The longevity of an organization depends on leaders who are willing to identify, develop, and send out new leaders. In small organizations with members between three and twenty persons, leaders emerge through a two phase process. The first phase involves immediate exclusion by the group of some persons from leadership because of ability or desire. The second phase removes persons from the opportunity to lead the group on the basis of social interaction, an inability to communicate, and additional outside influences. The group activity to essentially select new leadership through attrition involves the protection of the group's common purpose and identity to influence members within the group and the environment in which the group interacts.
Aubrey Fisher and Donald Ellis (1994) conducted a study on how individuals short circuit an opportunity to become an emerging leader within a group. Leadership involves a set of behaviors to influence a group to believe and accomplish a goal. According to Fisher and Ellis (1994), there are counter productive behaviors which slowly or quickly disqualify a man or woman from the opportunity to exert influence within a group.
Behaviors which Prevent Leadership
What Does this Mean for the Local Church or Your Organization?
Local churches and organizations need new leaders. Jesus describes leadership as men and women who are willing to represent themselves as servants for the kingdom of God (Mark 10:45). Paul offers a perspective on leadership in his activity as an apostle who moves throughout the Roman Empire to establish local churches and identify elders who shepherd the flock of God (Acts 13-14; 20:17-38; Ti 1:5-9). New leadership provides a renewed perspective of loving the people of God and stimulates succession which supports the longevity and viability of the local church.
Consider Fisher and Ellis (1994) three observations on absence, jokes, and authority. First, frequent absences of an individual in the life of a group prevent leadership emergence. The notion of community represents is a strong idea in the local church because it originates out of the Trinitarian reality. When a person is consistently absent from hearing, seeing, and participating in the life of a group, trust and affection will not develop. Paul demonstrates the importance of community and presence as he communicates to the Ephesian believers and the Thessalonians the importance of his bodily example in ministry, vocation, and genuine concern (Acts 20:31-35; 1 Thessalonians 1:7-12). Second, every situation in your organization can not be an opportunity to tell a quick one liner. Groups desire leaders who possess a level of gravity and weight about them. Persons gather within groups because the members identify with a common goal or purpose. When instances arrive that threaten the group and thus hinder the forward progress, laughter may not be the best solution. While laughter provides a light moment, the difficulty and the need to address the situation remains in the lives of the group members (Proverbs 14:13). Individuals who desire to be leaders yet consider every moment an opportunity to tell a joke or create laughter communicate to group members the ability to engage in difficult situations is impotent. Groups want leaders who can speak with seriousness when a budget shortfalls occur, when a ministry may have to reduce its influence, or layoffs are on the horizon. Lastly, Fisher and Ellis (1994) observe groups will exclude individuals from the pursuit of leadership because of his or her disdain for authority. Leadership carries with it a level of authority. Whether the authority is positional or relational, persons who lead possess a level of authority to influence the group. When a person consistently communicates an aversion to leadership patterns and structures, the remaining persons in the group offer the individual the logical conclusion to his or her pattern of behavior. Therefore, the employee who refuses to abide by organizational policies or complains about leadership decisions will not have the opportunity to lead smaller groups. The young man who desires to be an elder but refuses the wise counsel of existing leaders still has much to learn.
Look at the list above and use it as an opportunity to influence those men and women within your organization who have the desire to lead yet lack the ability because of one of the eight behaviors. Men and women who demonstrate a passion to influence people and change society for the betterment of mankind are imperfect persons and need to have weaknesses identified. Organizational longevity requires emergent leadership and leadership succession so that in the next generation of your organization the new leaders have the opportunity to exercise influence.
(Note: This post is written to support the work of my wife. Check out her business called Birth by Design. Second, I take it as an opportunity to demonstrate how the Christian faith truly can influence every area of our life. Enjoy. Comment. Share.)
The human body represents a fascinating example of God's infinite creativity to bring together powerful and intimate movements, complexity and simplicity in regards to design, diversity and unity in regards to color. However you perceive the existence of a transcendent being or transcendence in general, our perceptions arrive through the faculties of sight, touch, sound, taste, and thought. The human body represents a living entity which draws us near to God through our various activities of the human body.
The Christian tradition provides mankind an opportunity to rejoice in the human body through the knowledge of the Incarnation. The Incarnation or enfleshment of God, communicates the beauty and validity of the human body. God implicitly reveals the human body has value and while that value does transcend God who becomes human as you or I; the Incarnation nonetheless says to mankind the human body has monumental significance. Therefore, the Christian writer affirms the significance of the Incarnation and the human body by stating he and others know God through all of the various faculties of the human body (1 John 1:1-3).
The incarnation provides new meaning to the human body and all of our various functions. Our senses, desires, needs, and activities now contain meaning which draws us closer to a transcendent and immanent God(1). Therefore, this new meaning-which was present before our human existence- serves as a mediator between what we perceive as mundane and what we inwardly know to be larger than life.
The female human body like the male human body possesses specific anatomical parts which function to provide pleasure and provision. As we stand in our mirrors, all of us can observe that some aspects of the human body possess dual functions which benefit another individual or ourselves when appropriately used. Our mouths offer encouragement to a stranger and serve as the door of nutrition for our bodies. Our hands work to heal an open wound and caress the face of a loved one. What does this specifically have to do with the pleasure and provision of the female breasts?
Western American culture hyper-sexualizes the female breasts while it rejects the nutritional value of the female breasts. The hyper-sexualization of breasts through mediums such as Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, Worldstar Hip-Hop, Maxim, and television communicates the meaning of the female breasts as body parts to be the object of alluring males and females on a large scale. While the objectification of women transcends cultural boundaries and has historical evidence; how common place is it for a female or male to create their own "Maxim" page through various mediums today? Contrast the hyper-sexualization of the female breasts to the culturally unacceptable activity which is public breastfeeding or baby-feeding with a breast. Recently, Karlesha Thurman graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in accounting and she made the news for doing what she considers as "natural and normal"(2). Karlesha, recognized her child was hungry and she fed her child. What does not make the highlight is this woman's accomplishment as a mother and graduate. When we should celebrate her discipline and hard work to achieve a degree while serving as a mother, the article title itself implies, culture does not perceive the public feeding of a child as natural. Do we observe the inconsistency and the inability to perceive the true meaning of the female breast as it relates to pleasure and provision?
The Pleasure of the Female Breasts
The female breasts are indeed for sexual pleasure symbolized as delight, strength, and grace in the body of a woman. The woman and more specifically the wife, has a unique purpose to provide pleasure for her husband through the enjoyment of her breast. The Christian tradition celebrates a woman as a fountain of delight in which the man finds his satisfaction (Proverbs 5:19). The breast of a woman represent strength and grace which God has uniquely designed to be a source of pleasure in a mutual and loving relationship (Song of Solomon 4:5; 7:3). I want to extend a word of comfort to women who are currently fighting through breast cancer, a mastectomy or double mastectomy. The above statements in no way diminish your significance as a woman nor prevent you from discovering meaning that leads to a transcendent and immanent God. Your lack of flesh or the experience of a cancer treatment illuminates your faculties to draw near to God who in his own flesh has suffered. You would indeed be in lasting despair if the meaning of the female breast rested in the breast. But because of the lack of breast(s) the new meaning based on his incarnation actually leads you to comfort because he knows fleshly pain intimately. Therefore, whether you are a woman who is able to ravish her husband with your breast or you are woman who must look at your chest with a scar, know that the female breast leads both man and woman to pleasure and delight in God who is strength and grace.
The Provision of the Female Breasts
As I have stated above, the human body has many body parts with dual roles. Is it not amazing, that the same breasts which offer pleasure and comfort in the bedroom, offer provision and comfort for a child? Similar to the intimacy of a husband and a wife, there is a unanimity that occurs between a mother and a child. The female human body with its unique design experiences a preparation specifically with the female breast, to become the primary source of nutrition for a new baby. The American Pregnancy Association (APA) states, female breast begin to produce colostrum during the second trimester. Colostrum, a precursor to milk, supports a child in his or her nutritional needs. The APA states these changes in the female breast represent normal developments for a woman "preparing for arrival" of her baby (3). The Christian tradition states the female breasts function as provision for a child and such provision serves as meaning towards the knowledge of God. "Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts" (Psalm 22:9). Imagine as you observe a mother providing nutrition for her child, she also participates in a mystery of awakening trust in the child to herself and God who himself became a nursing child on the breast of his mother. Breastfeeding public and private is not only natural, it offers eternal meaning. The female breasts and the specific activity of breast feeding provides a child and his mother the opportunity to discover the true meaning of their bond; trust in God.
What I hope we would walk away with is the reality that the human body is a visible representation of a transcendent God who gives full meaning to the activities and purposes of our bodies. Our bodies function to bring pleasure and provision for ourselves and one another in appropriate contexts and appropriate relationships. The female breasts serve marriages to stimulate pleasure and delight, ultimately leading to pleasure in God who is both strength and grace. Equally important, the nursing mother in public and private represents a beautiful and natural activity of provision which stimulates health and opens the door to trust in God who provides all things.
1. This idea is drawn from C.S. Lewis from a sermon titled, "Transposition" 28 May 1944.
2. Kathy Ehrich Dowd, Controversial or Natural? Photo of Mom Breastfeeding at College Graduation Causes Stir, People Magazine, June 12, 2014.
3. American Pregnancy Association, http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/breastchanges.htm, Accessed 6 June 2014.
A New Journey for the Fletcher Family
It was seven years ago the Fletcher Family made contact with Conway. The first few months were a whirlwind for the family as we sought our bearings for a short period of time in the anticipation of returning to the US Army. Well needless to say, we are still here.
I remember from May to July 2007, three days a week I would preach on the corner across the street from Mike’s Place and the post office. I didn't know the faces. I didn't know the town. I didn't know that God was preparing me. He was preparing me to let go of the Army. He was preparing me to be bold. He was preparing me and my family to simply go.
Well as many of you know, we went into a trailer park. Planted a church. Started a nonprofit. Seven years later God once again is calling us to go.
Over the next year and a half, I will be looking forward to giving leadership fully to others and pouring Gospel work into a new wineskin. It is a beautiful thought and a process I look forward to immersing myself and family in for the glory of God and the love of neighbor.
So what is on the horizon?
In 2016, CoHO will begin its first ever transition out of a community and hand over the primary ministry responsibilities to an existing local church. We believe this is keeping with the overall vision of CoHO to introduce neighborly love and see that work grow in the hands of men and women who love the Church, the Gospel, and Christ. In fact, Paul declares in his epistle to the Ephesian believers that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its manifold wisdom would be made known through the Church. CoHO desires to use all of its available resources and influence to see such an endeavor become a reality in each of its Hope Communities. The community of Oakwood represents the center of gravity for this organization and we discern the time has come to shift the existing efforts to the Church at Oakwood. The benefit to the local church includes being able to use its existing people and talents to influence Oakwood in new ways. Additionally, a transition of this sort frees up resources to serve our younger Hope Communities Brookside and South Ash, support the growth of new leadership, and continues to advance the vision of renewal in low-income communities throughout Central-Arkansas.
Church at Oakwood
This beautiful local church and the myriads of people who have been in connection with her have been a sweet aroma to me and my family since September 2007. Till this very day, I remember Nicolle, the kids, and I loading up chairs in our van, going into Oakwood, and just hoping one person would show up. In cold weather, hot weather, sprinkling rain, and a gentle breeze, our Sundays have been marked by worship under a tree. She’s been called, “TP Church,” “Trailer Park Church,” “That’s a cool thing you do,” and my all-time favorite, “cult.” Regardless of the names, this church, this beautiful community of college students, poor people, alcoholics, well off people, and whoever else, represent the powerful grace of God to welcome men, women, and children in the most unlikely of places. I have married and buried friends from Oakwood. My wife has cried with women and wrestled with rescuing women from abuse. I have watched my kids grow and lead people in the park. I rejoice that what we leave behind is a strong local church with strong leadership, strong families, and single people, who love Jesus and the community of Oakwood. God has done his beautiful work through our family and he is now calling us to go and begin a new community of faith in a tough area of Conway.
Lord willing in September 2015 the Fletcher family will start Advocate Community Church to be a community of faith which seeks to discover what it means to be human in the worship of God and loving people. I want this to be a church that speaks directly to the personal and systemic sins which prevail in our society. I have an increasing burden to see a space in which people can openly voice their doubts about the Christian faith and still know the seed of faith given by the holy God is being nurtured by his Spirit. Our family want to know at this point in our lives what it means for the Church to be a friend of sinners.
There are two things that I know; 1) God never does the same thing twice. This time there will be no tree or trailers. This time our family will not step into a community without friends. This time Nicolle said “Yes!” 2) God is good and he is faithful to accomplish this future work because he has shown himself good and faithful these past seven years.
How You Can Pray.
Pray that God would grant the Fletcher Family continual wisdom and patience. Pray for the Church at Oakwood and the beautiful people of Oakwood. Pray for the communities of Brookside and South Ash as we strengthen our CoHO efforts in those places. Above all, pray that God would be glorified in all our efforts and that in the presence of our great God and Savior, his name would saturate the lives and communities of Conway.