I’ve been watching the political process culminating in the two party conventions with an ulterior motive. I want to know which party has a healthy organization, is the American democratic experiment on the fritz, and how any of this applies to the local congregation and its struggles to remain relevant and united. As they say about good manure, "there’s something to be gained from every shovel-full," and, "there’s a science to good compost." The science behind a healthy church is for its leaders to intentionally manage the organizational system for good, not evil.
Healthy systems cultivate new leadership in a way that both instills historic values and remains accessible to gifted people of the next generation. After watching both conventions, I am convinced that the American political process is under stress, but not broken. The Bernie Sanders campaign proved that someone without wealth or noble birth can be a contender for the political process’s highest office. The Trump campaign is demonstrating that one does not need connections inside the organization. The republicans are willing at least to nominate someone who brings an outsider’s perspective. The struggles of Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are proving that name recognition isn’t the golden ring that it used to be.
All three candidates are old, and nobody representing the postmodern perspective of today’s 20 to 35 year olds can be noted in the pipeline. The infamous photograph of Paul Ryan and the all-white congressional interns is symptomatic of a problem for both parties. One has to be wealthy, or at least of the right demographic within the party that holds your district, to live in Washington for a year without pay. What is the first rung of the ladder like for a bright, black, woman living in rural Texas? What is it like for a young person who holds opinions at odds with their congress person (a common situation with today’s gerrymandered districts)? A young Bernie Sanders would have a tough time getting a start in today’s political climate.
What lessons can be learned by the church in all this:
- Leadership formation is an intentional process that has to be talked about. Does everyone involved in children’s ministries appreciate the issue? Are they committed to diversity and showing appreciation to every child.
- Who gets invited into leadership cannot be dependent upon how closely aligned they are with the pastors and their agendas.
- Listening to the next generation is never optional.
Next week: Part 2 - Where have all the moderates gone?