Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Leadership Thang

I have been thinking, praying and reading a fair bit about leadership over the last few months. In the past I have been pretty critical of the traditional "pastor at the top" model of church leadership - without going so far as to suggest we should do away with pastors altogether.

Much of my emotion comes from negative personal experiences. But I have to say I also have had some very good "pastoral experiences" - Tony A. and Mike F. being the most notable (you guys know who you are if ever you happen by this blog - your impact on my life has been incredibly significant , thank you!), and either way, I have learned a lot through all my experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Well, today I received my "ministers accreditation card" - it's my proof that a denomination is actually crazy enough to certify me (no pun intended), but it has also led me to do some pretty deep thinking about what the role of the "leader" really is in the 21st century church.

So this Sunday, after much sweating and many prayers, I bit the bullet and preached on leadership from Ephesians 4. I have found this particular passage enlightening in my own journey. In verses 11 to 16 Paul simply explains the necessity of spiritually gifted leaders in a healthy church.

It is a passage that knocks traditional (and centuries old) notions of pastoral hierarchies on the head, it also destroys any (hard) post-modern dictum of a church without any delegated leadership.

Gifted leadership is, it would seem, essential for the vitality and efficiency of the church.

As I studied these verses I was given a picture of a church where the leaders, working out of their God-given abilities, reflected the ministry of the Master - Jesus, and where the members reflected the ministry of the leaders. I guess you could sum it up by saying, any church ministry is only ever as good as its leaders and when the leaders are working from spiritual gifts it's going to be many times more successful than when they aren't.

The words of Paul; "Imitate me as I imitate Christ", are echoing through my mind. How easy it is, as a follower of Jesus to quote these words as Paul's - "see, Paul said we should imitate him as he imitates Christ, but for God's sake, don't imitate me!". In reality these are the very words we as individuals (whether in recognised leadership roles or not) should all be confidently aspiring to say to those we fellowship and minister to and alongside. Now that, at least for me, is a rather daunting reminder of what being a disciple of Jesus Christ is really all about.

Yet if the members are ever going to be able to confidently encourage each other this way, the leadership has to be willing to confidently encourage the members first - not simply with hollow words, but with lives that reflect the statement. And if we accept what Paul has to say in Ephesians 4, the only way the body is going to be able to do this (i.e. "work properly") is when the leadership gifts are being recognised and used.

Rick Meigs on his fantastic blog; The Blind Beggar, has posted a list of contrasts between "missional" and "maintenance" (you can substitute "attractional" here if it helps) congregations. A large section of this list deals with leadership - we could do a lot worse than to use it as a mirror; is our life/ministry reflected in the missional list or the maintenance?

As we look at the 5 gifts of leadership given to the church and their New Testament analogs, it's interesting to see how all of them relate so well to a missional/incarnational framework of ministry.

Rick's post, Asking the Right Question, is HERE

For a look at definitions of the general roles associated with each of the 5 leadership gifts, check out this post on John Smulo's blog, called Wanted: Fivefold Ministry Team.

Part 4 of Frost and Hirsch's book The Shaping of Things to Come also takes a fairly in-depth look at the 5-fold gifts of leadership (they call it APEPT leadership - you can read some of my earlier comments relating to this section of Frost and Hirsch HERE).


John Smulo said...

I'm increasingly interesting in this subject. I'm glad you raised it as well.

Finding the balance between old forms and newer thoughts is tough.

The Creature said...

Hi John,

Yep - it is tough, I think it is actually one of the toughest challenges facing the modern church - and I guess it really isn't a new challenge, particularly when you look back to the first few centuries of Christianity and see how quickly heirachical systems were introduced.

It reminds me so much of Moses and the bronze snake, and the Israelites and their need for a King. I think we just feel better when we have someone to look to - and in many cases, someone we can pass all of our own responsibilities onto!

Of course, something I didn't mention in my post is the role God's grace has to play in the whole thing.