Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Working together to advance the common good

I guess we should not be surprised that the congressional panel set up to cut spending failed to reach an agreement.  Washington has been broken for years and incapable of providing any real leadership that would actually benefit the country.  Former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neil, was famous for his line that all politics is local.  What he meant by that was that as long as a politician in Washington made sure he kept the streets paved back home, got a few jobs for some of the locals, and earmarked a few million dollars for his district he was certain to get re-elected no matter what he did on the national scene.  Unfortunately, his words are still true today.  People complain about the professional politicians in Washington and how all the incumbents should be voted out, but of course they are not including their own representatives in that mix.  As long as their representative keeps the gravy flowing into his or her local district they will continue to be re-elected.  Somehow that seems like that should almost be considered buying votes, but of course we'll never see that passed into law.  In the meantime, our nation continues to slide further and further into a debt hole that we may never escape.  The people who supposedly represent the people should be proud that the nation continues to grow weaker on their watch.  They should also be reminded of that at the next election and voted out of office and forced to return to the real world where people are out of work, losing their homes, and struggling to put food on their tables.  Personally, I am in favor of voting out every incumbent that runs for office in the next election.  Enough of the political rant.  Unfortunately, some of what I've written also applies to the church.

How many churches are stuck because their leaders cannot agree on the best way to move forward?  I recently attended a meeting where the pastor and church leaders were at a stalemate.  What each of them were proposing was not acceptable to the other party.  It looked for a time like the pastor's time at that church was about to end when one of the lay leaders suggested a possible compromise.  Almost immediately both sides recognized that they could live with the compromise.  The remainder of the meeting was spent discussing how to move forward with the new plan.  I was excited for the pastor and the church because I saw real leadership being displayed, and with that kind of leadership good things can happen. 

I also know that such compromise would not have occurred in all churches.  I've seen too many instances where two sides dug in and refused to give even an inch, and in every one of those cases the church suffered.  At the root of such situations I believe there is a lack of vision that unifies the leadership.  In my workshops I often define conflict as two or more visions competing for the same space.  In the church above the leadership did share a common vision which allowed for a compromise to be reached that would allow them to continue to pursue that vision.  In the churches where compromise is not possible, each party comes to the table with their own vision and goals and the belief that only they know what is best.

This is what happened with the congressional committee.  The Democrats had their agenda, and the Republicans had theirs.  Unfortunately, neither of those agendas included finding out what would be best for America and working together to make that happen.  They failed in their leadership and do not deserve to represent the American people again.  When leaders in the church put their own best interests above what is best for the church and the Kingdom of God, they have also failed in their leadership.  We must learn to work together to advance the common good for both our nation, our churches, and for the Kingdom of God.

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