I mentioned a bit more than a month ago after my most recent trip to Charlotte that there were three things I’ve wanted to write about. #1: “The other side of ‘Twilight’” – Check. #2: “What the Maya did & didn’t say about 2012” – Check.
Today I finally finish the list of three! (Huzzah!) I have wanted for quite some time to write about my thoughts concerning the church leadership we have in Charlotte.
I am really in a blessed circumstance. As an area pastor, I get to visit Headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, much more than I normally would due to the work I do on the telecast. And further still, the nature of the work I do there allows me the great privilege of working frequently with Mr. Roderick Meredith and Mr. Richard Ames. Mr. Meredith is kind enough to ask folks to sit in on their weekly Executive Luncheons where topics are discussed and decisions are made concerning the daily operations of the church and other matters, and I have been thankful for the times I have been asked to sit in.
Now, I don’t say these things to toot my own horn (it’s more of a kazoo) or say that I’m something “special” (my wife helps me keep things in perspective in that regard). I have been as surprised as anyone that I have the humbling opportunity to do the things I do. Should the day come when God says that it’s time for someone else to do those things, I will be sad but I will also be terribly grateful for what He allowed me to do for a very special season in my life.
Rather, I say these things to offer some sort of qualification for the things I want to say below. I’m not on the Council of Elders, to be sure, but I do get to see inside Headquarters from time to time and, whether I deserve their time or not, thanks to the spirit of hospitality there I do get to spend time with those who “run the show.”
And from all I have experienced, I have to say that what I see going on in Charlotte amongst those leading the Living Church of God is nothing short of an answer to prayer. It defies all the uninformed criticism I have ever heard, and it truly represents everything I pray to find in the government of the Church of God.
The Executive Luncheons serve as a good example of everything I am talking about.
Mr. Meredith recently wrote in the Living Church News (Nov-Dec 2009) about the men who normally attend these luncheons: Mr. Richard Ames, Dr. Douglas Winnail, Mr. Dibar Apartian, and Mr. Davy Crockett. I thought that was a great article (I recommend it if you haven’t yet read it), and I appreciated the descriptions of those gentlemen. Mr. Meredith also described these luncheons there in this way:
We have an open and loving atmosphere in our meetings. We enjoy working together as “brothers” in carrying on this Work. Many serious topics are discussed, including doctrinal matters and problems facing the Work, but by regularly having such warm, brotherly interchanges—interspersed with humor and “kidding” each other—we are able to keep our balance and grow in love and faith to “finish the Work” as Christ indicated we certainly should.
Let me add my own thoughts about those meetings, based on what I have experienced.
Mr. Meredith has surrounded himself with men who give excellent counsel. I have been impressed from day one that Mr. Meredith seems to regularly act on the advice of Proverbs 11:14, and he has appointed around him men who give him real advice. Not what he wants to hear or what they think he will like, but real advice based on their own thoughts, opinions, and ideas.
Later in the same Living Church News article, Mr. Meredith says, “I have long recognized that every leader deeply needs honest and straightforward advice and counsel!” And from my experience there in those luncheons, this isn’t just lip service. Mr. Meredith has in no way surrounded himself with “Yes” Men who simply want to nod their heads and please their boss. They have seemed to me to be men who know that Mr. Meredith wants real counsel, and I believe I’ve seen them give him real counsel.
At the same time, though they are not “Yes” Men, they seem to me to be “Yes, Sir” Men. Yes, I made this term up, but hear me out…
In the course of worldly politics, we see factions. One party wants one thing. The other party wants something else. Given the lack of faith in God that exists in politics, I can understand – the participants truly feel that the world rests on things going “their way” so they fight to have it “their way” to the bitter end, regardless of the resulting confusion and bitterness that ensues.
However, I hope that we do not lack such faith in the Church of God. We do believe that Jesus Christ is the Head of our Church. We do believe that He is guiding decisions, and that success does not rely on our ability to “out vote” or “out politick” our “competitors” – rather, it relies on our ability to yield to Him and to be humbly responsive when He makes it clear which direction we should choose.
The democracies of the world rely on sight rather than faith – their confidence in the decision being bolstered by the numbers they see in the final vote. But, as in so many other aspects of the faith, the government of the Church requires walking by faith rather than by sight, and it advances in its responsibilities by humility rather than hubris, selfless assent rather than selfish ambition (cf. Gal. 5:20).
In this, I am inspired by what I see in Charlotte, as well. After honestly and openly discussing a situation, a decision has to be made. Sometimes the topic is large enough or the answer unclear, and a note is made to bring it up again, later, with the Council of Elders for a larger discussion. However, most items I have seen discussed at the Executive Luncheon are decided then and there. And from what I’ve gathered, everyone present leaves the meeting committed to making the decision work, whether the decision matched their counsel or not. That is, no one seems to go off and work against the decision – hoping that they can turn things around to go “their way” by working behind the scenes or talking the decision down among others.
I probably can’t communicate adequately how important this is to me.
When I pray that God inspire decision making at Headquarters for the sake of His people and His Work, I believe two things: One, one who is humble enough to receive that guidance consistently will consistently look for counselors to check his understanding of Christ’s mind on the matter, in accordance with the advice of Scripture. I discussed that above. But I also believe that even if the decision made is not the wisest (and we all do make mistakes), Christ is most free to roll up His sleeves and work in the Church when its leadership and those who work under it are free from a spirit of rebellion and infighting.
For instance, consider this entirely hypothetical situation. Let’s say that I get to sit in on a luncheon discussing the best ways to advertise our telecast, and the leadership is leaning towards using billboards. However, let’s say that I strongly feel otherwise, and I passionately advise Mr. Meredith that we need to advertise with giant bullhorns on top of cars that drive through cities like “old time” politicians used to do. (Please understand I am being hypothetical. HQ is not partial to billboards, nor am I partial to cars with bullhorns. Thank you. 🙂 )
But let’s say that the Church leadership disagrees with me and says that we ought to advertise on billboards. The decision is made: billboards not bullhorns.
Here’s where the rubber meets the road, and here is where – I believe – I have to make a choice… I’ve avoided being a “Yes” Man: I’ve given honest counsel, passionately believed in. Hopefully before hand, it has been a matter I have prayed about. So, what do I do now? Work to turn more and more additional people to my point of view or talk down the billboards decision until I can force it to be reconsidered? Well, if this were Washington D.C. – where the only road to travel is Carnality Lane – yes, I would probably do that. But it isn’t. It’s the Church of God, and it is headed by Jesus Christ. And I believe that Christ is big enough to direct His own church and that He does not require carnal behavior on my part for Him to do so.
So I choose to be a “Yes, Sir” Man. I’ve given counsel freely, a decision has been made by those responsible for making that decision, and I commit myself to making that decision work. (The last part is the “Yes, Sir” part.) After all, I have not only prayed for my own guidance, I have prayed for the guidance of the decision makers, as well (at least I should have). Does it mean that I automatically believe that I was wrong? No, not necessarily. I may still believe that bullhorns are the best way to go. But the decision, not being mine to make, has been made otherwise, and I want to jump in and do my best to make that decision work, not just “sit back” and wait for it to fail – or, worse yet, work for it to fail.
Why? Carnally, it does not make sense, perhaps. But if I believe in a Living Christ who is the head of the Church, it makes perfect sense. Because I believe that my rebellion does nothing to invite Christ to participate. I can almost hear Him say, “You think you can fix it by yourself, Smith? Go ahead – doesn’t sound like you think you need Me to do anything…” But I DO think that I need Him! When I take it on myself, I make the decision to cut Him off – including cutting Him off from helping me to see that I may have been wrong in the first place.
I believe that I give God and Christ maximum room to work when I avoid a rebellious, “make things go my way” attitude. Continuing the fictional scenario I made up above, if I am right about bullhorns vs. billboards and the leadership is wrong, I believe that I increase the odds of this coming about by submitting to the decisions that are made by those appointed to make them as opposed to continuing to “fight” for bullhorns, as ironic as that may seem.
It takes walking by faith and not by sight, and it takes faith that Christ REALLY IS the Head of the Church, but I strongly believe that it is, indeed, the right way.
And this is what I see at Headquarters in the leadership we have. I see confident and accomplished men who are in no way “Yes” Men – meaning that they give honest, straightforward counsel, in an atmosphere of love, respect, and openness. (And Mr. Meredith deserves credit for creating that kind of atmosphere, which makes all of this possible.) Yet, I see men who are “Yes, Sir” Men – meaning that when the decision is made, they put aside ambition and personal concerns (cf. Phil. 2:3) and work to make that decision successful, whether it coincided with their original advice or not.
The result is collegiality without chaos. Progress without politicking. Christ achieving things with and through men instead of Christ having to work in spite of them.
Again, I don’t know how to communicate properly how important this is to me. It is exactly what I pray that I would see at Headquarters. And I believe that the incredible fruit we are seeing is, to a great degree, attributable to that approach. Even with our massive shift in 2009 to stations that saved the work around half-a-million dollars, our responses have gone up, continuing to bring in multiple thousands of requests per weekend. In 2009, our YouTube postings of Tomorrow’s World telecasts passed two million views. Locally, our congregation in St. Louis has been growing by leaps and bounds. All of these things I see as God’s blessing on our work – not because we’re the smartest or wisest or handsomest or savviest or most talented or most educated, but because God is behind it. And having the approach to government and leadership that we do is, I believe, a gigantic part of that, and I thank God for what I see on every trip to Charlotte.
Now, all of this said, I don’t mean to imply that everyone – or anyone, for that matter – at HQ is perfect. Far from it: we have a wonderful collection of human beings in Charlotte who are, nonetheless, human beings. And, last I checked, we also had human beings pastoring our churches and filling our congregations. 🙂
But that’s just it. What I see in Charlotte is a collection of human beings who, for whatever faults they may have, are allowing God’s Spirit to work in them and achieve what human resources, talents, and devices, alone, simply could not. And it is remarkable to watch.
I say this from the perspective of one who has worked in corporate environments before. I was blessed as an actuary to work with a remarkable group of people, and, in fact, my now-former manager there remains one of my favorite human beings on the planet – a joy to work with and a real example and mentor to me in many, many ways.
But what I see in Charlotte is something at work that supersedes such things. I see God’s Spirit working.
And that’s the crux of what I am trying to say with (as usual) way too many words: What I see in Charlotte is everything I pray that I would see in the Headquarters of God’s Work and Church. It is everything I pray that I would see in a church that is being organized and run by Jesus Christ.
Tonight as the Sabbath begins, perhaps all of us in the Living Church of God (at least those reading this blog!) can spend a few extra minutes in prayer: thanking God for the leadership He has provided for us in Charlotte and for the humbling and inspiring fruit that is being borne of our efforts under that leadership, thanking Him for the overall peace and unity in purpose we have enjoyed for the last several years, and asking Him humbly to continue to bless us in these ways and to help us to be worthy of such blessings.
Honestly, I have not thanked Him enough for these things, and I plan to make up for some of that tonight. The leadership we have in Charlotte really is an incredible blessing, and I hope we all recognize what a difference having that kind of leadership makes. Let’s remember to thank God for it, and let’s dedicate ourselves to asking God to continue making of us whatever we need to be to accomplish His incredible purpose in the world.