There will always be a time after you.
Leadership is the ability to work for the team, not the ability to make your skill set indispensable.
I hate bubbles.
Let me clarify, I love actual bubbles. There used to be this whole area of Silver Dollar City where anyone could put themselves in a giant bubble. I loved seeing the swirling rainbows all around me as the bubble was pulled up around my body. I also love seeing actual bubbles in general. I think part of that fascination is their use in the movie Labyrinth. I want to catch one like David Bowie did, not that he ever really did, but still wanting to try.
What I hate is leadership bubbles.
Leadership bubbles are situations where one person makes themselves indispensable by creating a skill set they do not help others earn. The system runs great while they are in it, but the moment they leave, the bubble pops, and everything fails.
When you know an institution would fail if that one person leaves, you know you've met a bubble maker.
I don't want to be in the bubble making business.
I'm in a strange place with Fig Tree. I'm like a mother with a toddler. I'm both protecting and empowering. These are formative years, years that set the tone for the remaining years.
At the same time, I HATE the Melissa show! The Melissa show is one big bubble, waiting to be popped.
It's technically great for me. I get all the focus. It's terrible for Fig Tree. I've always had bigger vision for this, and it never ended with me. I saw a ministry for the broken, not just me talking about it in front of a camera or in a blog. I saw digital ministry being more than a Sunday worship.
I'm guarded with my celebrations, it's because I've always been playing the very long game. I could write or produce something, and it could get thousands of views, but until there is more than me doing it, it's a failure. Not because it's a failure right this minute, but because we're at a point where if I were to die tomorrow, Fig Tree and everything it has been building up to be, would die with me.
I see the potential, The loss of what could be, is greater than what we have now.
Church is not a business
Corporations have trained us to be bubble makers. We want our specific skill set to be so unique that upper management can't easily replace us. It turns skill into a resource, and takes community out of the equation.
Church can't work that way. True, we are individuals, each with our own perspective. It's impossible to see the world through anyone else's eyes. It is through our individual perspective that God calls us to be a communal group. We must trust God enough to make our skill set a communal skill set. To trust in God's overarching story over and beyond our desire to be more than obsolete. We are never obsolete in God's eyes when we are in a true community of believers.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and moving on finally to the first.’ 9 When those who were hired at five in the afternoon came, each one received a denarion. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each of them also received a denarion. 11 When they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 ‘These who were hired last worked one hour, and they received the same pay as we did even though we had to work the whole day in the hot sun.’
13 “But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give to you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’ 16 So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last.”
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Matthew 20:8-16 CEB
Your value is not in your salvation. Also, your worth does not go up once you've found salvation.
We are called to treat people like their value.
God has deemed everyone has value. Everyone is priceless.
The lost coin still had value even though it was lost.
The lost sheep still had value even though it was lost.
The prodigal son still had value while eating the pig's slop.
My younger self saw Matthew 20 all wrong.
I was baptized when I was eight. It was a personal choice, one that my father let me make when I felt ready to make make it. I had heard Matthew 20 preached 4-5 times before seminary, and every time the minister never had me hooked. The longer I was a Christian, the more I realized I was the grumbling workers. I was putting in a full day's work, for the same pay as the ones that came at the last hour.
Every minister I had heard had taken this pay being salvation. I don't think so.
Coming to work is salvation. The denarion is placing value on the people. All of us have value. Just because I was baptized when I was eight, grew up in the church, and eventually went to seminary and was ordained, doesn't make my value any higher than anyone else. Instead of grumbling, I should see what is lost.
There are so many in this world who cannot see their inherent value. Be it because of Christians that have overinflated their own value, or circumstances that have demoralized and brought the person low.
I'm not the same person who started this Christian journey. I've gone from a puffed up idiot, grumbling to God about fairness, to helping others see they deserve as much as anyone else, even those who have been lost most of their lives.
That changes the ending of Matthew 20. We choose whether it's good or bad to be last.
If we're in it for ourselves, the ending is punishment by being put in our place at the end of the line.
If we're in it for the whole, everyone, the ending is reward. We have the opportunity to see people discover they have worth. It's a celebration of God's generosity. "Wow, God! Those people found themselves, and you gave them their own finder's fee! I'm glad I got to see that."
That's where our hearts and minds need to be. Jesus often didn't make the "new way" a path that had never been walked, but a new perspective on the path we walk every day.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Eight years ago, I tried to wrap my head around church abuse. Not only had I been witness to it on multiple occasions, people were beginning to come to me with stories. They were stories different from my own, but contained the same vulgar grains. All but one attempted to cover over or cover up the indiscretion. All were attempting to gain or keep power. I remember pulling out Matthew 18:15-20, and seeing it for the first time for the victim.
15 “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you’ve won over your brother or sister. 16 But if they won’t listen, take with you one or two others so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses. 17 But if they still won’t pay attention, report it to the church. If they won’t pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector. 18 I assure you that whatever you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. And whatever you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven. 19 Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.”
Matthew 18:15-20 CEB
I needed the church to engage the guilty in this very way. Talk to them privately. If that didn't work, have two or three talk with them. If that didn't work, make it a whole church matter. I felt like church abuse, in all it's forms involved augmenting, hiding, and destroying. God's light needed to get in there and exact some good change.
Well, let's just say any scripture can be used in multiple ways. When it comes to broken churches, they break scripture.
In a broken church, abusers will use this scripture to attack the abused.
When a tool is turned into a weapon
There are a few ways broken churches break this scripture:
If your brother or sister sins against you...
If you're a minister, and planning on preaching this scripture on Sunday, realize the power it wields.
When weaponized, it can destroy your church from the foundation up. It won't be an obvious destruction. It will crack your foundation and seep into your walls like black mold. The only people who will see what you've done are the ones you've hurt.
If used as Christ intended, to bring us to wholeness. It's meant for church disputes, not abuse.