I recently sat on a two hour flight next to a guy who initially was a bit miffed when I asked if I could sit next to the window where his ticket read because I have great difficulty getting up and down on planes (my damaged legs and all). This tall guy reluctantly agreed. I am no little person myself. As we got airborne I engaged him in conversation and the mood shifted. He was wearing the shirt of his company. I have been a big fan of their culture, their founder-CEO, his amazing pioneering spirit that is rare these days. I asked him a number of burning questions I had about their inner workings. In short, we were engaged in conversation quickly.
As we spoke he mentioned he had recently moved to Tampa from Ohio… specifically Cincinnati. I asked if he had ever heard of something called the Vineyard. He said “Everyone in Cincinnati knows the Vineyard.” I told him Janie and I got the ball rolling with all the Vineyard churches in Cincinnati a bit over twenty years ago. He was unbelieving. He said, “I don’t think so – nobody started the Vineyard – it has just always been there…” I laughed! “Well, everything has a tendency to start if you think about it… Look up my name in Google.”
He started to look at me differently – like I was “them” and he was “us.” I’m used to that look. I quelled that quickly by telling him my story – how starting at age seven when my mom very rarely drug me to a certain Lutheran church I would tell her “Please don’t take me back there – that guy who speaks is a flipping hypocrite!” Since then, my challenge was not entirely with God and his reality, but with what turned out to be the linear, Americanization of the message of Jesus. Now I realize that has been the problem all along… That continues to be the problem. That will likely be the problem for a long time to come. We parted as friends. We have been emailing. He has read one of my books and we are setting up lunch that will take place soon.
If you have taken a sociology class in college you are familiar with a helpful word that described an aspect of the brokenness of all the sons and daughters of Adam – all people groups on the planet are ‘ethnocentric.’ That word means we all think our culture, our way of life is the best way of life. Further, if all the rest of the world could just see things the way we do, life on the planet would be oh so much better. If you are an American do you see how our well intentioned efforts have not been necessarily been equally received worldwide?
Also, can you see how it is virtually impossible for teachers of the scriptures in the western world (namely the U.S.) to present the scriptures without laying a lot of the U.S. – western perspective upon our teaching – impartation to those we are influencing?
That influence is what amounts to us as leaders being toxic.
Freedom from toxicity is an encyclopedia full of discussion. Step one – humility. We come before God and his word with a heart of honesty. Our prayer (in general) follows:
“On my own I will simply regurgitate what I have seen with my own eyes. I will simply react and place upon your word my humanness and my culture. Holy Spirit give me your capacity to see as you see…”