Thursday, December 1, 2011

User Agreement

   Epiphany. Our English word is made up of a preposition (upon) and an infinitive (to appear) and is used of a “flash of insight”. While I wrote previously about the relationship between inspiration and perspiration, sometimes this insight occurs when we are sitting still and simply watching and listening.
   It was in such a context that my recent ones occurred. I must confess: I like being the outsider, the observer, the critic without a dog in the fight. It gives me a definite advantage of being emotionally insulated from otherwise uncomfortable issues and consequently having a vantage point ideal for an epiphany. But a certain degree of knowledge and experience in a given discipline provides the fertile soil from which insight will occur.
   There we sat in a circle, a group of men ranging in age from 30 something to 60 something with an assignment of assessing the first plenary session. The questions were quite simple: What had we heard and what did it mean? Everyone there was currently engaged in ministry at some level serving in either the northeast US, Canada or Alaska. I was the only pastor whose income is derived entirely from my church. They, on the other hand, were denominational employees, held accountable to a system for their support. The denomination had declared a new emphasis on church planting with an elevated requirement on the existing employees. No Grandfathering was considered.
   It was in this context that the complaining began. It struck me as odd. Here were men who, no doubt, were committed to the kingdom, loved the Lord and wanted to share the gospel, yet they were getting seriously worked up over a new set of expectations that fell well withing the framework of their spiritual commitments. Such contradictions stimulate my mental juices. Then, it happened. I got it! Eureka! The epiphany of that moment not only explained what was happening then, but what happens in marriages, businesses and churches and is at the heart of the dynamics of change.
   It’s been reported that the lie most frequently expressed in America is that associated with the use of computers. Before we can access the benefits of a new website or software there appears that annoying “User Agreement”. You know how it works. A page appears with a checkbox at the end which says something like, “I have read this and agree to comply”. We have to check the box before we can proceed. I am guilty along with millions of Americans of seeing the page, checking the box, then getting on with the program without reading the contents. I lie and so do most of you. I have just “signed off” on the agreement because it costs me nothing to do so. It is the difference between “signing off” and “signing on”. Were those men in that circle Grandfathered in, they would have been glad to sign off on all of the change because it would cost them nothing. Isn’t discipleship, spiritual leadership and church planting about knowing the cost, counting the cost and “signing on” to paying the cost?