There have been a lot of comments on previous posts regarding leadership, so I thought I would initiate a couple of new posts on the subject. I did a workshop at the Denver house church conference called "Re-Thinking Leadership: From Leading an Organization to Serving a Movement." I suppose, since I facilitated this workshop, that makes me "the expert." Haha. Just kidding. In fact, you might notice the title is "re-thinking" as in current-tense-still-in-the-process. I think we are all in this process of re-envisioning what leadership of an organic movement looks like and, therefore, there are no experts. This is what makes this such a dynamic conversation for today!
The workshop I did was set up to be participatory. However, I did set the stage with some pre-suppositions which I will share here as a starting point for this discussion on leadership.
Presupposition #1: Church is a living entity. Church is an explosion of God's life through people. It is, by definition, an organic life-force process that God directs. It is the life and power of God flowing under his sovereignty through people who are submitted to his authority.
We have so over-used and mis-understood the term "church" that we often lose the divine nature of it. Church is people, yes, but it is all about God's divinity--in all of his fullness and life--flowing in and through people. We might want to say that word "church "and envision fire around it and rivers flowing through it just to see clearly the divine-life nature of it. "Church" is inherently God's own life being transmitted to and through people. In this sense it is organic, a living entity, in the most full-of-life sense imaginable.
Perhaps a good visualization, then, of this "divine explosion of life through people" that we call "church" would be a living river that has intelligence--God's intelligence--behind it. The importance of this is that first of all, it is-- like a river--filled with life and power. Secondly, it is a river that is fully under God's direction (and God alone). Thirdly, it is neither sensible nor controllable. It sometimes flows calmly and gently, and then, in a moment, it rushes over a cliff and becomes a wild onslaught of rushing water that overflows banks and cannot be contained. Just because God is at work in and through people, we must not lose sight of the fact that "church" is people who are infused with an overflow of heavenly life that comes from the throne. We are alive to God because he has filled us with his organic, power-filled life. It is a life-force that is transmitted under his direction and command. It is truly alive and it is a beyond-this-world entity!
As a side note to this description of "church" I would say that, at the very least, it helps us to approach the topic of "leadership" (facilitating this divine flow of life) with great humility. After all, the most we can hope to do is to develop a deep intimacy with the one who commands this explosion of life, respond to HIS leading, and in that way take part in facilitating the furtherance of this life-force.
Presupposition #2: Organizational leadership, as a model for facilitating church (as a living life-force entity), is inadequate at best and detrimental at worst. Our business/organizational/leadership models are simply not up to the task for facilitating a living, God-directed process.
By definition, our organizational leadership models are about human control: set understandable goals, develop mechanized strategies to reach those goals, implement, evaluate. If you look at this clearly, you can see that we are in trouble right from the start. How can one set understandable goals for something as beyond-this-world as the living church? I am not suggesting that a believer must never set goals. We do live in a world that requires a certain amount of control and order. I am simply saying that using these tools as a primary way to bring leadership to God's church is wholly unsatisfactory.
Presupposition #3: God's way of leadership is foreign to us and therefore difficult to understand and implement. Most of us have been schooled and trained in the type of scientific thinking that makes it relatively easy to embrace organizational/business-type leadership. It simply makes sense to us. So much so, that it is difficult to get our minds around what leadership looks like without that basic paradigm.
The fact is, what we call "servant leadership" is not just a "biblical way" to go about doing organizational leadership. It is a completely different paradigm and basic definition of what leadership is. It simply does not fit into business/organizational leadership models nor does it fit comfortably into the way we think of leadership at all. It is a different way-to-think-about leadership altogether that is both discomforting and challenging because it does not allow us to "do leadership" within the context of the roles we are familiar with.
Henri Nouwen says this about biblical servant-leadership: "The servant-leader is the leader who is being led to unknown, undesirable, and painful places. The way of the Christian leader is not the way of upward mobility in which our world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross."
I would like to suggest that the reason we struggle with understanding the reality of this type of leadership is because we have not really walked out the discomfort of its calling!
Nouwen goes on to say, "the world in which we live--a world of efficiency and control--has no models to offer to those who want to be shepherds in the way Jesus was a shepherd..."
I think this shows the difficulty of this conversation on leadership. We cannot really put our finger on "the model" because it is so foreign to us and so little seen.
Presupposition #4: Leadership, in the way it is meant to be expressed in the church today, is in fact vital. All of this to say that re-envisioning, re-defining, and re-thinking leadership is not just an intellectual exercise. We need today, more than ever, to see the church led by those who "get it"-- by those who model rather than preach, who impart it by lifestyle not by platitudes, whose laid-down life is the offering that influences others, and who do not require recognition because their reward is to see the divine-explosion of live, kingdom life, increased on the earth.
More to come... (I think)... This is meant to be just a starting point!