Friday, July 27, 2007

Dualism in Christian Culture

Since CSU, I have been pondering how much dualism influences Christian culture and thought. Dualism being separating heaven and earth, spiritual from natural, into two spheres that do not intersect. This sort of paradigm seems very much present in how many Christians perceive God to be outside of them and their experience, not taking into account or understanding the Holy Spirit and even God's hand in sovereignly ordaining all of their steps, not just the ones after they received Christ or when they go to a really neat Christian conference :)

It troubles me to listen to so many believers talking about God in this sort of language, and longing for experiences where they can experience God. God seems like something they need to get, rather than enjoy. Our leadership culture and philosophy has lots of this influence as well. Leadership is seen primarily in the context of understanding and then acquiring skills, or leadership abilities, with the assumption that they at the time do not have them. Consequently, many that join staff do not even consider how God has been shaping them for ministry leadership since birth. Secular jobs, what college they went to, close friends, trials, are all part of a life before ministry.

Why is this so dangerous and troubling? First off, this kind of paradigm stifles creativity and passion in leadership. If people are told and learn they need skills to lead, then they spend most of their time and energy trying to get these skills, and then lead out of them. Meanwhile, people under them, consciously or not, experience them as 'heady,' 'task-driven,' or even passionless. I think it's safe to say everyone on staff is determined, support-raising will do that, but determination is not what wins people's hearts and captivates them to a degree where they want to follow wholeheartedly that person. Second, so many staff lack vision because they see it as a skill set, not an embodiment and manifestation of what God has been, is, and wants to do in their lives and the lives of those in their leadership sphere. Finally, and this drives me insane, is that so many staff, including myself, are constantly seeking to use other people's models that are successful. Now there is definitely some wisdom in learning from others and adopting different strategies, but that's not what I'm talking about here. What I'm talking about here is when new leaders, either on a campus or on a project, lead from models that 'work' and are perceived as successful by the dominant culture, which by the way is the same dominant culture that reinforces and passes on skill-based leadership. Perhaps the reason we haven't seen growth in exponential terms is due to the fact that we as an organization, particularly in campus ministry, are playing it safe and settling for the known for fear of the unknown.

I have much more to say on this, but this will suffice for now. I'd love to hear any thoughts or comments.

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