(The following is a post by my friend, Jordan Hubbard, Senior Minister at the Belton Church of Christ in Belton, Texas. Jordan is a good friend, an excellent preacher, and a good thinker. Enjoy!)
The church in Philippi had issues. Something was happening in this congregation of believers that caused division and discord. The joy of the Philippian jailer and the enthusiasm of Lydia had been replaced by tension and anxiety. This tension centered around Euodia and Syntyche, two women who were key figures in the Philippian church. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in this anxious situation. Paul helped to found this church and so had some authority with the congregation. As an apostle, Paul had the mandate to address the issue and command a solution to the division affecting this small faith-community.
What is remarkable is that Paul’s letter to the Philippians never mentions the issue. Paul constantly avoids the issue in the congregation in order to address a deeper concern. Paul exposes his agenda for this church in the following words:
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4)
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)
Paul’s concern for the Philippians is not to address the issue. In fact, we don’t know what the issue in Philippi is! Instead, Paul pushes an agenda that the Philippians mature and learn to empty themselves for one another, just as Jesus emptied himself for them. The deepest concern is not to provide an easy answer for a problem, but rather for the church to grow to be more like Jesus in denying themselves for the sake of others.
Ronald Heifeitz in his book, Leadership on the Line, identifies two different kinds of leadership challenges. There are technical concerns and adaptive challenges. A technical solution provides easy and fast answers to present issues, while adaptive solutions address deeper concerns and require real leadership. Most congregations expect their leaders to provide technical solutions rather than adaptive challenges that cause real growth.
I have two small children. I spend much of my time as a dad being a referee between them in their squabbles. But I have hope. I have hope that these children will grow and a day is coming when they will not need me to intervene. I expect that my children will mature, and I do everything I can to support that agenda.
What if Paul’s agenda for the Philippian church is God’s agenda for your life? What if the real task of spiritual leadership is not to solve problems but to equip believers to be mature, loving and self-emptying? How comforting is the thought of living beyond easy answers to growing to be more like the self-emptying Christ? In your experience, how much does church leadership center in on the technical solutions versus. the adaptive challenges that lead to maturity?