Leadership in the new context, lessons for post-charismatics…

There are many questions to be asked in the wake of the so called  ‘Lakeland outpouring’. I asked some of them here but I came across the post below on the ‘subversive influence’ blog. Check it out…

Reinterpreting the Lakeland Fallout : Subversive Influence

Because, I very much agree- the issue is not really about Todd Bentley- but it is about leadership. It is about the power and control we give to (or is taken by) Christian leaders- who are seemingly unassailable because they are seen as anointed from on high, and are perhaps supported by the machinery of a spiritual institution that is all powerful, at least to it’s members.

For people like me, who no longer feel inclined to ally myself closely with movements like these, it might be easy to step back into our small groupings and feel all superior. After all, we knew this was going to happen didn’t we?

But we are at a turning point in the history of the Christian Church in the west, at least. The old is shrinking, and the new is… well where exactly?

Is the church emerging? Is something new being built that will become the proclaimers of the Kingdom of God in this new context?

I hope so, but we have a long way to go yet- and it seems to me that like any other human organisation, our new church will experience conflict, broken relationships and lack of clear direction…

Jesus Promised us the Holy Spirit, as comforter and guide. But it seems that he has also always used LEADERS… and  we who have been part of whatever the ’emerging church conversation’ is now going to call itself desperately need leaders.

Brother Maynard said this;

My informal appeal to post-charismatic and missional bloggers for the month of September might be to spend some time thinking and writing on the forms of leadership (apostolic or otherwise) which we need to see in the church today. What characterizes this form of leadership? How do we recognize leaders, and how is their authority derived and exercised?

Well I am a month late- it is now October, but I will belatedly attempt to take up the challenge!

Leaders.

They have to be big strong accomplished and invulnerable don’t they? They have to charismatic and Charismatic, attractive and attractional, visionary and focussed. Leaders are focussed on goals and strategic targets- and the organisation of resources (money and people) towards the achievement of these.

Except I think that this kind of leadership no longer works. It is no longer works for me. It makes me want to walk in another direction. My context is Post-Christian semi-rural Scotland, and our attempts to engage with our neighbours in a place where church has a poor reputation, and for most, little relevance.

Before I go on, I had better describe something of where I live, work and worship…

I live in a small town, but I am still connected to friends who live in urban situations. I am used to management in my working life (which always seems to me to be a very different thing from leadership) and now find myself within a small community with no designated ‘leader’, with all the strengths and weaknesses that this leaves us with.

We are small. We seek to be partners with others, not competitors. Our ambitions are shaped by bringing our limitations and strengths together, offering them to God and asking him to use them. So for us, leadership remains very much like facilitation- taking a loose agenda and encouraging one another to take some risks. The true leaders are those who are prepared to take a slightly larger risk, whilst always seeking to put the love for others before the task at hand…

Tensions are manageable, but painful. People’s commitment to the group is based on relationship, so the very existence of our project demands that we look after one another.

For us, this sort of works- most of the time. I suppose it kind of fits our characters, the context that we have grown out of, and the time and energy our group members have to spare. There is a kind of core group, but a lot of others who are less involved, and might or might not see themselves as ‘members’, but still contribute to and benefit from some of the things we do.

But this kind of absence-of-leadership does not resolve all of the issues. I decided to make a list of leadership issues that apply in my own context. Forgive me if some of these are obvious- but I think that they need to be re-stated.

  1. As things get bigger, they become more complex. Does this mean that things must always be more centalised? Does the imagery of industrial or military command structures really ever fit a church context, or should leadership be best understood as a supportive network– where the comparisons are better made with web-based networking or discussion sites like Facebook or Wikiedia? Here, the issue is not control- although subscribers might have to agree to a degree of regulation. Rather it is a network based on trust and mutual commitment. LEADERSHIP in such a network seems to require a whole different set of skills- the maintenance of good communication, facilitation, ‘framing’ discussions and issues to allow others to engage and respond, providing opportunities for engagement- but not removing responsibility or using power.
  2. But power always remains an issue? There will always be power differentials. Some will always have more to say, more influence and more abilities etc. Does there need to be a way of balancing this- sharing it out? Whilst democracy might not be the aim, methods of engaging and making sure that the voices of the marginalised are moved to the centre also require leadership.
  3. We all need people to look up to. This may not always be healthy, as unrealistic expectations on both sides can emerge- but it seems to me that this network will form around people who others look to with respect. They in turn will look to others who they respect. The danger is that this system throws up more hierarchies- more Todd Bentley’s. We need to have a way of celebrating gifted individuals, whilst making sure that their giftings are not overvalued.
  4. We all need a hand on our shoulder sometimes. Finding sypathetic and understanding mentors in this network can be hard. Without mentoring, how do people grow into the new spaces that church is moving into? How are they held accountable? How is gifting recognised and encouraged?
  5. We all need to see the bigger picture. Housegroups are great, but most of us also love to meet in a larger group- to make some more noise at times, and feel part of something bigger. Internet connections are no substitute for human ones. To bring people together requires organisation. Organisations need to be led.
  6. Women, minority groups etc. can no longer be excluded, and must be encouraged. For too long, the white, male, middle class church professional has been centre stage. It’s time to share.
  7. Authority, orthodoxy and mission statements- these are corporate words, not Kingdom ones. In a network, these will still be important- but should be decentralised. People should be encouraged to work out their own understandings, within practice, not within the academy, or even the blogosphere! There might be some room for ‘big theology‘- but it should be general, and generous. The emphasis should be on ‘small theology’ (Karen Ward’s words not mine) worked out in community. Lets agree that we will disagree on much, but share most. There will always be a difference between broad PRINCIPLES and POWER STATEMENTS that rely on expert interpretations.
  8. Leadership should be judged by servanthood, not by status. Easily said, I know. But there are some things that can be done to encourage this- make some leadership positions time limited perhaps.
  9. People are always more important than projects. That is not to say that we should avoid doing stuff if it upsets people- but that we should get that 1 Corinthians 13 stuff out as a set of goggles through which we examine our programmes, lest they become resounding gongs.
  10. The roles of apostles ( and the other 5-fold ministries)? How does someone come to be called an apostle? I think that this is not a title, but a role performed by a very few- whose influence is recognised over a long period of time. These people have great responsibility, but will always be fallible and human. Let us never pretend they are super-Christians- in fact some of them will be super-human (in the sense of being all the more connected with their humanity). As for the other ministries- i wonder whether we should keep the focus LOCAL, and measure it in COMMUNITY…

I think that is enough for now…

Check out also this really interesting series by futurist guy that begins here

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6 thoughts on “Leadership in the new context, lessons for post-charismatics…

  1. perhaps this will interest you..17 years ago I stepped back from a budding career as a super speaker,having only been saved 2 years earlier,because I did like the “big’ church concept,and was told by the Lord,to start a small fellowship,and keep it small.so in 15 years,I have successfully kept it to about 15 to 18,just like the Lord’s,12 men and a few good women. It’s now become the Holy Spirit’s workshop,designed specifically to encourage pastors whose churches are small,and to show them the power of a small church,because each person can be intensely and personnally discipled by a gifted person from Jesus..the pastor. Results are men and women who know the word like the back of their hands,who love the Lord and one another,who can each minister one on one,or preach or write..you names it. A large congregation is like a mountain of pebbles,a small church recieving intensive attention from a pastor can become a collection of large rocks..what would you prefer to build a foundation on..or use to throw against the stronghold of an enemy. The emerging church?..I think it is the resuurected church of Jesus,small,powerful,mobile,responsive,capable of all that the Lord has been doing and even greater things without relying on Mammon. Experiment has now reached Phillipines,with hundreds of churches of sizes less than 50,being shown how to start their own Holy Spirit’s workshop..where the only qualification is that the people are trusted by the Holy Spirit with His power to finish the great commission in their part of the world to allow the end to come. Apostles..they are around but you woukd have to know where to look to find the real ones. And yes, they are very human,and as full of errors as the rest of us,even rebellious sometimes..just like the 12 who went to capernaum when the Lord told them to go to Bethsaida immediately after the feeding of the 5000,and they didn’t repent for their disobedience.

  2. HI Edmund- thanks for the comment.

    It is great to hear about some good things happening in your neck of the woods… all the best to you as you follow God’s leading.

    Cheers

    Chris

  3. Pingback: The reformulation of ‘emerging’ Church? « this fragile tent

  4. Pingback: Leadership in small missional communities… « this fragile tent

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