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The New Pharisees?

This week I find myself dealing with the Administrative run up to Annual Conference. Tuesday we held a Cabinet meeting to put the semi-final touches on appointments. (It seems they are never final! No matter how nailed down things seem, there are always last minute changes.) Following those activities, I have been signing so many forms and papers that I worry about being a Colonel Blake. (For those of you who don’t know or don’t remember he was the original commanding officer on M.A.S.H. Colonel Blake famously signed a three day pass to Tokyo while believing he was signing off on standard medical supplies.)  Administrative leadership is important. We need to keep things moving in an orderly fashion. A good friend and colleague, Dr. Steve Wende, says, “Nobody joins a church because it is well run; but people will leave a church if it is not well run.” And yet, I cannot help but offer a personal observation that we have become stuck in rules and regulations. It almost seems like every time we came to a tough or touchy situation instead of relying on reasoned judgment and prayer, we passed a new piece of church law. For every page in The Book of Discipline, we’ve added numerous additional policies, regulations and processes. After a while I find myself asking, “Is this really helping us make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?” We are so quagmire in a culture of doing things right that we struggle to remember to do the right things. We have become the new Pharisees. The answer to the Pharisees is not administrative incompetence. It does line in the direction of missional flexibility and trusting leadership. We need to find a reasonable and faithful middle ground. Bum Phillips once reported that we shouldn’t treat everyone the same, but we should treat everyone fairly. It is past time for us to rethink our rule-bound, regulation-strangled, policy-panicked church culture.