The first meeting of the group was short. Organizers used the time to help the group make introductions and start forming relationships. Most were strangers to each other. There was little group affinity because of its design. An accurate social picture of our community.
No one had any obvious advantage in the group. We were all newcomers, all strangers to one another, and without the usual stereotypes. Because of that equality, we each had a great opportunity to make new friends and become a respected voice in the group process.
Though this group was not organized by any particular values or goals, it was a perfect metaphor for the position in which a church planter finds himself/herself. Blank slate. Fresh opportunity. New community.
In the group there were wide-ranging opinions and philosophies, including a few who were specifically identified as representatives of various religious organizations, One was persistent in his self-descriptions as spiritual, committed to faith, and accomplished. The group was patient with the self-aggrandizement in the beginning.
Over months the group spent time together. Enough time to get to know each other and grow our relationships. Most did.
One did not.
Asking for special treatment, refusal to enter into the informal group processes, and constant self-promotion increased the relational distance and eliminated opportunity.
If given the chance I would suggest five things to him as well as to anyone seeking to plant a church.
- Don’t use self-descriptions; let others decide what you are. Even in the first century, the designation “Christian” came from outsiders. Only an observer can say whether one is living with integrity and according to claims.
- Join groups unconditionally. Making demands on a group only alienates and causes distance.
- Make the well-being of others your constant focus. Let Jesus be your model – he came to serve, not be served.
- Contribute generously to the group process. Be a team player. Lose yourself in the identity of the group. Avoid a you-them relationship. Let “we” be your mantra.
- Learn to enjoy diversity. Diversity can make you a better person because of the insights it will give you.
Sadly, the group came to disrespect the self-promoter. He lost his influence and all opportunities to supply a respected voice to the group. Earlier group patience gave way to irritation and worse.
There’s probably no way he can regain his standing.