Constructing Trust

Faith: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the church. Her ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life forms and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

It is one of the biggest misunderstandings that we always think we must rediscover our faith. We believe that Jesus was the pinnacle of the understanding of faith and that Paul explained it to us.

Since then, we have tried to go back. How many times have I heard that there is nothing new under the sun and that we must uncover what has been lost?

I often heard a corollary: we have to have lived what we preach. This is true to a degree. But then, there is the small crowd, the fellow pioneers, the compadres of vision, the forerunners.

To trust a fellow visionary and pioneer, there has to be a proof record, just as much as there has to be one for the plain ordinary pastor and believer. But we typically settle for proof that is easy to get: Do they follow the mainstream? Do they obey the rules? Often even, do they believe what I believe?

All this is incompatible with being a pioneer and visionary.

I answered a questionnaire yesterday that included some questions on how we build trust. It asked questions like:

  • Do you have to see somebody work to build trust?
  • Is it essential to see the sustained positive and successful outcome before you trust?
  • Do you need to hear somebody talk?
  • Do you need positive testimonies about somebody from sources you trust? Or just anybody?

It appears that the church emphasizes positive testimonies of people that have been called trustful sources by other trustful sources. But still, all this is filtered by our beliefs.

Gallup has researched the four basic needs of employees, one of which is building trust.

These are some of the ways that I build trust in people, according to Gallup:

The purpose behind pursuing what’s new can help others trust you to make good choices. Explain the “why” behind what you do.

Make things simple. All your ideas, possibilities, and tangents can confuse some people. You see the simplicity of the underlying principles; articulate that to others, so they can see it too.

Be honest enough to admit that you’re still learning. Being vulnerable and open about your learning puts you on par with others and indicates a mutual expectation, not a one-sided one.

You inspire trust because you are cautious and considerate regarding sensitive topics. Use these talents by taking on opportunities to handle delicate issues and conflicts.

When you carefully analyze others’ thinking and then respectfully give your honest opinion, you can help them avoid pitfalls and mistakes. They will appreciate your sincere willingness to help them succeed, and they will come to depend on you for this.

When helping others imagine what could be, ensure that your visions are grounded in reality. Many people do not find it as easy to envision what things will look like decades later, so provide as much detail as possible about what they can do to be a part of the future. A realistic attitude will help build trust and confidence in your visionary ideas.

Gallup, Strengths based Leadership

Some of these ways to build trust in a classic church environment will not fly. People in churches yearn for security and certainty. Admitting that you are still learning it disqualifies you as a leader in many settings. I let you analyze whether I would be able to build trust in you toward me.

But back to visionaries and pioneers (and you might see from the snippets above that I might qualify as one of them).

Can we trust them, looking at their past? We can, but we have to look at things on a different level than with the plain, ordinary pastor. We cannot trust them because they faithfully stayed within the system’s confines as a good example and helped many others to do the same.

We can trust them because they successfully lived change.

When I was in the Swiss army, I was a tank grenadier. Our officers were always first storming a (fake) enemy camp or securing a position, and last when it came to food.

We had an officer from another group type for two weeks, and he was used to sending out his soldiers and waiting for their return.

Guess who we trusted.

I tried to do this for a while: model the change for the church, show my willingness toward the new, and run ahead.

But guess what? Though the church loves songs like “Onward, Christian soldier,” they are anything but soldiers. Nobody followed.

The example alone did not suffice. The church members felt that our head pastor did not trust me, and therefore, they did not trust me either. It did not matter that I had been ordained as elder and teacher of the fivefold ministry by precisely that person. He did it because his spiritual father had told him to. He did it because the official doctrine was one of team ministry. He did it out of obedience, not trust. And he never developed that trust.

In a hierarchical system with an arrested or closed mindset, it does not matter how you build trust as long as the powers-to-be do not trust you.

In a hierarchical system, opening up an arrested or closed mindset is impossible unless people trust you.

In a hierarchical system with an arrested or closed mindset, leaders do not trust their leaders but obey them, as trust is earned by obedience.

A classical catch-22. Nobody but leaders can extend the trust necessary for change, but they will only do so if one obeys and does not call for change.

How about building a church based on trust instead of obedience? That was the plan in the first place, when we consider that faith and trust are synonymous and expressed by the same word in Greek and Hebrew.