Exploring the Intersections of Faith and Life

SUNDAY, MAY 10, 2009

Finding Our Way Out of the Wilderness – Part 3: Insights into Trust and Leadership

Probably the most significant conversation that has come out of this experience of getting lost in the badlands has to do with the subject of trust. There was a moment when one of us surrendered to the leadership of the other in our quest to find the path out. My friend willingly put herself in second place, trusting me to find the right path that would lead us safely out. Later we talked about what had to be in place in order for one to surrender to another’s leadership in a risky situation, and she shared four specific things that I’ll list in a moment. But first, think about the kind of trust we ask our church members to have in us as leaders, to lead the church in ways that are faithful to our calling, or our understanding of God’s purpose for the church. We ask for a lot more than I think we realize, and the responsibility that goes with that trust is much more significant that I think we realize as well.

These are the four things we learned about trust in this situation.

1. Trust involves a physical component. One could only defer to the other’s guidance or leadership if they trusted that they would be physically safe in the process. In other words, my friend trusted me to have her safety in mind, and that I would not do anything unnecessarily put her in jeopardy.

2. Trust involves an emotional component. In this case, my friend trusted that she would have less anxiety and conflict if she followed me.

3. Trust involves a mental component. My friend had to trust that I was worthy of that trust, that I would do what I said, that I would be consistent, and that I would follow through. If in the past I had not shown that level of integrity, it would have been very difficult for her to commit to me and my leadership.

4. Trust involves a spiritual component, on two levels. On one level, it meant that my friend trusted that in spite of deferring to my leadership, she was still free to be her own person, that I was not going to oppress her or deny her, but instead would honor her and work with her. On another level, it meant surrendering to God. (Don’t worry, I’m not developing a god-complex here!) But there is a component of trust that I believe is only possible when we completely surrender ourselves to God and trust that through whatever situation we are in, whoever we are with, God is overall and works for good.

I will leave it to you to expand on these four as makes sense to you, and I hope you’ll share your thoughts by commenting. There is something very significant about this issue of trust that is vital for us to consider if we are going to have faithful, forward-looking churches. This could also be a very interesting conversation at a session meeting, if you’re up for it.

I do think that the level of trust we ask church members to have in us is huge. (By the way – the “us” isn’t just pastors, but all session members.) We are asking them to trust us on many different levels, and each level requires a kind of surrender, a willingness to give-up self and will to another. Here the spiritual component of trust is especially important, because I do believe they are asking us to not oppress them or abuse this incredible gift they give us with their trust, but instead to honor the leading of God, and to honor them as they follow to the best of their ability at that moment.

I also think about the responsibility that comes with that trust. When my friend handed me her trust on all those levels, it set me back for a moment. I wasn’t expecting it. And I knew it was huge. I was incredibly honored and profoundly humbled that she trusted me that much, and that sparked in me an even greater desire to be worthy of that gift, every moment. It still does, even though we are beyond that particular moment. When someone offers you that kind of trust, even briefly, it has the power to change both the one giving and the one receiving that trust in profound ways.

So as you seek to lead the church through these challenging, changing times, think about the trust your congregation places in you. Think about the trust you ask of them. Think about the honor and responsibility that comes with that offering. May we all be worthy, at all times, of such honor, for the glory of God.

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