Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Unconscious Communication

I was reading a blog about military dogs this morning and saw a comment I found interesting. (See

The post was all about training the dogs to go into battle in Iraq and calmly return to their helicopter in a harness even after surviving attacks by the bad guys. Here is a summary of the comment that touched me deeply. "The feelings of the dog are transferred up the leash to the handler and from the handler down the leash to the dog. As long as I am calm my dog will stay calm."

This is a perfect parable to describe what happens in a family, church or an organization. The people at the top automatically transfer their feelings down the chain of command to the people. If a boss is anxious the workers will pick it up. If Mom and Dad are uptight the kids feel their pain.

The Bible says this clearly in I CO 12 about the family of God as well as the biological family. "When one member hurts we all hurt and when one member is joyful we all share the joy."

I have been reading a tiny bit about the proceedings at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. The over riding emphasis seems to be on the awesome genius of leaders. Leaders must be, it seems, most of all, great marketers, smart cookies and savvy communicators.

But so very little is written about the things scripture points out as the most important. That is the "Fruit of the Spirit" listed by St. Paul as "love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, meekness and patience." Just as military dogs feel the peace or anxiety of their handlers, members feel the fruit of their appointed leaders.

The Willow Creek folks also seem to make a big deal, a really big deal about the gap between leaders and followers. But my experience has been radically different. The "Leaders are Geniuses" position is what I call the "medical or priestly model" that originated several hundred years after the resurrection of Jesus. Before that, the key was not the size of the leader, e.g. his education, brilliance and savvy, but the size of the Spirit within the leader.

Just 300 years after the resurrection of Jesus and Pentecost the Middle East was alive with Christians whose inner spirits were alive and powerful. The medical/priestly model points to a few extraordinary leaders and experts to do all the real ministry while the Biblical Model points to an extraordinary God invading ordinary people at Pentecost.

As long as the expert handlers of the church have an attitude of superiority toward their people and call them such derogatory names as "volunteers" while they are called "leaders" the most mature Christians will drift away from Christian organizations. In fact, the research of Willow Creek has discovered that some 26% of their members are dissatisfied and dropping out.

No comments: