. . . posts on faith and life
When I lived in California I had the unique opportunity as a licensed minister of having my father as my Administrative Bishop. I am sure certain circumstances could have made this awkward. However, it was nothing but a positive experience for me. It also gave me the opportunity to learn from my father’s example certain things about leadership and integrity. Often I would be speaking with another minister in our region and something would come up about some ‘sensitive’ situation. A remark would be made along the lines of “I’m sure your father has told you about…” I was happy to be able to reply with something like this every time, “Actually, this is the first time I have heard about it.” It was always a surprise to the minister with whom I was speaking, and both of us would take a moment to admire the fact that my father was not one to speak inappropriately, even to his own son. Perhaps part of his motivation was to protect his family from ‘the dark side’ of church administration, but in the five years that he served as my Administrative Bishop I never witnessed anything that led me to believe that he was not seriously committed to confidentiality and edification in the words and subjects he chose to converse about.
I learned many lessons like this from my father. Perhaps one of the more striking ones came only months before denominational term limits forced him into reassignment. We were considering various possibilities about the development of our property at my local church. A possibility had been presented to him and he held a business meeting at our church in order to discuss it with all of the members. There was a wide variety of opinions on the possibility, and some of the opinions against it were quite strong. Since this was my church I knew where many of these individuals were coming from, what was motivating them, some of the wounds and mistrust that was driving them. I was fascinated to watch my father respond to some comments that were almost hateful. I was intrigued to see him stay calm, gracious, and differentiated, even when the comments became somewhat personal. He was never authoritarian, though he had some power within our structure to be. Yet, he was quite authoritative in his spiritual kindness and grace.
At one point I got a picture of just how sinful we are. Talking hatefully to other people, thinking we are minding the Spirit, or talking prophetically, but actually responding out of our personal hurts and motivations. It was like we were hurling our sin up there at that podium. And I watched as it swirled around that man who happened to not only be my Bishop, but my father as well. I was amazed to see his genuine smile, hear his gracious words, and feel the strength of his gentleness. I saw him bearing a burden of our sin. And I knew it was a small picture of what Christ has done for us. That day I learned that Christian leadership is much more than influencing others, it is offering one’s life for the sake of others, even when they hate you for it in return.