Hey, it’s me again.
I wanted to finish sharing my feelings with you. (part one here)
Before I get to that, I want to tell you why I’m writing you like this, I’d like to tell you why I am not writing this and then tell you about how I’m feeling.
And then I’ll just leave this with you and won’t bother you again.
VUSA, I love you. I believe in you. I really do. That’s the main reason I’m writing. If I thought you permanently sucked and I hated you, I’d just slip away.
VUSA, I’m writing like this because we have no ombudsman, no party that I know I can reach out to who will listen and will sit us down and help us listen to each other. As a system, you seem both impenetrable and impervious.
But I love you, I believe in you and I have a dream of how our relationship can be, therefore, I write.
I am not writing because I’m lonely or sad or going through a particularly hard time in my local church. I’m not writing you, VUSA, because I have no friends or I’m on the verge of a breakdown. I’m not writing you because I like to complain and want to be “that guy” that causes everyone to inwardly groan when they see he’s in the meeting.
I’m not writing to criticize people, the parts of your sum, VUSA.
This is important because 32% of our population will personalize what I am writing even though it’s not written about them or about any person. I am writing about a system. About VUSA.
You are a system and you have developed a mindset, an attitude, a personality, an existence that lives beyond the individual parts that make you up. You are a system that influences the people who live inside of you every bit as much or more than they influence you. That’s what a system does.
A wise person once said, “The way the kingdom comes is the kingdom that comes.” Systems are not neutral. Your nature will produce fruit after its kind. They way you do things shapes the future as much or more than the words or values you speak, no matter who the people are that are plugged into your system.
I’m not writing with the illusion that I can do a single thing about that, but I do believe that I am my brother’s keeper and if you see a brother, or system, that causes hurt feelings and you don’t speak up or try to speak up, you’re complicit. I don’t want to be complicit.
So this is the part where I finish telling you about how I feel about our relationship.
Once upon a time I went to work at a store and met some great people. Right away one guy invited me and my wife over for dinner. We were new to town and I was excited about the possibility of establishing new relationships.
We had a great meal, good conversation, funny stories but then after the meal the couple asked me and my wife to have a seat on their couch while they set up a white board on a stand. The warm hospitality suddenly felt awkward.
For the next hour we listened to their multi-level marketing presentation and heard about the incredible opportunity to be one of their “legs.” There were upline people at various levels from diamond to emerald but the goal, as they explained it to us, was to get our own legs and become uplines to others from whom we would eventually collect money off of their work.
VUSA, for me, this is how I feel about our relationship. I feel like my worth to you is in my potential as a leg in your multi-level church planting movement. I feel like I’m a downline. I’m a leg. I feel like my worth to you is based on my ability to produce and to purchase, to get more downlines, more legs planted, more resources flowing upwards to feed you. I’ve watched people diagram you VUSA, I’ve seen them use their hands to demonstrate the multi-levels of your system. I left a system like that in order to join the Vineyard.
And now it’s starting to feel to me like we’ve become what I left.
I’m not mad at you, VUSA, we are what we are and perhaps this is the way that all systems are eventually bound to develop.
I just have this dream that we will have a different sort of relationship where I don’t feel like I work for you but with you and that when you are making decisions that affect me and the church I’m in, you’ll drop us a line and ask for some feedback before it actually happens. I have a dream that our kingdom theology will influence you, our system, as much as it influences our local churches and our every day relationships and that it will influence me because God knows I need it to.
The hard thing is for those who are inside the system to be able to see or relate to what I am talking about. Place influences perspective and there are people who enjoy a connection to your system that can’t possibly relate to how I feel. I acknowledge and accept that. It’s part of the complex nature of family systems – we’re all in ‘normal’ families until we start to hang out with other families because we don’t know what we don’t know.
Our relationship with the couple who invited us over for dinner and a presentation didn’t develop very far because my wife, who has an aversion to multi-level marketing, said we weren’t interested.
And then they weren’t.
And VUSA, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit worried that telling you all this will make you despise me. But I would feel much worse if I never said a word.
I’m one hundred percent sold out for the kingdom and for the Vineyard. The Spirit has used Kingdom theology to shape me and how I fulfill my vocation. I’m not going anywhere. That might be good news or bad news to you VUSA, but I really couldn’t carry on without telling you how I’m feeling.
So I offer both parts of this letter up to the interwebs with a prayer that the Spirit is at work in people AND in systems. I pray that there are better days ahead for us and that we can develop a healthy system that will facilitate our vocation into the future. I hope the same system that produced a booklet for guidance on having hard conversations is willing to embrace sitting down with downliners like me and having some of those hard conversations because the way the kingdom comes is the kingdom that comes.