Two weeks ago I was talking to some people about different leadership styles in the church, and how leaders handle various situations differently. At one point I was trying to express how I felt leaders should deal with all issues, especially those that, if mishandled, could cause resentment.
I’m not sure where it came from, but suddenly I said “they need to lead with grace”. I kinda liked that. Even impressed myself :) I liked it so much that I mentioned it several times today in a meeting I attended with several church members from across our mission center.
All church leaders, all ministers, all disciples, all members, when making decisions, when weighing options, when enforcing policies and positions, when dealing with both paid staff as well as volunteers, when dealing with issues of doctrine and theology, and in particular, when working through any controversial issue, *must* lead with grace.
In other words, we should not be cold, or heavy-handed, or callous in how we handle any matter that we are working through.
We are a church, and that means we are a community of people. And, as in all communities, there are differences of opinion, and sometimes, that requires people in positions of authority to invoke “the official stuff” (policies, positions, principles, church law, doctrine, theology, scripture, etc. etc.), and that is perfectly fine (especially if you’re making a reference to scripture).
However, how we deliver the message is of paramount importance. This is why it is imperative that when we do so, when we deliver that message, whatever it might be, we must lead with grace.
In fact, if we truly lead with grace, we might find an alternative solution that we would not otherwise have considered. As Stephen Covey discusses in his book “The 3rd Alternative”, there are always more than two courses of action. However, if we are unwilling to lead with grace, we might be blind to other possibilities.
Sometimes, we might feel that there are no options, because we do have policies that, if strayed from, may seem to warrant enforcement.
I’m in favor of supporting church policies. But we still need to lead with grace.
In 2007 President Veazey presented an inspired document to the church that was approved for inclusion in the Doctrine & Covenants as Section 163. That revelation includes the following words:
“Scripture is not to be worshiped or idolized. Only God, the Eternal One of whom scripture testifies, is worthy of worship….” -7b
This counsel was given to the church because, throughout history, mankind has had a tendency to worship scripture instead of God, to the detriment of many.
The Latter Day Restoration Movement, including Community of Christ, has not been an exception. We must not be so narrow minded and short sighted, that we, through our use of scripture, to justify our actions, or positions, etc., ultimately worship scripture instead of God.
The above counsel is not just guidance, but an admonishment, perhaps even a rebuke. And because of this guidance, the church is rightly moving away from worshiping scripture.
Yet, there are those who seem to worship policies. I have had conversations with people in the past who have almost become outraged to learn that, inadvertently, a particular policy was not adhered to. This has happened even when the policy was a minor one. I’ve actually been taken aback on these occasions at how annoyed people can be when this happens. It also has struck me as likely that if the policy in question were to be changed, or dropped from our books, they would not have cared. I sensed no loyalty to the particular policies in question, just an overzealous need to respond with sharp criticism over the fact that a policy had been strayed from.
Policies are not canonized, so if we can take the position that we should not worship scripture (even making that stance itself a verse of scripture), we would do well to not worship policies. Instead, we should lead with grace.
Section 163 also included this deeply profound statement:
“There are many issues that could easily consume the time and energy of the church. However, the challenge before a prophetic people is to discern and pursue what matters most for the journey ahead.”
In his 2009 “A Defining Moment” address to the church, President Veazey took the above, and transformed it into a question that he posed to the church.
“So, after all that is said, what matters most?”
The concept of what matters most was also referenced in Section 164, when we were told that the mission of Jesus Christ matters most.
As a question, “what matters most?” is a brilliant thing to ask. When we deal with anything, including church policies, we need to ask that question. Again, I’m not advocating that policies be ignored, but we should still take a moment to pause, and ask ourselves, “OK, truly, sincere, honestly, what really matters most here?”
Lead with grace.
I also love how that verse in Section 163 starts: “There are many issues that could easily consume the time and energy of the church.” Yes indeed. And that is why “the challenge before a prophetic people is to discern and pursue what matters most for the journey ahead.”
Lead with grace.
We are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ. We are not called to be Pharisees. But we run the risk of becoming just that if we fail to lead with grace, if we fail to consider what matter most. So, just keep it simple. Consider what matters most, and lead with grace. Always.
Lead with grace! ~ Lead with grace! ~ Lead with grace!