I remember the
first time I heard a concept that I knew was a leadership principle. At the time I was in my 20’s and studying for the ministry. A wise leader said the Church is like a pendulum –
it is constantly swinging back and forth to find a place of balance. As the years have gone by I’ve come to
realize that this pendulum never stops, but continues to swing from side to
side as the Church enters and departs different seasons of life and development.
I have lived long enough
to see the Church change and transition over time. I have seen the pendulum swing widely through
areas of understanding in gender roles, the ministry of the Spirit,
interpretations of God’s sovereignty and a host of other issues.
motion of the pendulum is not because God is unsettled, or even that the Church
is neurotic; it is because from our viewpoint we only see things in part, not
the whole, and all of us are on a constant search for balance.
This is how the
Church moves forward – we advance by reconciling imbalance. Someone once told me that the very act of
walking is a linked to a series of movements that have us seeking balance with each
new step. To walk forward we need
to let go of our last foothold and pass through a swinging gait of imbalance to
gain a new balanced foothold.
The pendulum of
the Church continues to swing because in any given moment we are out of balance
in our current understanding about what God is doing upon the earth. I am not
saying what we currently understand is wrong – it is simply not yet fully
developed, no matter how mature we think we are. There is always more than we are
seeing in any given moment.
Our tendency is to
park our comprehension of God and His Kingdom somewhere along the timeline of certain
events or revelations that we have experienced. When this happens we begin to build
our concept of ministry around that stationary observation. The outcome of this way of thinking is that we actually
stop growing and learning. Narrow vision sets in and we begin to view life and
ministry with the blinders on. From this
stationary posture we can begin to construct a defensive compound from which to
protect our limited understanding against any perceived change from outside our
The pendulum has
been swinging throughout the entire history of the Church. I think this is actually God’s plan. Growing things are never static. Motion means you are alive.
Just when I think I
fully understand a point of theology, or how the Church should be led, or what the best model is for doing church on Sunday morning, God will lovingly take
me to a wider and more expanded view of what He is accomplishing in His people. He does
this by showing me the smallness of what I have chosen to see. Realizing the
smallness of my own vision allows me to repent and begin to live in greater
humility and see the value of differing opinions than the one I hold.
Realizing we don’t know
all things keeps us open to expanding our circle of fellowship to include others
who may not process life like us. A
willingness to admit my limited understanding deconstructs the pride that comes
when I think I fully see and understand all that is happening along the
swinging arc of the pendulum.
I have learned a few things as I have watched this swinging
pendulum of understanding within the Church.
I have learned that
I need to be careful to not capture and define what I think God is doing, mid-swing
in the pendulum arc, and build a definition around that limited understanding. The leaders I observe, who lead from a place
of peace, are not trying to get the pendulum to stop so they can define
something. These leaders step back and
watch the pendulum from a distance and try to anticipate in what direction God
is taking His Church and then begin to move their lives and ministries in that
I have learned that it is wise to resist the urge to park our
understanding anywhere along the arc of a developing principle. At the point
where we park we become irrelevant in our ability to engage developing realities
and emerging generations of leadership. To finish well means that we must
remain mobile in the way we think about our lives and ministries so that past
seasons don’t define us.
I have learned that the older a person gets the more the
desire surfaces to return to “the good old days”. This desire must be seen as a
warning that we are not engaging the moment.
We all have preferences and life-experiences that warm our hearts. They
were never intended to lead us, rather, they are to be stones of remembrance
left behind along the trail of our developing journey.
The destination is always out in front.
Finally, I have learned that the pendulum is a teacher. Too many times I have felt I had some current
issue all figured out and then God had me sit in front of the swinging pendulum
and simply watch. As I watched, I
realized that some of what I thought ten years ago I no longer processed the
same way today. Those people and
ministries I disapproved of years ago are now closer in thought and fellowship
to me than ever before. The swinging pendulum has taught me let go of snap
judgments and it has freed me to wait awhile until the pendulum swings back my
way with a new and clearer understanding of what is taking place in the Church.