We were in the midst of a three week intensive class training missionaries. The day on group dynamics was almost finished, with everyone giving all the appropriate answers. Then a visitor appeared, a strong shift from the ordinary. He told us that he had taken the class in a previous year, his experience with the class we would participate in on the morrow was the roughest of the three weeks, but wouldn’t say more. My only clues were the lessons of the last few days.
I don’t pray like other people. Many things, are prayed for once, not trying to generate intensity, and then left in God’s hands. I have told God, so He doesn’t need reminding. I sensed that tonight was different, it was a withdraw to the lonely place eve. After all, on certain days, Jesus withdrew to the lonely places to pray. The next day was always day that tried men’s souls. My prayer that night was a battle. I examined how the old man would want to respond to group dynamics, and how the new man should respond. It was a long battle, but finally, I felt ready for however the world might strive to bring out the old man in me.
We arrived in the class, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, all sure we were going to emerge victorious where all others crashed and burned. The leaders proceeded to divide us up into 2 groups, making sure to separate all husbands and wives, and moved to two separate rooms. We were then told we were in a role playing game. In the game, we were in a bomb shelter because the bomb was on its way. First, we were given ten minutes to organize. Next, we were given a list of fifteen people outside the door who wanted in. We could only let two more people in because any more would overwhelm the life support and all would die. Unfortunately, in ten minutes, the bomb would hit and anyone outside would be dead. The pressure experienced by all was intense. At the termination of the time, it was announced that everyone left out was gone. Then the next set of instructions was given, tightening the screws to new levels of pressure. This continued all day. The next day, we decompressed, sharing our experiences and with the leader chiming in with events of past years.
To understand what happened, one needs to know how previous classes weathered the emotional storm. This man had staged this event around the nation for years and had only two classes emerge victorious. In one class, the power struggle had become intense, with two frustrated men pretending to steal the food. The one who had emerged as the leader pretended to take out a gun and shoot them. The class facilitator told the two that for the rest of the day they had to lie on the floor and pretend to be dead. Towards the end of the day, when the two groups were brought together, as usual, all asked, “why are the two on the floor?” The explanation left even the wife unwilling to communicate with the “shooter.”
My wife’s group experienced nothing so intense. She said, right from the start, the invisible ones were left out. All the strong personalities jumped in to solve the problems. Slowly, one by one, people would be ignored. The first joined the invisible pool. The second withdrew and studied the Bible the rest of the day, becoming unnoticed by the few active participants. Another “gave up the ghost,” becoming dead to the game, but noticeably playing the guitar in protest. Though the few remaining leaders solved the problems, the anger among all those forced into invisibility was palpable. The class entered the long role of failures.
I have never been considered to have the leadership gift. I didn’t expect or try to emerge as top dog in my group. I focused on destroying emerging bullying. I suspect that others had similar goals. Soon we were asking all, even the invisible ones, who should we invite in? Then we listened. As the day progressed, we didn’t succeed in all stages of the game, but we did discover that the imperceptible ones had valuable input. One of my jobs was to give humorous responses. When we were choosing who to let in, I suggested to this all white group of prim and proper Christians that we should let in the Black survival expert because it would increase the gene pool. Though I was serious, it so startled everyone that it broke the tension. By such means, we ended with no leader, but a leadership that rotated fluidly through three of us.
Afterwards, I interviewed all my fellow partakers. Some didn’t get the picture and blamed those who wouldn’t follow the complainer. There were type “A” women and men in this group. The quiet ones who had been ignored expressed frustration or acknowledged that it always happened and where ever they went, they never felt appreciated and in life, had given up on that aspect, doing quiet jobs where they were appreciated. I listened to one lady in our group who said, “You asked me questions, listened to my answer, considered it honestly, and sometimes chose it as the best answer. Never in my life has anyone done that.”
People complain that only a few people in the church do all the jobs. Yet we seem to force them out and teach them to sit quietly in the pews. Is it their fault that they become the invisible ones? Does the Bible say only a few are gifted? Rom 12:6 “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly.” 1 Cor 12:11, 24-5 “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills… But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” Think of the power the church would have if it believed in and treated as worthwhile the invisible ones.