On a recent road trip I was scanning the radio stations when I landed on a local talk show. They were speaking about politics, specifically about the partisanship that seems to paralyze any movement towards progress. As a response to a caller’s insistence that what was needed was more transformative leadership the host responded saying “transformative leaders require transformative people.”
I think this understanding speaks deeply not just about politics but also about the church. We are in the beginnings of a season of preparation, reflection and transformation. In many of our churches there is constant talk of decline, shrinking budgets, growing needs, and survival. Most of the conversation in my own local church turns on leadership, the lack thereof, the amount of time required, and the bad leadership of the past. Yet little if any time is spent considering how each of us as people of God can become transformative people.
I find this ironic given the fact that we proclaim a transformative faith. Our central story is the primordial example of transformation – death becoming life. Since when have we been about maintenance and ourselves? And when did we stop looking at ourselves as the source of the church’s decline?
Maybe we no longer take this primordial story seriously, we tell ourselves that new life is wanted:
- as long as it does not mean that I need to be reborn.
- as long as it looks like the one I’m living now.
- as long as we do not have to die to self and be about the other.
- as long as we do not have to see the way that God sees!
How long can we continue to ignore this? As a nation we continue to blame other people. Politicians and the so called “Washington establishment” receive most of the blame. In the church it is always the “judicatory,” or “bishops,” or “leaders.” If it wasn’t for these people we would be heading in the right direction, right?
When are we going to recognize that there is really only “us?” That we together are being called to make a difference. That sometimes what we see as important for us is not what is best for the common good. That our call is to love, give, and serve. Somehow in these actions transformation happens.
I guess I’m a little tired. As one of those leaders attempting to be transformational I’m worn out of attempting and not having any followers. I know I sound a little naïve but I’m one who thinks that transformation is possible – that even life from death can happen. No matter how strong, passionate, and how much resolve one has at some point one gets tired of being a transformative agent in the midst of a people that want no such thing.
Change is not easy for anyone and change for change sake is not what we are called to. We are called to a constant re-evaluation of the values that guide our walk as people of God and as members of this society. This constant re-evaluation is at the heart of the Lenten journey. Like the gritty ashes on Ash Wednesday, the process of transformation is edgy, coarse, and at times dry.
May God guide us to recognize our need to be re-reborn. No longer quick to point the fingers and place blame we need to commit ourselves to be agents of the change needed so that God’s kingdom can continue to be evident in the world. May we all become transformational followers of the most transformational leader that ever lived!