Differentiation in the Rural Church

Differentiation in the rural Church is necessary.  We cannot be ‘The Church of Everyone’s a Hand’, but we also need to have more than one hand in every body.  The Church’s unity in Christ is found also in the unity of God as we worship.  At the same time hangers-on and the legalising mentality of some people at times of conflict and stress can be unhelpful[1].  Must we really all conform so forcefully to survive this moment?  How compelling the party line is usually associated with how great the outside influence towards anxiety.  This is where dictatorships win the day, in the fall of the Weimar Republic just as much as in the “circled wagons” of the Evangelical Right.  However, as in the case of the fall of (once triumphant) Sovietism, the imposition of dictatorships based on hard conformity sows the seeds for rebellion and revolution.  Togetherness based on diversity and selfhood is life-affirming and inclusive, seeking to explore difference through curiosity and discussion of each other’s uniqueness rather than proscription of sameness and angst of difference.  More blessed are the confident and flexible who are less likely to label and judge others for being their other selves for they shall see cooperation and completion of the task at hand.  Where mutual respect is weak and others are seen to be wrong the path to change is much more difficult.  Such a community is reactive and anxious rather than collaborative and effective.  Communication and trust are lacking in such a people. A siege mentality can only foster closed mindedness, which is dangerous when innovation and creativity to face difficult situations is what is actually required. A differentiated leader can take a well-defined stand while remaining connected in a meaningful way with others.  Poorly differentiated people act like viruses, not healthy cells; such people are infectious and parasitic.  DON’T get caught in the “emotional triangles” of gossipy anxiety and getting stuck in other people’s problems.  A well differentiated leader is like a blastocyst, a non-anxious presence, who can tolerate other people’s discomfort to remain confident in self.  Bad leaders try to sabotage good leaders, the good leader’s non anxious response is the sign that he/she is succeeding.  A good leader is a skilled observer of individual differences, e.g. Jesus’ dealing with each of Mary and Martha.

[1] Ronald W. Richardson. Creating A Healthier Church: Family Systems Theory, Leadership, and Congregational Life. (Minneapolis MN: Fortress Press, 1996), 58.

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