Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Harding Lectures Review

As you know, I've been at the Harding lectures this week. Just thought I would share with you some of the highlights.

Probably the best thing I went to was Randy Willingham's classes on communication in a congregation. I had never heard Randy, but I was really impressed. He stressed the importance of communicating with informal leaders in the congregation, as well as the formal leaders. There are certain people that the congregation goes to when they are looking for information about what is going on, for the person who knows the direction of the congregation, and for the person who knows how to take the congregation the direction it is wanting to go. Randy used some case studies to demonstrate that these people are often not in the formal leadership, and includes both men and women.

By keeping the formal and informal leaders informed, whatever message needs to be spread will happen very quickly--usually in 7-10 days.

A clear message from the presentation was also that many informal leaders are more influential than formal leaders. Too often leaders rely upon position to lead, or expect that because someone has a position, they are leaders. This is simply not true. Another thing to note about informal leaders--they usually have no accountability. This can be freeing for them, but it can also present problems. For instance, in his study one of the informal leaders that was most influential was an elder's wife. She can do great good in holding this informal role, or can do great damage. If she were a formal leader, then she could more easily to called to account.

This leads one to conclude that perhaps sometimes it is better to have someone who is "opposed" to the direction in a formal role than an informal one, because at least in a formal role there is more accountability. Often what happens in a local church is that those informal leaders who are opposed to something are allowed to be disruptive, stirring up dissension without being checked. Ideally of course, disruptive behavior will be dealt with by the congregation on a personal level.

Other highlights:

  • Don Vinzant shared some very personal struggles that he had, a "dark night of the soul," when he was on the mission field. This fit into the theme of the lectures, which was on the Psalms. I love Don--he is a true servant of the Lord and a good man.

  • Leadership Issues Confronting the Church--Randy Willingham, Charles Siburt, and Everett Huffard discussed this topic, bringing out some of the issues regarding elders and ministers. They advocated a non-hierarchical relationship, in which elders and ministers worked in true partnership and appreciated and respected one another's roles. This includes openness, participation in meetings and the like. This is indeed a biblical model and one that will help maximize the mission of the church.

  • Seeing friends. This is, of course, one of the draws of lectureships, and I have enjoyed seeing my good friend Keith Stanglin and his family. Keith has a Ph.D. in historical theology, and he teaches at Harding. Keith and I share interests in theology, music, Dallas-based sports teams, OC, similar humor, and more. It takes an effort to keep up with friends over long distances, but it is worth it. With email, cell phones, and old fashioned snail mail, there is every opportunity to stay in contact with friends. We need to do this, to have people to share joys with and to help deal with sorrows.
Well, I could mention more, but that will do for now. See you guys soon.