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Five Cultural Struggles: Trust
by Tom Goodman
October 11, 2007

We'll be more effective as church leaders when we understand what people in our culture struggle with.  In his book, No Perfect People Allowed, Austin pastor John Burke says that there are five main issues in our culture Christian leaders must come to terms with:


Let's look at the issue of trust in this week's LeaderLines.  Many adults, especially those in their 30s and early 40s, struggle with the issue of trust because of deep childhood disappointments in those they depended on.

Think about it.  From 1962 to 1981 the number of divorces tripled, meaning that a child born in 1968 faced three times the risk of parental breakup than a Boomer child born in 1948 faced.  Less than half of those now between the ages of 30 and 45 reached age 17 with both biological parents living with them in the same house.

Even more traumatic to trust: physical and sexual abuse among children increased dramatically in the 60s and 70s, and those children are today's young and median adults.  Burke writes:
In my experience, adults affected by these trends will not necessarily connect them with their struggles to trust today.  Just as children and adult alcoholics never knew their always-drunk father had a problem, in the same way, what we grow up with becomes 'normal' for us.  The resulting wounds of distrust fester, however, and they affect our ability to trust others and God.

So, how to we as leaders help people trust again?  We give people room to explore, and we live a life of authentic humility.

First, we have to give people room to explore.  Burke writes:
Because of all the baggage and lack of trust in our post-Christian world, people need to be engaged in dialogue....  If they listen to the message in church, they want to process it.  They need to question it and wrestle with it.

Of course, this means trusting God's Spirit to lead and guide you as you interact with people.  We need to boldly challenge people with the gospel and its implications, but always respecting and loving all people as the Father does, despite their response.

I learned a long time ago that everyone is in process -- and it's not my process!  It's God's!  Now, what does it take to have a church like this?  Burke says:
It requires letting go of the need to fix, change, or control others' beliefs or actions.  It requires trusting that God's Spirit can work behind the scenes in people's hearts as we create a culture where they are free to question, doubt, and explore faith at their own pace.  This shifts the burden to change people back where it belongs -- with God alone.

Once we relieve ourselves of the thought that we have to "fix" people, we're free to simply share our story, ask our questions of their stories, gently raise things for them to consider, and watch for how God is moving them to a greater trust in him.

Second, we need to live a life of authentic humility.  We have to acknowledge that, not only are seekers in a process of discovering truth, but we're still a work in progress, too!  "If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves." (1 John 1:8, NLT).  How silly to think that I am somehow better than others.  I'm simply one beggar telling another beggar where I found bread.

We're using a slogan around our church more and more:  We want to be a place where people "find and follow Jesus together."  That slogan captures the humble reality that, as seekers and believers, we're all in need of each other.  To find a relationship with Jesus as well as to better follow him, it's best done together.  When I acknowledge the areas where I still haven't "arrived," the areas where God is still working on me, it builds trust.

When people sense that our church community is a safe place to talk about things that have damaged trust in the past -- abuse, addiction, and disappointment -- from his experience Burke assures church leaders of what they will see:
When you create a culture to deal with these painful issues of trust openly, with sincerity and honesty, you begin to see two things.  First, you will hear more and more stories of wounds like this that once remained hidden and festering.  But you'll also hear increasing numbers of stories of God's healing work as people are brought into the light.

We're seeing more and more of that at Hillcrest.  That's good news, because it means that we're rebuilding trust in a culture where trust has been so deeply damaged.


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