Moved Mountains

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

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Missionally Aware - Is Leadership the Problem?

The following quote was taken from a post on the Blind Beggar regarding some research undertaken in the US on the views of protestant church leadership in the area of community outreach and evangelism.

The results are a little disturbing but I think reinforce the fact that one of the biggest hurdles facing the 21st century church has been erected by those with the most influence on the institution - the leaders, and more specifically, those installed in CEO-Pastor roles in local congregations.

Rick Meigs wrote:

... here are the excuses 4 out of 10 pastors gave for not offering more community related programs (with my interpretation in italics):
  • They would rather focus on spiritual needs than on physical needs (physical needs are the job of the government, we only deal with the spiritual).
  • They would rather focus on their own congregation than on the community (and I’d get fired if I didn’t).
  • Their community has no major needs (yes, they really said this).
  • They don’t see it as a major priority for their church (they must have deleted Mark 12:31 from their bibles).
  • Their congregation really isn’t interested in community outreach (we’re a private club and can’t be bothered).
These type of response demonstrate a strong lack of understanding of who we are called to be (an incarnational people), pastors bowing to the pressure of the congregation to focus on them exclusively, and an ignorance of the post-Christian culture we now live and minister within.
While the study Rick refers to was conducted in the US, from my personal experience I would think things wouldn't be terribly different here in Australia.

I believe, that in order to correct this unbiblical skew away from biblical models of leadership (not an easy subject on its own) we ultimately have to correct the CEO model of church leadership and return to a servant leader - eldership model, where leadership is entrusted to a team of suitably (biblically) qualified individuals and not the sole responsibility of one man.

But, in answering the question that forms the title of this post, the leadership, while being part of the problem, isn't the whole problem.

Unfortunately this top heavy and counterproductive approach to leadership is entrenched in the training institutions that produce the majority of church leaders today, but until the local church grows balls and is prepared to stand up and say "this is not what we want in our leaders" things are probably not going to change.

And this is as much a challenge to those dissatisfied folk in the local/traditional church as it is to the CEO-Pastor's themselves. Lasting change can only come from within. It can be a long hard process, but the future of the local church in your community depends upon it.

For those who are dissatisfied with the way their local fellowship is moving it's all too easy to pull up roots and head over to the mega-church in the next town, or to sit and complain and white-ant the church leadership or to get into a holy huddle and break-away - causing division. It's not so easy to stay and love the imperfect (recognising your own weakness and imperfections first!) and play a role in providing a solution, rather than just adding to the problem - and it is a problem!

Of course there does sometimes come a time when it is genuinely and godly to say "enough is enough" and to leave. But that should be the final resort, and not the first, second or even third, as is so often the case in many congregations currently struggling with the need to view ministry and leadership in different ways.

You can read all of Rick's post here. As usual, I think you'll find it insightful and, hopefully, challenging.


David said...

Good points there Andrew, I like the metaphor. I agree that servant leadership is so much the key.
With CEO leadership, the stockholder (aka church member) is the first priority.
It is not just about numbers or keeping the current flock happy.

The Creature said...

Thanks David,

I think finding the balance between serving the congregation and ending up with a business strucutre that consists of products and services for already-Christians (I like the stock/shareholder analogy) can be difficult. But, it is something that must be achieved - the difference between biblical discipleship and pandering to a culture of consumerism that, once entrenched, can be very difficult to break away from. This is where the missional mindset really comes into its own - check out John Smulo's Missional Apologetics Manifesto -