Leadership- an interesting word, especially today when the eyes of the world are turned towards the U.S.A. and the Presidential elections. Even here in the U.K. we have been party to debates, reports and discussions about the difference between the two candidates which have highlighted not only their policies but also their leadership styles. It is perhaps an auspicious day then for a synchronised blog on the subject of leadership.
I began by suggesting that leadership is an interesting word, I say this because in today's church good leadership is something that is often discussed and debated, there are numerous books and courses on leadership; a variety of patterns and structures are suggested to us, some drawing from Biblical sources whilst others look to secular institutions and management structures for inspiration.
Again and again then the question is raised, what does/ should effective Church Leadership look like in the 21st Century? I dare to suggest that we have all too often missed the point when seeking to answer this question, because we are in a success driven numbers conscious society we fail to embrace the true servant nature of leadership as modelled for us by Jesus and even by Paul. Every now and then we catch a glimpse of someone completely different, someone who stops us in our tracks and challenges us about what true leadership might look like; people like St Francis of Assisi, and more recently Mother Theresa to name two.
In his book "Ministry in three Dimensions" Steven Croft calls us to look afresh at Jesus, noting that;
"In much of Jesus ministry he is challenging the use of power among the secular and religious leaders of his age; again and again he repudiates their attitudes and their methods, and some of his strictest censure is reserved for those who misuse authority in the name of religion." p. 36
Croft then goes onto look at patterns of leadership in the early Church, and calls us to remember that the church is neither a nation- therefore Old Testament models of leadership should be viewed with an appropriate cultural hermeneutic, nor is it a corporation- therefore we should exercise careful criticism of our desires when we choose to embrace models of leadership from the secular world.
I believe that it is also essential to remember that we are a Community of the Spirit, and as such the Holy Spirits gifts are given to the whole church in order to build up the Church- those who we call leaders- pastors, teachers etc, are called first and foremost to serve, and continually reminded by the apostle Paul in his letters that with authority come great responsibility, and that much is expected of them.
We must remember that Jesus turned the expectations of those who had waited for him for so long upside down, he called an unlikely bunch of people to work and walk with him, and he embraced prostitutes, tax collectors, and lepers. Jesus had a natural authority because it was God-given- and it is God who calls his leaders forth from within his church today.
If we take then the picture of God as Trinity and recognise the non-hierarchical picture of perichorisis , and then we see the church also as a community made in the image of God- leadership needs to find itself a new name! For I believe that if we are to truly challenge and surprise the world today with the message of the gospel, then we need to start living out our God given calling as his people, recognising that we have all been gifted to take our place within the body of Christ, that hierarchy though inevitable to some extent should be a channel of grace rather than a movement of worldly power.
Yes decisions need to be made, and some folk are called to be responsible for them, yes some will teach whilst others wash-up, and yes some are more able than others, but none are more valuable than others , and none are to laud power and authority over others in an ungracious and unloving way.
Those who are called to be leaders in the church should seek to follow the pattern of Christ who;
"…………knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." (John 13: 3-5)
For the Church as a community is to be noted and noticed for the mutual love and respect that its members hold for one another (John 13; 34-35), and the Church as it models this attitude of love to the world it needs to remember that, in the Words of William Temple:
"The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members."
We are called to be salt and light in God's world, and we claim to follow the leadership of the one who turned this world's values upside down. We would do well then to follow his example of leadership in the Church today.
This post is part of a synchro blog on leadership, you can read more at these posts;
Jonathan Brink - Letter To The President
Adam Gonnerman - Aspiring to the Episcopate
Alan Knox - Submission is given not taken
Joe Miller - Elders Lead a Healthy Family: The Future
Cobus van Wyngaard - Empowering leadership
Steve Hayes - Servant leadership
Geoff Matheson - Leadership
John Smulo - Australian Leadership Lessons
Helen Mildenhall - Leadership
Tyler Savage - Moral Leadership - Is it what we need?
Bryan Riley - Leading is to Listen and Obey
Susan Barnes - Give someone else a turn!
Lionel Woods - Why Diverse Leadership is Good for America
Julie Clawson - Leadership Expectations
Ellen Haroutunian - A New Kind Of Leadership
Matt Stone - Converting Leadership