Learning to be wise…when the tension is to divide

Always, there are two things to be mindful of: the individual and the environment. Naivete leads us to see one over the other. Wisdom hard-won sees them as inextricably linked.

As I watch American news feeds from the other side of the pond, and witness my passport people becoming increasingly polarized, I’m saddened and frustrated. We perish for a lack of wisdom. Everything – everything – is reduced to a red or blue caricature of the real issue. The Left insists we are nothing more than the products of our environments, while the Right calls on individuals to step up and take personal responsibility for self-governance and the well-being of their communities. But it’s not one over the other. Both are true, and both must be attended to if either are to be helped.

Think of this bifurcating tension in the life of ministry teams. Wise paths are needed not just in politics but also so crucial in the life of the mission of Jesus.

As a former biologist I know there are always two things to watch: the organism and the ecosystem.

Each informs the other, determining the destiny of both.

As a former pastor and present mission leader, I know that my individual choices matter a great deal, and that the effect those choices have is limited by the organizational environment I’m working in. If I’m wise, I’ll look to cultivate change in individuals and in the communal ecosystems they shape and are shaped by.

Acts 13, and the chapters just before and after, offer us a vivid picture of a beautiful ecosystem and some important individuals. In the New Testament, the Church has structural leaders (elders and deacons, who appear to govern toward the spiritual and physical needs of city churches, and who themselves are heads of the believing oikoi that comprise those city churches), and it has catalytic leaders (the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers of Ephesians 4 who equip the rest of the saints for the work of service). Acts 13 finds some of those people (prophets and teachers) from the city-church at Antioch gathered to engage practices, as Jim said, of formation, worship, and discernment. It’s out of that environment that two catalytic leaders, Barnabas and Saul, are separated and sent out – a strategic advance that is still shaping the world.

When we gather in October, I hope to help us attend to the environment that gave rise to the relationship between Barnabas and Saul, which itself gave rise to Paul, Timothy, and you and me.

Always, there are two things to be mindful of: the individual and the ecosystem. Wise leaders attend to both, engendering strong individuals and generative communities, like the ones we see in Acts 13 – individuals and communities who can bear beautiful witness in a broken world.

Virgil oversees hundreds of amazing people doing incredibly generous work in some of the most challenging environments on the earth, and along the way, he’s learned how to thrive there. You can learn more about him and his work on his Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaTyw-3bgFMrhVvLJjZ-S1A