A culture of mutual trust and respect

“Say what you want people to hear out front. People will remember that.”

I learned this basic principle of good communication many years ago. And, ironically, this column is entitled “Outfront,” so it makes sense for me to say this in my first communication with you:

I want us, the CCMBC family, to live together with mutual trust and respect.

On the same day last week, I had two separate conversations on the subject with members of our MB family, both leaders in a Christian ministry context. The first one said, “I have worked most of my life in world-class corporations with mostly non-Christian colleagues, and I never saw in those relationships the kind of dishonest, skirting around conflict, passive-aggressive behaviour I have experienced in my last two years leading a Christian non-profit. Why is that?” Another leader, after hearing my heart cry that we talk to – not about – each other, said, “We Canadian MBs
don’t do this well, but I too want us to live with mutual
trust and respect.”

I think we know the Bible’s teaching on this issue of trust and respect. “Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10). “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil…. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:15–16, 21).

The transformation of Christ’s work in our lives will have the effect of us loving others sincerely – showing other believers honour. Trusting others is almost inseparable from loving others. Out of respect for Christ, we will be courteously reverent to one another. True community and fruitful ministry can only be fully achieved through submission and love.

As a leader who wants us, the family of Mennonite Brethren churches in Canada, to live together with mutual trust and respect, I commit to lead with the following Christ-like character traits that will foster that culture.

  • Integrity: I will endeavour to be honest in my relationship with you, speaking directly to those with whom I have questions or concerns, not to others.
  • Credibility: I will endeavour to earn your trust by providing the rationale and knowledge to back up my words, so that what I am saying or proposing is credible.
  • Accountability: I will endeavour to be ready to take responsibility for my actions, acknowledging when I am wrong, asking forgiveness when I am offensive.
  • Reliability: I will endeavour to be dependable; to deliver what I have promised.
  • Transparency: I will endeavour to be straightforward about what I say; my leadership motives will be clear and understandable.
  • Courtesy: I will have the good manners to listen to your points of view, and remember to thank you for your input.
  • Resiliency: I will endeavour to be flexible in responding to your feedback because I care about the CCMBC mission and our team.

I am convinced that if I lead with these characteristics, our trust and respect for each other will grow. I am confident that these traits are also evident in your life and that the Spirit will increasingly lead us to live this way with each other. We can walk in the Spirit toward a CCMBC culture of trust and respect.

The great gain for the CCMBC family is that in a culture of trust and respect, the energy we use in our internal conversations will be constructive, encouraging, life giving and we will have far more energy and creativity to give to our conversations with the lost and least in our communities, Canada and the world. Together, we will be on one mission!

I welcome your response. Perhaps you have an added characteristic or a refining of what I have said here. And better yet, I would spur you toward having a conversation in your provincial region and local church about how you can benefit from gaining the mutual trust and respect that you long for.

In closing, I defer to the Spirit’s inspired words through Paul:

“God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love – like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love” (Ephesians 4:14–15, The Message).

[Steve Berg is interim executive director of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. He and Karen live in Abbotsford, B.C.

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