The Spirit of Insurrection


A spirit of insurrection is always just beneath the surface in Americans. When things are going well this spirit flows quietly like an underground stream of lava. However, when we get fearful or angry our natural insurrectionist spirit erupts and burns those in power.  This is what our Washington politicians discovered in their town hall meetings this summer and our President is discovering this Fall.


Insurrection is in the American bloodstream. After all, we did not become a nation through negotiation and civil discussion but by mob action and rebellion. If we weren’t insurrectionists we would be Canada, not the USA.  The original Boston Tea Party was not about thoughtful discussion in order to seek common ground with England. Thomas Jefferson even admired the mob action of the “Whisky Rebellion.” We might even consider our system of government with regular reelection terms a formal periodic means of channeling our spirit of insurrection—we can toss the bums out of office on a regular basis.  The recent eruptions of the insurrectionist spirit is not an anomaly. Insurrection is a part of the American way of doing things.


When times area good most Americans suppress their spirit of insurrection. When we are without fear and facing little change Americans suppress our spirit of insurrection. But when things are shaky, or we get scared, or someone is forcing change on us we aren’t sure about, the spirit bubbles to the surface in a powerful and dangerous eruption.


But this column is not about politics but the church. So what does all this have to do with pastors? It is a reminder to American pastors that their people don’t leave their national mood behind when they come to church. A considerable number of pastors trying to introduce change last summer learned this the hard way.  The spirit of insurrection also attends church. Almost all worship leaders have seen an increase in the temperature of complaints this last six months. Americans are angry that others are getting good things while they are paying the bill, they are angry that things aren’t going as well as they hoped for, they are fearful of change and they bring that mood with them to the church board meetings.

People are fearful of change—changing anything. Pastors and administrators of organizations who fail to take this mood into account are liable to get burned by the molten lava of insurrection. Once the mob mentality takes hold lining up your soldiers to shoot them won’t end the rebellion. Neither will a civil conversation. They will sneak into your church in the dark and dump your tea overboard!


When an insurrectionist mood infects a people there are at least two leadership strategies for dealing with it: Some will try to tap the spirit of insurrection to make changes. A clever leader can sometimes manage the mob’s anger and direct it toward bringing change. This is what the founding fathers did. So it may be a good time to split a church or start a new venue.  After all, virtually every protestant denomination in American was founded by insurrection. This is an exciting though dangerous option. Leaders who try to direct the flow of erupting lava sometimes get burned themselves.  Other leaders will dial down plans to change and sit it out. Most leaders who see the spirit in their people will adopt a “watchful waiting” strategy until the temperature drops back to normal. It always does. Americans have been regularly infected with an insurrectionist spirit but every time they have later calmed down and become nice generous folk again. If you don’t get your new program, staff member, change of service times through this year, next year may bring a better mood for change to your people.


Are your people leaving their “spirit of insurrection” at the church door or bringing some of it into church with them?  What is your strategy in dealing with “the spirit of insurrection?” Have you seen any of this Spirit in your district or at your general Conference? I think we’re seeing some of thyis mood in the church too.  At least, that’s what I think…


So what do you think?

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By Keith Drury   September 15, 2009