What I am going to write is based on my own experience. I was involved in the Parish council for many years, five years as Education Committee chairman and two years as Parish Council President. Added to this are my experience at work of managing people under me and at the same time being managed by people above me. I have experienced being a follower and a leader.
As a follower, I noticed and learned a lot of things that a leader should not do. And as a leader, I wished a lot of things that should have been done by followers. In any case, I would say that my experience in the parish has given me a clearer view of Christian leadership and discipleship.
Let us talk about Christian discipleship.
There is nothing more frustrating than dealing with someone who thinks he knows everything, or thinks he is God's gift to the community. Conflicts always arise (sadly) in Christian communities if one person thinks he has all the answers to the problems and forces his will on to others. What makes it worse is if this is done in the name of God. It is embarrassing to narrate this but I want to share this personal experience as a lesson on Christian discipleship.
I was once that kind of person. I thought I knew every answer to the problems in our community such that I got into a very ugly argument with our parish priest, and it was in front of the Parish Council. (I was not the president of the council yet). I left the meeting that night very angry and vowed that I will never ever attend any mass celebrated by our parish priest.
The next day, as I was going to work, I passed by our church and saw our priest presiding over the mass. I did not go in. Instead, I went to another church I frequently go to. I attended the mass there and during my reflections, I had a conversation with the Lord.
The Lord asked me, “Why are you not in your parish church?” I answered, “Because I cannot accept the fact that the man presiding is a priest.” I then felt the Lord tell me, “How can you serve me if you are not humble enough to accept my priest? Do you not know that he is ordained and tasked to do my work. If you cannot accept him, how can you then accept me?”
To put a happy ending to the story, I struggled with the Lord and finally went back to our church. I did not know how to approach our parish priest, maybe out of shame. I also knew he was mad at me. So when I arrived and I saw him, I said, “Father, I want to confess my sins.” If he would not accept me without anger then he had to accept me because he was my minister. We were able to reconcile our differences after that.
My point in telling this story is to show how important it is to have a humble attitude towards our pastors. Yes, they may be wrong or our ideas may be better but they are still our pastors and as their sheep, we have to bend and obey in trust that the Lord does his will through them. Never mind if the idea is dumb as long as it is moral and legal, it is worth doing. I am not saying that you should just keep quiet and accept everything given you. You have to argue your point. But once the decision is made, do not be like a child who pouts and goes on a tantrum just because what he wanted was not followed. If that is your attitude, I have one advice, “GROW UP”.
I think for us laymen, Christian discipleship is very difficult, more difficult than those in religious life. For them, they have taken vows of obedience to their supervisors. For us, we are free to obey or not and pride very often comes into play given that freedom. Pride has no place in a community. And neither does it have a place in a Christian's life.