Friday, February 09, 2007

Leadership - Part 4

Myth #3: There isn't leadership in the body of Christ.

Truth: We need a new paradigm of what leadership is in the body of Christ.

The reason I posted the other two myths first is because unless we adopt those truths first, we aren't situated to develop a new paradigm of leadership. First, leadership must be based on the truth that our status as brothers in the kingdom is that of equals. Second, leadership must evolve organically out of the unique relationships and giftings of a particular group.

Kester Brewin in discussing leadership in such a self-organizing system said this:

"...yes, there is such a thing as leadership in such (self-organizing) systems. But the model and style of leadership is so radically different to that which a) 'leaders' are used to using and b) 'followers' are used to experiencing that it is enormously tempting to quickly revert to old models of leadership where 'leaders' feel in control and the 'followers' can abdicate responsibility for their spiritual journey to them and just jump on the bandwagon."

This change is significant because at the same time that it requires leaders to step down from control, it also requires that the followers step up to take responsibility.

We can't read about the new testament church without seeing the aspects of leading and following that occur. I think perhaps our mistake has been in assuming that these are set roles for specific individuals. Titles and positions have set us up for a wrong mentality of leadership that is often self-serving rather than focused on serving others.

There is a vast difference in leading from position as opposed to leading from a place of responsibility that requires us to serve, possibly without recognition. Many people want to be seen as leaders, but not nearly as many are willing to serve in obscurity. What degree of service would we still participate in if there were no acknowledgment or recognition of our role?

The new testament gives us instructions on our responsibilities as leaders. In this, we are taught and encouraged to use our wisdom, resources, and gifts in service to our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is so important when we serve a brother by leading, that we understand the boundaries of the relationship and don't presume authority in their life that isn't ours.

We are also given instructions on our responsibilities as followers. In this, we are taught to maintain an attitude of respect and submission toward one another. There is wisdom and gifting in even the youngest believer that we can submit ourselves to. Honoring and empowering takes place when we are willing to receive from someone who may have less than us in the realm of privilege, maturity, or experience.

Although we have equal status within the kingdom of God, we recognize that in relationships, sometimes one person has more power. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it requires of that person honest and careful use of their power.

The fact is that some of us are further along on the journey than others. What this means is that we have the privilege and opportunity to share what we can with others. If we are willing to take the time and effort, we can help our brother along the way. This produces relationships that we know as overseeing, pastoring, eldering, and mentoring.

Does this mean that it is our job to manage their life? No, but we might get to be the person that believes in them. We could be the voice speaking God's truth of their identity and purpose, and we might get to share with them a glimpse of hope in what their future holds. We may also have the privilege and burden of sharing in their suffering.

It is so incredibly sad that in the midst of self-serving, self-promoting leadership within the body of Christ, we have missed the incredible opportunity of fathering in a way that builds worth and identity into a person, especially at a time when there is such a great need for fathering. Instead, due to a need to control, models of discipleship have been the most extreme models of abuse in the church, with the fathers hoarding participation in ministry for themselves.

We can raise up, equip, and release without assuming rulership. When we are willing to lead in a way that serves another without demanding subservience to ourselves, we get the incredible blessing of standing on the sidelines and cheering at the growth and success of those we've had the opportunity to give a hand to along the way.

Like a little girl, dancing on her daddy's shoes, sometimes we get the opportunity to allow someone to dance on our shoes for a bit. It is up to us whether we acknowledge and appreciate the partnership and talent that they bring to the dance. And it is up to us to realize that they will soon be dancing on their own.


Bob said...

Awesome stiff, Grace!

Of course, if leadership finds its closest parallel in parenthood, I don't know who could have the stomach for it.

I experience my deepest anguish when I fail my children. I experience my highest elation when I watch them succeed. I feel my greatest pride and joy when they take my hand and thereby "own" me.

This is a hard teaching...

Rob said...

Great thoughts, Grace, but you'd better hope Frank Viola doesn't discover your blog!

Linda said...

I was reluctant to use parenting as an example because of authoritarian mentalities of parenting.

Also, I believe that in the early years of parenting the relationship has more of a ruling-over nature than we would ever have in leading a brother in Christ.

However, I also agree that there are some beautiful parallels with good parenting, especially the idea of stewarding well our opportunity to serve and nurture.

Are you saying Frank wouldn't agree with me? He'd probably have to stand in line behind many others who also wouldn't agree.

That's okay. After a couple of years of processing, these are the thoughts that I'm willing to put in black and white and own today.

There is still plenty I am processing about how this can be realistically played out in every different kind of structure.

Linda said...

I just wanted to say, that I'll be off for the weekend while my parents are visiting. I'll be back Monday to respond to comments.

Feel free to talk amongst yourselves. :)

Unknown said...

The picture of a little girl dancing on her daddy's shoes and then growing up to eventually dance on her own is breathtaking and beautiful. I love how fluid that picture is.

Anonymous said...

Grace... I've been enjoying all the leadership series with nods, and "yep that's right"'s and any other way I can agree.

The two points I key on in this post...
1)leaders step down from control
2)followers step up to take responsibility

Different leadership requires different followership.

This ties in to your last post regarding vision. If the pastor as CEO casts the vision for the church based upon what God has called him to, then the rest of us are just managers or employees, but if the church casts the vision based upon God’s corporate & individual calls then the whole local body become owners (actually…first stakeholders and later shareholders).

But, it is incredibly easy if you are a leader type to just do it yourself, or if you are a follower type to sit back and let someone else do it for you.

Alan Knox said...


You asked: "What degree of service would we still participate in if there were no acknowledgment or recognition of our role?"

If we are not willing to serve without title, position, acknowledgment, recognition, or role, then we are NOT serving.


Corrie said...

Wow, Alan. That should be on a plaque hanging in every Christian household, church and organization.

Is it alright to quote you?

Alan Knox said...


Certainly, you may quote me. Make sure you spell my name correctly: g-r-a-c-e. ;)


Linda said...

Thanks sonja!

Great thoughts ksg. Ownership of the vision does produce a different mentality among those involved.

I've really appreciated interacting with your thoughts on this also. There is lots of wisdom in your approach to this topic.

Go ahead and quote alan and be sure to read his post that I've linked to in my next post.

Anonymous said...

Alan, that was good. I echo Corrie's sentiments!

Grace, this has been an excellent series. I asked earlier, I think on #2 (sorry I'm late to the game), about the interplay of authority. I think you get at some of that here, with your discussion of power. I'm still trying to figure out how authority works in God's Kingdom. Clearly, Jesus has all authority. Beyond that principle, what?

Linda said...

I'm not sure if I've hit exactly on what you are asking. The way I see it, Jesus has all authority, we all submit to him, then we submit mutually to one another.

We also have delegated authority as agents of God in the earth, to subdue, have dominion, be fruitful and multiply, etc.

Jesus really never uses the power of his authority in relationship with us. He invites, we choose.

Anonymous said...

Yes, that is an awesome quality God. While he doesn't need us he wants us. And he invites us to join him without mandating it.

Anonymous said...

grace...this series has been absolutely beautiful. after reading this i feel comfortable being a "leader" (can i still use the word?) in my church plant. i've been SO UNCOMFORTABLE w/ "leadership" - i've hated that word. when i read about leadership in the way you've described i resonate w/ it. i'm good at dancing on other ppl's shoes and having them dance on mine. i'm not good at holding "dance classes" where i am the cheif dancer who tells everyone the right moves to make. i'm also a helluva father;)...i love that "job" more than any in the world. thanks for all you've written on

Linda said...

Your comment means a lot to me. If you, as a leader, can read through this and not find it invalidating of your role, then I was able to convey what I intended. Thank you!