Photo: Newton Knight leading his strange new trust system.
The world is drowning in an ocean of mistrust—as usual. As we watched Free State of Jones the other day it was even more obvious that the disturbing storms that are stirring up the globe right now are not that unusual. Reflecting on Brexit, a British journalist says,
“When leaders choose the facts that suit them, ignore the facts that don’t and, in the absence of suitable facts, simply make things up, people don’t stop believing in facts—they stop believing in leaders. They do so not because they are over-emotional, under-educated, bigoted or hard-headed, but because trust has been eroded to such a point that the message has been so tainted by the messenger as to render it worthless.” — Gary Younge
Are we filled with that mistrust, too? In the 2016 Map we affirmed in Council on June 25, we included a proverb that says, “We are called to develop a trust system.” But do we mean that? Do we really think that is even possible? Do all of us even embrace the Map? Are we so mistrusting that we didn’t even participate or consider being part of the Council? Those seem to be relevant questions in a day like today, when the airwaves are filled with fear.
There was enough mistrust at the Council meeting to make some people start talking about trust. Some people did not think the meaning of the words were clear enough to be trusted or to show to others. We had to convince them that nothing we do is designed like law; it is designed to be personally delivered. But can the persons delivering it be trusted? It seems like there should be easy answers for those questions, but trust is not that easy. Nevertheless, we are still going for the atmosphere John teaches us to pursue: “We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” — 1 John 4:16
Can we make a trust system? Even though we communicate a lot about our process and invite everyone into it, some people do not read the mail. Even though we work hard to listen, some people don’t care to speak. They are among us, but they can’t be with us; their trust is broken. Without trust we survive instead of create; we withdraw instead of include; we suspect instead of hope; we avoid instead of transform. We unlearn love. We demonstrate how we do not rely on God.
Our newest pastors have already experienced a few pinpricks of mistrust. Most people make their leaders prove they are trustworthy. We say the opposite, that it is our love that makes a leader. Our support can make a weak-kneed leader learn to walk confidently in the shoes of responsibility. Yet someone can still hold themselves off to the side and question the process. When I sent a report about the Council to the covenant members I “brazenly” included a list of the Leadership Team with all its new members. They might not like to have their names out there in an age of mistrust. Leaders are thought of as likely liars. But we have to build a trust system.
Building a trust system begins with trusting the Lord, of course. When we trust the Lord we have the confidence to trust others. They have to prove their untrustworthiness rather than the other way around. Our confidence embraces others and gives them a place to recover from the constant trauma of living in the world without God and his people.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit. — Jeremiah 17:7-8
Whenever the domination system lies (which is nothing new) we have somewhere to go.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me? — Psalm 56:4
When my lack of trust is growing, I always end up back in 1 John, where John is struggling with churches threatened by liars and full of people who are not too adept at discerning among all the spirits wandering the world. Our trust system heeds his call: “We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” — 1 John 4:16. A trust system is built from the ground up, not the top down. Jesus followers who live in love build it. The leaders can deter them, but not defeat them because God lives in them.