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  • Training Leaders | It’s Messy

    Jim Wallace

    “This mess needs to be cleaned up.”

    I heard my parents say this countless times growing up. My own kids have now heard it innumerable times from me. Truth be told, I continue to hear it from my wife — usually from the kitchen after a big meal when I’m trying to lounge on the couch.

    Messes make us uncomfortable. Being unkempt tempts us to insecurity. We want to present a face that “has it all together.” Others (especially our supervisors and subordinates) also like it if we “have all our ducks in order.” Otherwise things would be inefficient, even embarrassing, for them. And aren’t our worlds are already too full of chaos and messiness?

    Thus there is a longing within us to have order and cleanliness (not altogether a bad thing). A desire to bring order out of the chaos. To bring balance to our universe. To create a network without glitches. To build systems that are streamlined and efficient.

    We might pull up short of saying that we’re attempting to create an idyllic garden where we can flourish in tranquility. Moving from architectural and mechanical metaphors to those of an agricultural bent exposes us. Such theological figuring takes us to places of dirtiness. To seeding hard soil, fertilizing with feces, whacking at weeds. To messy work depending on the cooperation of the weather. Work that sometimes doesn’t yield the desired harvest, even with hard labor and patience. Messy.

    Which brings us to a hard left turn of a topic shift.

    Is there a way to do leadership development for the church in a non-messy way? Is there a way to do leadership development with the church minus the mess, given it is inhabited by messy people?

    Let’s conclude part three of this series on ‘training leaders’ by adding a few questions for further consideration:

    If you developed leaders in a fuss-free process, sanctified from fussy saints…

    …how would that shape their calling to Christ and the church?
    …how would they likely approach the training of other disciples?
    …how would you be sending them to the church and world?

    And how has the Lord trained you through the messiness of ministry?