Monday, February 05, 2007

Leadership - Part 2

Myth #1: Certain individuals are called to be the leaders within the body of Christ.

Truth: We are called to a mission and we are called to serve.

The first myth deals with the false dichotomy of leaders and followers. Lee Hock in his article on chaordic leadership had this to say:

"In the deepest sense, distinction between leaders and followers is meaningless. In every moment of life, we are simultaneously leading and following. There is never a time when our knowledge, judgment and wisdom are not more useful and applicable than that of another. There is never a time when the knowledge, judgment and wisdom of another are not more useful and applicable than ours.

We must examine the concept of leading and following with new eyes. We must examine the concept of superior and subordinate with increasing skepticism. And we must examine the nature of organizations that demand such distinctions with an entirely different consciousness."

This is especially true in the church. If we are going to break away from the ongoing struggle for position and power we must first acknowledge the equality of our relationships with one another as a basis for understanding leadership amongst ourselves.

None of us has the permanent role of leader in our relationships. If we assume this, we look past recognizing, acknowledging, and following the leadership of others.

What does this mean for vocational ministers? It means that you are called to be an example of living the mission. It means that you are called to serve others in the body. Given your role of positional responsibility (ht to Scott B) you are especially called to acknowledge and empower the leadership of those among you.

This puts the axe to the root of the traditional clergy/laity divide between the leader and the followers. If you understand that you aren't presumably the permanent designated leader, then there is the ability to establish a relationship of leadership amongst rather than leadership over.

At the very heart it means that we are willing to submit ourselves to those we live among rather than suggesting that our submission is to an external source and that everyone else is supposed to be submitted to us. It means that we recognize that there are giftings and wisdom in those around us that can be of benefit to us also.

If you have been living the role of the elevated leader, how does it feel to consider stepping down to a peer level with those you have led?

I'm not suggesting that the leadership you have be invalidated. What I am suggesting is that your leadership be used to empower those who have assumed the passive role of follower in an entirely new way.

You have the opportunity to validate the leadership of others and model a reciprocal relationship rather than continuing the unhealthy model of over/under relationships.


Bruce said...

In an ideal world, what you are suggesting would be great. In the real world, it just doesn't happen all that much. We live in a society that elevates the knowledge, judgment and wisdom of those in leadership roles over the subordinate, often times neglecting the positional responsibility of those in leadership roles. We give the person in charge so much power that it is difficult for us to "establish a relationship of leadership amongst rather than leadership over."

Good post Grace. Keep it coming.


grace said...

You mean it's not an ideal world?! I guess I'll have to take off my rose-colored glasses. :)

I guess I'm still hopeful that if we change our understanding we can change things, at least in our realm.

KSG said...

A hearty christianese "Amen"!

Having grown up in the "Set Man" enviroment, it was a radical departure from everything I knew the Bible said was true about authority and leadership in order to believe some thing else more convenient for me (tongue-in-cheek). Ha, ha.
Actually, I think it's far more acurate Biblically to have a plurality of eldership for church governance and the 5 fold ministry gifts for spiritual guidance (as purely function - no need for titles). The division between clergy & laity is a false dichotomy best resolved by eliminating the titles, privileges, and formal dress code of clergy. I mean everything from parking stalls and special reserved seats to the vestments of traditional churches or the suits & ties of charismatic churches.

Some key words for me in this post are... leadership amongst and positional responsibility.

Rick Meigs said...

Grace: Good post. I like the whole concept you set out: "leadership amongst rather than leadership over." It gets away from the managerial model so many have adopted and back to the servant/shepherding model.

Alan Knox said...


You are raising some excellent questions with this series. I have been recognized as a leader by our group - though I am not a "vocational minister". It is my desire to "lead among", whether I am recognized as a "leader" or not. There are others who desire me to "lead over". The pull comes from both directions. For some "leaders", it is attractive to be "in leadership". For some who are not "leaders", it is attractive to have others "in leadership".

I tend to shy away from the term "leader" at all. Instead, I try to focus on responsibilities - both my responsibilites and the responsibilities of others. What is it that God has equipped me to do? How can I enable others to do what God has equipped them to do?

I hope this all makes sense.


grace said...

Some of the best leaders I've known haven't cared about a title.

Thanks! I went back and reread your January post also. I was especially struck by the story told by Webb Kline in the comment section.

It certainly does make sense. Part of the problem with our existing models is that the followers are as accustomed to that model as the leaders. Not everyone wants to step away from the passive role.

I hope to bring out more of the equipping and empowering aspects of leadership in a future post.

Lily said...

I absolutely agree with what Bruce said, but I'm with you, Grace. I like to think that the way things in the world and especially in the church are evolving these days, we might begin to see a slight leaning towards what you are talking about. It's bound to happen.

Great thoughts once again...keep it coming.

Inheritor of Heaven said...

I think it has always been a problem (due to human sinfulness)that leadership has been seen as a top-down enterprise which goes wrong. That is why Jesus told his followers it would not be so for them. They were to be servant leaders. The only elevated leader is God himself and even he lowered himself to walk among us. I think in the institutional/mainline churches at least, we have continued to foster the problem by expecting the pastor to do everything. It does not help when the institutional rules do not allow the people to be trained and equipped or to allow it but have really nothing for them to do once they are trained. I know a church that was censured for having trained laity perform baptisms, weddings and consecrate holy communion. This in a denomination which supposedly believes in the "priesthood of believers". I don't have a problem with called and ordained pastors. I don't have a problem with them preaching, marrying, burying and administering sacraments (I come from a sacramental church background). I also don't particularly have a problem if the laity does them either. There are many unbiblical and heretical pastors preaching and teaching out there so I don't think any lay person doing ministry will make it a whole lot worse. I do believe it is the pastor's job to do the training and equipping and and that is what their training should prepare them to do.

John said...


the questions you ask are important for us to consider. thanks for the post, it makes sense to see leaders as among and not over the people. nice blog,

grace said...

Yes, I think we are a couple of optimistic cynics. :)

Great comments. I think this very thing was one of the ways that the church was meant to demonstrate a radically different use of power than the way it is seen in the world. I'm afraid we, as the church, have failed to model this alternative system.

Thanks for your comment. It's nice to meet you.

bryan riley said...

Bruce, ideal versus real? If you are identifying real as the world we see and touch, I'd argue with you on that! :) This world of material certainly isn't ideal, but it is also only an imitation of the Real.

In God's Kingdom those are the principles that He has put in place, and we, as members and ambassadors of that Kingdom need to be praying for His Kingdom to come, on earth just as it is in Heaven! We are called to live by His principles regardless of how much "sense" they make to those around us. I'm the chief of not doing it, but we are still called to do so.

bryan riley said...

Lily, I don't know how much we'll change the world by living in accordance with Jesus' principles, but we will change hearts, one life at a time, and that is what really matters. And, the Kingdom will grow. Jesus warns us that as we follow Him we will be despised as He was. We won't change the world; we must wait until He does that. We don't have the power or authority or ability; He does.

Which reminds me... I am going through these just now from 1-4, and maybe you will be getting to this in 3 and 4, but how does this all jive with authority? Authority is a principle involved as well; how does it jive with Christian principles of leadership?

grace said...

I think that Bruce was referring to the reality, meaning the likelihood, of these principles ever actually being implemented in our existing, mostly-hierarchical church structures. I share some of his pessimism at the overwhelming possibility of turning such a massive institution.

Yet as you said, it is up to each of us, one heart and one life at a time to become a demonstration of the subversive nature of His kingdom. And so, I move forward with some optimism knowing full well that Jesus is building is His church.

If you would like to discuss authority further, I'm game. I addressed it briefly in Part 1. In a nutshell, I don't believe that our authority is over other people, that we ever have the "right" to lead someone. I believe that leadership is a relationship of voluntary and mutual submission.

bryan riley said...

Grace, after carrying the conversation over to Alan's blog, I came to this in one of my comments:

I don't know, thus the question. I suppose a good answer would be to look to Matthew 28, where Jesus says all authority is given to me... and then he tells us to go and make disciples. And, then, agreeing with what you have written, making disciples is about teaching others to follow Jesus, and to do so it isn't so much about human concepts of leadership but about Jesus' call to serve. So, we make disciples, with his authority, by serving. That is my initial thought with all of these thoughts (yours and Grace's and the scriptures discussed and the comments therein) in mind.

What do you think, Grace???

grace said...

Exactly! That says it very well.
I enjoyed reading the conversation between you and Alan at his blog.

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