One of the pressing issues facing the church today is the lack of unity. (OK so its been an issue for 2,000 years!) And one of the difficulties in working towards unity is the inherent pain that is caused when those who have power and privilege in the church try to 'help' those churches who lack power and privilege. In particular, I am thinking of large, wealthy, middle/upper-class suburban churches that feel a calling to 'help the poor,' whether that is the poor in the urban slum nearby, or the third-world nation across the water.
A friend and I had a conversation where we compared that to a dating relationship between a gorilla and a poodle. The reality is that, no matter how much of a gentleman the gorilla is, if the gorilla is in charge, the poodle isn't going to fare very well. It is simply inherent in the power dynamic between the two.
So here is some advice to those of us in the church who are poodles dating gorillas, or vice-versa.
To the poodle:
1) God has brought the gorilla into your life (He makes poodles and gorillas for a reason and wants them to live together in harmony), submit to God in this and you will discover the strength of the gorilla at work on your behalf.
2) Don't be afraid to tell the gorilla when it hurts you. Feel free to call sin, "sin." But recognize that there IS a difference between intentional and unintentional harm.
3) Don't be afraid to take the lead with the gorilla. You need to teach the gorilla a different way of doing ministry.
4) You don't get to tell the gorilla to go away, or that it has nothing to offer. You need what the gorilla has to offer (above and beyond its sheer size and strength), and the gorilla has things to teach YOU about doing ministry.
To the gorilla:
1) You are not God's gift to the poodle. This is your greatest problem, you confuse your size and power with godliness, faithfulness, and effectiveness in the Kingdom. Repent.
2) Show up and help the poodle, but let the poodle tell you what help it needs! Be patient, poodles aren't used to polite gorillas, and have a history of being either ignored, patronized, or brutalized by gorillas. Be patient! Let the poodle take the lead. Offer suggestions, but ultimately let the poodle be the boss, and be patient. Remember, there IS a difference between hurting the poodle on accident and doing it on purpose, but if you are the poodle they both hurt exactly the same!
3) Show up to learn. Don't presume you know how to live like a poodle just because you are a gorilla. The poodles lack of size and strength has taught it to rely on God in ways you will never know. The poodle has a perspective that you cannot have because of your own perspective. Learn from the poodle.
4) Keep showing up and keep making the resources you do have available to the poodle. Offer your insight, your organization, your expertise, your strength, your size. Don't go away, and don't return to a lifestyle of ignoring the poodle, even if the poodle bites you! Remember, the poodle is biting you because you are hurting it! Keep offering your services, but don't forget point #2!!!
To both the gorilla and the poodle:
1) God made you both. That means you are of equal value. Each of you is necessary, which means you are both important in and of yourself AND you both need the other!
2) Be yourself. Don't try to be each other.
3) Love each other. It is a command AND it is wisdom.