repertoire of responses. Fixated on what is endangering us, we forfeit our imaginative capacities. We act with a small and sometimes unproductive repertoire of behaviors. With fewer alternatives, we act foolishly . . . . Our mind is set in imaginative gridlock, we obsess about the threat, and our chances of changing our thinking are almost nonexistent.”
“Confidentiality just increases the amount of fear in the system. If we believe that we cannot share what is going on in a meeting or in a conflict, the secretive aura enhances rather than diminishes assessments of just how dangerous this situation is. The more that is shared, the more that is talked about, the less threatening the experience . . . . I can’t say enough about the problems of confidentiality in organizational settings. In my experience the norms of confidentiality are serious barriers to managing conflict. Secrets inhibit rather than open up communication, secrets raise fear, secrets keep out people who might be able to help, secrets presume that truth will enslave rather than set one free, secrets are often lies that keep the accused from confronting them because he or she supposedly doesn’t know the ‘charges.’”