Leader's Insight: Unterror Cells
I recently sat in the private meeting room of a restaurant in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, with twenty-some pastors—women, men, Pentecostals, evangelicals, from both rural and urban settings.
Some had seminary degrees; most barely finished high school. What they had in common was a passionate commitment to misión integral. It is mission that integrates "spiritual" concerns with "physical" or "social" ones, needs of the soul and body, reconciliation with God and with one another.
My hosts had taken me to a beautiful array of churches. One reaches out to glue-sniffing street kids. One has developed an amazing healthcare system for 18,000 rural people who previously had no healthcare at all.
One uses a gym equipped with weight training equipment and space to connect with young people who would never come to church but find the church coming to them through this place. Its chaplain offers spiritual development to go along with aerobics fitness and muscular training.
Most of these pastors are completely unknown beyond their own church. Their impact is significant even though their buildings are unimpressive, their neighborhoods shady. All of them have been criticized—for spending so much time with glue-sniffing street kids, for welcoming "those people" who are obviously gay or immodest or whatever. In short, for being friends of sinners.
They do not want to condemn "unclean" people, but instead enjoy having meals with them, knowing them, serving their human needs.
For these pastors, leadership isn't an office job. It's a calling that gets them on the streets, meeting people, sometimes visiting them in jail or the hospital after a crime or overdose.
One of them put it like this: "I used to be the pastor of a church that was isolated from and even afraid of the community. Now I am a pastor for the community, supported by the church."
Despite denominational and doctrinal differences, these pastors have much in common because of their commitment to integral mission. They told me how much their friendships mean to them. I kept hearing words like sueños (dreams), apollo (support), and comunidad (community). They support one another in dreaming big dreams, not necessarily of having big churches, but of making a big difference for the poor, the forgotten, the needy.
Now I can't stop thinking of faith communities as "unterror cells." While terror cells plot violence to spread fear, faith cells plot goodness to spread hope. Both want change; both see status quo as unacceptable. But terror networks believe change is pushed by fear and violence; faith networks believe constructive change is pulled by hope and love, service and friendship.
Recently I heard someone describe terror networks. All nodes of the network innovate, he said, and all nodes coordinate to share their innovations. In this way all nodes influence the direction of the network as a whole, and any node can lead. They move like a flock of birds, school of fish, or swarm of bees, and ...