I don’t like to think about my enemies because, most of the time, I pretend that I don’t have them. But if I’m honest, of course I do. It’s always so much more personally productive and gratifying to subconsciously crucify “those people”–especially my leaders–that I dislike or have hurt me.
Instead, I prefer to believe, in my pride, that I’m one of the most likeable people I know: a capable leader who’s winsome, articulate and inspiring to follow. Unfortunately, while I might think these shiny, happy attributes are accurate descriptors of my own character as a leader; I often grow impatient, judgmental, and downright cantankerous as a follower. As I think about leadership and followership in my own life, I happened across a quote by Henry Longfellow recently that has stuck with me. He’s quoted as saying,
“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life, sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
This quote serves me like a hot branding iron to what’s left of my right frontal lobe. I feel the need to recognize in myself the fact that some people just don’t (or won’t ever) like me personally or as a leader. But it’s also a call for serious reflection and understanding to not take my leaders’ mistakes so personally myself–that my leaders are indeed sinful, busted-up humans just like me and Christ calls me to move toward them, love them, forgive them, reconcile with them and forbear with them as a rule of everyday Christ followership, not as a subconscious afterthought.
I’ve often said lately that it’s a miracle of God’s grace that Blanchard Warrenville has survived these past five years.
As leaders at Blanchard, we’ve given plenty of people the opportunity to be angry with us over the mistakes we’ve made in launching our second campus. I wasn’t here during those early days, but I can’t help but admire the guts it took to actually act on our faith that way–pretty inspiring, God-honoring stuff. In some ways, we’ve led well. For instance:
- We definitely knew that, if Warrenville was to succeed, God would have to empower His people by His Spirit to make it happen. And, without question, we can testify to God’s power at work to sustain us these past five years.
But there’s a more than a few examples of problems that have been more tricky to put up with as “followers”…
- We didn’t know (or fully understand) how expensive the property we purchased at Warrenville was going to be to develop–particularly the water and drainage issues.
- Of course we didn’t anticipate the Great Recession or how challenging and expensive maintaining our Warrenville property would be in that context or our Wheaton campus beginning to show its 20-year age.
- We didn’t recognize how costly it would be to obligate every parent to serve in childcare over the last five years–while very well-intentioned (and still very effective!–over 80% of our parents regularly volunteer to serve our kids–pretty amazing…)
- We didn’t realize how challenging it would be to nurture the rich relationship we would continue to share with our Wheaton campus along the way–although it’s been remarkable to watch how John Casey and especially James Grout of late have continued to be a part of the teaching team at Blanchard Warrenville.
- And, as Campus Pastor, I know I haven’t done a great job of championing Wheaton’s campus life at Warrenville (or vice versa…)
Frankly, I’m surprised at how forbearing people at Blanchard have really been. Still, a lot of folks have left us from the original launch.
But, praise God, most of us are still here. God’s still “forming a people at Warrenville to glorify him everywhere.” I wouldn’t say we’re thriving yet–but I do believe we’re on the cusp of some beautiful things to come…
Right now only 40% of our adults are connected to small groups at Warrenville. I believe that must at least double in the next year for us to move toward more meaningful and formative discipling relationships. That requires me championing an intentional strategy for developing and equipping more small group leaders and launching a significant number of new groups this coming fall.
Despite our readily apparent warts and flaws at Blanchard, a couple who recently attended a family function at another church came back to Warrenville so grateful for the tangible and rich presence of the Holy Spirit alive and speaking to us there during our worship gatherings. I share their enthusiasm. I’m also so excited that we continue to make real strides in incorporating our kids into our worship gatherings.
I love that our church is so full of young families and kids! Our desire is to include them as often as possible into our worship teams throughout the summer. It’s critical for all the generations present at our worship services to have a meaningful voice as we listen to God together.
So, people of God at Blanchard Alliance Church (Wheaton and Warrenville), this is a call for both you and me to trust God as he guides our leaders and all of us in our relationships with one another–we often have much more in common than we give each other credit for. That’s really no secret at all as common sinners saved by grace. So, in that humbling light, let’s be both Christ-honoring leaders and followers.