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Monday, August 23, 2010

What I'm Reading Today: Matthew 26:31-75

A few years ago, I stumbled upon an approach toward understanding congregational life that impressed me a great deal. The approach was called Appreciative Inquiry. The method took traditional approaches toward analyzing congregational life and turned them upside down.

Here's what I mean by that statement.

For years, most folks thought that the best way to reflect on the health of a faith community was to look at the organization and find its areas of weakness. Once those areas were identified, church leaders were told to work on those areas and improve them. "Once you do that," the leaders were told, "your church will thrive!"

Along came the Appreciative Inquiry folks and said, "What a minute! Why should the members of a congregation devote their limited time and energy to those areas they aren't any good at? Why don't we reverse traditional thinking and ask our leaders to identify those things at which the congregation excels – and focus our energy on making those good areas even better!"

As regular readers of my blog already know, I'm a tremendously optimistic person who tends to be drawn to the positive. I suppose why this approach made sense to me. The only concern I have with this approach is that by focusing primarily on our strengths, we run the risk of completely losing sight of our weaknesses. That would be dangerous. For I believe very strongly that healthy individuals (and organizations) have a balanced sense of both their strengths and weaknesses.

Today's passage from Matthew reminded me of the importance of being balanced in our self-awareness – for in the passage we hear about Jesus experience with the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus trusted the disciples enough to leave them alone in the garden not once, not twice, but three times! And each time the disciples let Jesus down by falling asleep.

Rather than focus his energies on berating the disciples for their shortcomings, Jesus instead pointed out the competing natures of the men. "There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God," Jesus began. "But there's another part that's as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire."

While Jesus was obviously aware of the limitations of his disciples, he made a point of seeing the good in them as well. That's an approach we would be wise to remember.

As you go through your day today and run into people full of wonderful strengths and frustrating weaknesses, remember Jesus' ability to hold the good and bad pieces in balance. In your good moments, aspire to do what Jesus did – identify the individuals' strengths and work to bring out the best them. In doing so, you'll have the added benefit of perhaps bringing out the best in yourself as well!

Til next time …

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