The Lost Art of Renegotiation
A long-term relationship with a church is little different than a long-term relationship with a spouse, friend or an employer. There are ups and downs. How healthy people navigate long-term relationships is fairly standardized. Such navigation has become a lost art.
Here is how the process works in the context of a church (but this can be applied to anything):
This is the perfect church! There are no perfect churches and if you ever find one, you will ruin the whole thing the moment you show up. Immature Fusion is temporary in nature because it is essentially based upon an illusion.
What, this church isn’t perfect? When the balloon of our Immature Fusion is popped by reality (and it always will be), we may become temporarily disoriented and stunned. That this is a surprise when it happens is stunning in itself but it does happen…again and again.
This church is terrible… This is point at which people articulate, “I have been hurt or disappointed by the church.” The church isn’t whatever that person thought it would be or should be and they are thrust into an unsustainable position of inner conflict.
Termination or Renegotiation? This is a crisis point.
I am going to quit this church and look for a perfect church Sometimes leaving is the best thing to do. The best reason to quit a church is because you are no longer aligned with the church’s mission. But if we are too quick to hit the eject button every time the plane ride gets bumpy, we are going crash a lot of planes on one hand and never learn to navigate in bad weather on the other. People who terminate normally revert to the “Immature Fusion” stage in another church and play the whole cycle out again.
No church is perfect but I will serve God faithfully right here. Even highly effective churches consist of flawed people, flawed systems and flawed leaders because we live in a flawed and fallen world. Sometimes termination is the right answer but the more terminations you compile; the more broken things you leave in your wake. Quitting is always easy and often the path of least resistance but perpetual quitters never grow up. They are doomed to a life lived in a loop film concerning relationship, jobs and churches. Renegotiation is normally the “grown up” play.
This is an imperfect church. I will have a great attitude and give it my all. Those who renegotiate get all the benefits of Immature Fusion but they are now in a sustainable position to serve effectively for the long haul. They don’t expect that things will be easy, systems will be flawless, things will always go their way and people will never make mistakes. It was with people like this that Jesus Christ build his “Big C” church and for people like this the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost!
Like all pastors and church staff, I have had seasons of discouragement, disappointment and heartache in the context of the church. But to miss the “priceless treasure” because we are discouraged by the “clay pot” would be like throwing away my 1934 Goudey Dizzy Dean baseball card because one of my grandkids marked up the plastic case encapsulating it with a Sharpie. What keeps mature people of faith going is a sharp focus on the perfect treasure and not the flawed container.
Learning the “Lost Art of Renegotiation” is imperative for any long-term relationship.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois