It has become an axiom around my house that “man-eyes” are useless when it comes to finding misplaced items.
Yet, “man-eyes” are still sent on misplaced-item finding missions. Without fail I seem to look right past the item in question. “It’s not here!” I shout across the house. And within minutes that area in question yields the lost item as soon as my wife looks for it. Bam. Found.
What is the main difference? It’s that I am looking for what I think the item “should” look like instead of what it does look like.
This observation seems to be true in area of Christian maturity. A person will think of themselves as mature because they possess certain theoretical or theological knowledge. Or a person will be thought to be mature because they are committed to certain practices. Or a person will be thought mature because they do not participate in particular behaviors often thought as immature.
Not only does this have ramifications in the area of spiritual formation or Christian discipleship – but in leadership. When we invite people to lead, whether hiring ministry staff, recruiting volunteers or appointing key leaders it is vital to look in the right places.
I am the first person to suggest that people, if they are to lead well, need good, relevant and adequate knowledge to the field of their leadership. Equally, I am conviced that certain practices are key to a leader’s long term success. I would also advocate for the avoidance of destructive, harmful behavior. Yet, all of these are somewhat static items. They are measurable to an extent and can be answered in yes or no questions: Does this person know how to read and apply Scripture; does this person practice prayer; does this person avoid getting drunk?
But I would argue that the more important place to look in a potential leader’s (or any disciple’s) life is the less measurable, more ineffable, dynamic qualities.
What do I mean? It seems to me that at the core of Christian belief is that God is relational. His eternal existence as persons-in-relation is the central theological distinction that we get from our theology – God is Triune. This has enormous implications for everything. I saw a comment by a theologian friend of mine the other day that said God is radically other oriented. This is what it means for him to exist as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
If the goal of Christian life is to grow into the likeness of Christ, to become like God’s own character then the mark of maturity will be a radical orientation toward the other, one marked by sacrificial love.
Here is what I am getting at. If we are really mature, then the static things we know and do rest on the surface of a deep well of who we are in relation to God, self, and others. The good news is so profoundly relational to the core that anyone assuming maturity without being radically converted relationally, on a being (ontological) level, is looking in the wrong places.
When we look for leaders we really need to look at the relationships of the person in question. What is the general relational effect of our lives? Do people feel welcomed, as if they have space to be themselves around us? Do people feel inspired and challenged to grow to their potential around us?
What this will mean for growing disciples and leaders is that we must train our senses to look at the relational ethos of individuals instead of the merely measurable faculties. The relational stuff is all about being. This is dynamic, changing and often difficult to quantify. But there is no static substitute for the dynamic kind of being that is Christ-likeness.
I will be posting some quotes/thoughts on the kinds of things required for growing into the connoisseur’s of the soul that we must become in order to detect dynamic maturity beneath the static surface.
But first, what kind’s of lenses do you put on when looking at yourself/others to detect maturity?