It happens every once in a while. Disagreement and dialogue here in the comment section. Most of the time the interaction is healthy. Sometimes the conversation is so good it generates other posts. And every once in a while I consider using my editorial privilege to delete a comment and block a reader.
I had one of those last week. My post I Dreamed I Was at the Southern Baptist Convention, and specifically my urging that we make it possible for the least connected in our congregations (who are the most connected to the outside) to host a group and invite their seeking friends and neighbors to join, prompted a number of comments as well as a conversation of sorts. Although the conversation ranged over several objections, it centered on what I would summarize as a debate about the importance of maintaining a very high bar of leader qualifications versus the relative lack of concern for the urgency of connecting anyone who is unconnected.
Upon further review…I’ve concluded that it is almost exactly the same debate found in Acts 15 where some, prioritizing the rules of the status quo, tried to put the kibosh on the grace oriented evangelism tactics of Paul and company:
“Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” Acts 15:1 NIV
I love Andy Stanley’s line from a message he gave on Acts 15 at LifeChurch.TV:
“I don’t know what the requirements in your church are for membership. I don’t know what the requirements in your church are for involvement, but I doubt they involve a surgery of any type.” (here’s the message it came from).
I don’t know if you can see the connection, but when it comes right down to it, I find the priority of connecting unchurched people in Jesus’ reaction to the needs of people in Matthew 9:36:
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” See also, God’s Heart for Unconnected People.
What do you think Jesus’ priority is (in regards to unconnected people)? Do you think Jesus would be content to insist on high entrance requirements for hosts/shepherds if it meant not caring for the harassed and helpless? Or would Jesus recruit those who would take the first step and follow?
Should I insist that small group leaders meet the standards of an elder if it means that I can’t find enough or recruit enough to connect as many as possible? Should I be looking for Jesus Jr. (and not accepting potential hosts who don’t meet those standards)…if it means that many will remain unconnected?
Should I insist on very high entrance requirements for leaders? Or should I make it possible for the least connected on the inside (and the most connected on the outside) to take a first step toward hosting a group…and then make development steps an easy and natural process?
Hear me…I am not saying that we shouldn’t care about leader development. I remain insistent that we can only expect the members to experience what their leader has already experienced. At the same time, I am certain that insisting on high entrance requirements excludes many from the care of a shepherd. See also, Life Change at the Member Level.
What do you think? Have a question? Want to argue? You can click here to jump into the conversation.