My wife and I got married on an important day in American political infamy. June 17, 1972. Oh, you do not know what this celebrates? Perhaps it is because the event — the Watergate break-in — is not nearly as well-known as is the two years of cover up that led to the resignation on August 9, 1974 of US President Richard Nixon.
Having graduated from high school near Philadelphia, I moved into adulthood with one eye on Joe Paterno and Penn State football. While not an avid fan, I was always conscious of what appeared to be a great college sports program. Admittedly my other eye was on Bobby Bowden at Florida State, who I ultimately hoped would have more college football wins than Joe Paterno. But I did not want it to happen because of a cover up.
Richard Nixon did not break into the Watergate office building. Joe Paterno did not sexually abuse boys. Yet to the best of our knowledge both were involved in a cover up. Often it is the cover up of bad things — can we still use the actual word “sin”? — that gets everyone in the tar pit dirty and stuck.
Congregations are often involved in cover ups that inhibit their ability to soar with faith towards a fruitful future whereby they might be considered a FaithSoaring Church. While the cover ups within congregations can be about illegal and immoral activities, they can also be about less dramatic but equally as debilitating activities.
Here are a few things congregations tend to cover up. First, they cover up mediocrity. Increasingly younger generations want high quality programs, ministries, and activities that address their real needs in real time. Congregations, on the other hand, often say that their programs, ministries, and activities were good enough for them and should be for the next generation.
Second, they cover up a lack of spiritual maturity. Congregations equate regular participation with spiritual growth. Classes, courses, seminars, and small groups attended equate with discipleship progress.
Third, they cover up the absence of a clear, passionate vision for the future. They do so by coming up with a motto or theme for the programmatic emphases of their congregation that seeks to push the congregation into the future rather than allowing God to pull the congregation into the future.
Fourth, they cover up a lack of organizational processes and skills. It is frequently said that congregations would go bankrupt if they had to make a profit because they are run so poorly. While that is a little harsh, it may not be too far from the truth.
Fifth, they cover up a lack of expertise in leading and managing transition and change. Too few lay and clergy leaders actually know how to lead a congregation — a voluntary, member-based association — through transition and change. To cover up their lack of expertise they either “bulldoze” the process or they spiritualize it.
And yes, unfortunately as some congregations and denominations have taught us, they also cover up illegal and immoral acts, and even perpetuate the culture that breeds them.
The true measure of a pastor, staff minister, or lay leader is what happens in the congregation when they are no longer there. What was covered up during a certain period? What will we realize five years after you are gone? What are you doing to create a positive, sustainable future?
What are you covering up in your congregation? You can’t cover it up and soar with faith. FaithSoaring Churches, at www.FaithSoaringChurches.info, are real, self-disclosing, and averse to covering up their barnacles.