This post is completely original in every way and wasn’t at all inspired by any other posts out there anywhere. Trust me.
And no, Dave Miller did not steal my thunder by posting his article before mine.
A handful of years ago, the IMB decided to start discussions about a restructuring of the organization. Leaders requested ideas and input. Vice presidents gathered in hallways. Trustees examined policies and strategies. The tech department set up a blog site through which information was disseminated and comments were made.
After much ado, Dr. Jerry Rankin began announcing the changes. First, there were the usual structural differences. Then came strategies. Finally, leaders began announcing those who the trustees had approved for various key positions.
The Heidi Game of 1968?
Esau’s discovery of Jacob’s betrayal?
Seattle’s last second touchdown over Green Bay?
That time the kids ate the last bite of crunchy peanut butter in all of Ecuador?
Nope. Nothing compares to the hue and cry sent up from various corners of the globe when the IMB began attaching names to positions. Not a unanimous cry, of course, but lots of noise from many different voices.
The comments posted on the blog site were interesting, to say the least. The most illuminating comment came in many forms from several folks, and it went something like this: “The lack of transparency and the obvious exclusion of the rank-and-file IMBer is indicative of the sort of attitude issues our trustees have these days…”
In the interests of nearly full disclosure, I’ll fill you in on my basic, initial response: “I don’t know much about most of this, but I think they got it right with some of the ones I do know something about. However, the trustees might have messed up just a tiny bit on a few.” Trust me – that’s all I said, and I didn’t sneer, or roll my eyes, or question anyone’s sanity….publically…in English…while standing on one foot….on the prime meridian….I think.
For some IMBers, there were indeed a few hard pills to swallow in all of this.
1. Why didn’t the trustees listen to us?
2. Why didn’t trustees tell us the potential candidates so we could weigh in?
3. How could the trustees have been so blind as to appoint Mr. Waste-of-Lottie-Moon-Funds to that role?
4. Where was the transparency?
Of course, not everyone asked these questions, but for those who were the most vocal, these were some of the challenges they were trying to throw out there. (Key point: not all or even most comments were negative. However, it is a basic aspect of humanity that those who scream the loudest have a tendency to be the most negative…or perhaps is the other way around: those who are the most negative typically scream the loudest.)
Some of the answers that came from Richmond for these questions:
1. We listened to you. Just because we didn’t agree with every word everyone said is not an indication that we are detached from your reality. Trust us – we really did listen.
2. We didn’t give you a list of candidates for potential roles, but we asked you to make suggestions for people to take on new positions. We even said “…and if you know of someone we shouldn’t consider for a specific role, graciously point that out to us…” Trust us – we did our due diligence.
3. We appointed those whose documented track record supported their candidacy. If you think someone is a poor fit, then why not give that person a chance to prove his character/growth/improvements? Trust us…we wouldn’t risk the task we are facing just to appoint someone unqualified.
4. Transparency? This was the most transparent process in the history of the organization. Did we share all? No, but we’ve shared and solicited more than we ever have. Why? So you would know you could trust us.
And the final word was: “Trust us. We all have the same goal: spread of the Gospel of Christ. Trust us, ok?”
I have to admit that I really could not fathom some of their choices. I didn’t fill the blogosphere with my particular brand of vitriol ( I don’t think), but I couldn’t get a handle on their thinking. I tried, really tried, to applaud. I tried to offer my thanks for His guidance in all the changes, but my prayers were mealy, grimy little things that fell off my fingertips and rolled under the couch.
The flesh was willing, but the spirit was weak.
My moment of clarity came when I realized something about these trustees. They had approved a good many things that I actually liked.
They approved money to support our strategies.
They approved a shift between one blessing (health insurance) to another (better health insurance).
They maintained policies that provided for my housing and my kids’ education.
They oranized a benefits department.
They approve funds for interpreters so my wife and I could attend various training events.
They established accountability processes.
They cut their budgets before they cut mine.
They asked questions and learned about people groups.
In short, they did all kinds of great things, including approving an immature, unprepared guy for missionary service: me. Where were my challenges of their decision-making skills then? When they supported us wholeheartedly, where were my questions about their choices? Where were my challenges in those moments?
In short, I realized that if I had trusted them when they made choices with which I agreed, then perhaps I should have been a bit more trusting of them when they made decisions that I didn’t grasp. What I ran the risk of doing was equating “wisdom” with “agreeing with me.”
Today, I still don’t comprehend some of the trustees’ decisions. However, I recognize that we cannot run an organization of this size by making sure each person loves every decision. The trustees are exactly that: those we have trusted. They are charged with various duties, and I can and will trust them to carry out those duties faithfully…even when I don’t grasp the logic behind their choices.