I am one who likes to blog when I am thinking through something, not necessarily when I have discovered an answer or solution, to some problem that may exist. It is a process for me. Sometimes that makes it dangerous because thoughts are left unfinished, and a reader may be confused. But I guess dangerous is not really the word. Other times I come to the computer with crystal clear clarity about what it is that I want to try and communicate.

One of the things that I have been wrestling with recently, and that I am looking at is the whole idea of Christian leadership within the church. I find that there are very few places to look for fulfilling answers, and am not content with 7 steps here, or 3 solutions here, though that may work for others. And I really don’t find satisfaction in the way that we can sometimes reduce biblical characters down to fit certain leadership styles, and then we gloss them with titles like: “Moses: Leadership in the Desert Years of Your Ministry.” Or “Jacob: Wrestling With Leadership Issues.” Or “Noah: Leadership When No One Believes In You.” Or how about “Jesus: Crafting Leadership for Carpenters.” I’m making all of these up you know. I just think it is comical sometimes how we classify, or reduce things to fit our needs.

I’m wondering what leadership looks like for this next school year when I have new student leaders coming in? I wonder what servant leadership looks like? I wonder how we organize and manage a ministry, while allowing for the Holy Spirit to work? I have a lot of questions. And I am most unsatisfied with what I find a lot of the times. So as I am in a time of providing priorities, statements, and vision to not only my supervisors so that I can be accountable to them, I am also working out what it means to do these things in the context of day to day ministry.

I have come across a few statements by one of my favorite writers, and theological thinkers, Dr. Ray Anderson, former professor at Fuller Theological Seminary.

I have just begun reading his 1986 book, Minding God’s Business, where he explores leadership, management and characteristics within a church, or Christian organization. Here are some excerpts that I have been thinking through.

Leadership and the Church

The church is not the end result of the gospel by virtue of its own existence; it exists so that the gospel can be carried out in mission to the world. The church is an agent of the work of the gospel, not the final form of the gospel itself as an organization or institution. Nor is mission capable of sustaining itself as an activity or organization except as it is grounded in the life of the church through the power and authority of the gospel. (Anderson, pp.6)

I fear that too often we have made the church the end result. We have battened down the hatches, closed our doors, and boarded up our windows in an attempt to maintain and protect our turf. We have created a fortress mentality that says “our church” is what we are about, and we have forgot about mission. We have forgotten that we are only an instrument that is used to carry out the gospel message. It does no good if I have hundreds of students up here on a Wednesday night who only care about our group. I need students who care about the world, and about mission and who leave church and go out into the world.

Christian Leadership: Looking at leadership, and not the leader.

It may be surprising to some, but there is no biblical model for a leader as we ordinarily use the word. That is, there is no model for a person who occupies the office or position of leader whose authority is vested in him by virtue of the office. Even Jesus did not present himself as a leader by virtue of his position. Rather, he referred to himself as a shepherd and said that he did not come to be served, but to serve (John 10:11; Matt:20:28). He accepted the designation of Messiah, but deferred in all matters to the One who sent him. While he is called an apostle and high priest, he is recognized as having only the authority that is delegated to him by the Father (Heb.3:1-2)………….In fact, Jesus contrasted the way in which the ‘rulers of the Gentiles’ exercise the role of a leader through vested authority and power with the way in which his own disciples were to exercise leadership as servants (Matt:20:25-28). These Gentile ‘rulers’ exemplified the ‘leader/follower’ model, in which the leader is vested with authority as well as with power to carry out his commands. Those who were to provide leadership in the kingdom of God, by contrast, were to be followers and servants of God as Jesus himself was………The role of the leader as the Gentiles practiced it carried with it an assumption concerning the use of power to achieve the wishes of the leader. What is wrong with this model of the leader is that it tends to equate authority with power. Jesus, on the other hand, spoke as one having authority (Mark 1:11; 2:10) but not ultimate power. Power belongs to god in heaven, and Jesus will sit on the ‘right hand of power’ in the eschaton (Luke 22:69). (Anderson, pp.63-64)

In this section, Anderson gives an example of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer had to say about the role of the leader:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in a powerful and perceptive essay entitled “The Concept of the Leader,” has pointed out the dangers inherent in seeing the role of leader as the Gentiles saw it in Jesus’ day. In this essay, first delivered over the German radio on February 1, 1933, Bonhoeffer criticized the then current, “Leadership Principle”–“das Fuhrerprinzip”, as Hitler called it. The concept of the leader, Bonhoeffer said, has produced the specter of an independent figure: Bonhoeffer says:

“In the case of the Leader, the essential thing is the supremacy of his person. IN both cases a power-relationship is involved; in leadership the important thing is the superiority of something neutral and objective, in the case of the Leader it is the superiority of his person…It is virtually impossible to give a rational basis for the nature of the Leader…the focus of leadership is the person being led, the line of vision goes from above downwards, while the focus of the Leader is the Leader himself and the line of vision goes from below upwards.” (This is the same address that the newly appointed minister of propaganda in Germany had cut during mid-air, before it could be completed. Just two days before Hitler had been installed as Reich Chancellor of Germany. Taken from the book “No Rusty Swords”). (Anderson, pp.64)

Anderson comments on this by saying:

Thus, we prefer not to speak of a ‘leader’ but rather of leadership as a distinctive quality and responsibility of those who manage Christian organizations. (Andeson, pp.65)

I love this thought. I am concerned that we sometimes place pastors, or those in spiritual leadership in too lofty of positions. This is both unhealthy to us, and to them. It provides a mentality and culture where there is sometimes a lack of accountability, because whatever the pastor says, goes. He is the ultimate figure of authority. It also creates a culture of pewsitters, where a lack of empowerment exists in the community because everyone is waiting upon the pastor. Those are just a few thoughts. This is why I am continually impressed by churches and church organizations that operate in non-hierarchal structures, and where authority and leadership are found throughout the structure.

I think that in the Christian culture at times there is an unhealthy fixation upon the pastor. Remember. I am speaking as one, so this is a knock against myself as well. I am concerned sometimes when I hear people following a pastor around a city or state, foresaking their community so they can hear him or her speak; or deciding not to go to church when the pastor is not in the pulpit. I am concerned when all importance is placed upon him or her, with standing ovations, and cheers, as if everyone else in the community is below them. This is not something that I think pastors create, though some can. Sometimes it happens from within the community, and sometimes the pastor exerts that mentality over a congregation. This is not to say that a pastor does not play an important role in a church and its community, or that one cannot simply enjoy the preaching and teaching of him or her. But when that pastor’s power and authority is viewed with absoluteness, and he or she becomes the central figure by which everything revolves, then I think there should be concern.

Leadership and its Purpose

Anderson continues by saying:

The purpose of leadership, we now want to say, is to build community, not merely to perform tasks. That is, leadership from a biblical perspective is not so much task oriented as it is community oriented, although in many cases it does involve the performance of a task or the enabling and equipping of others to perform tasks. Moses was given the task of leading the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt into the freedom and blessedness of the promised land. But in studying the record of his leadership as recorded in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, it becomes quite clear that the purpose of his leadership was the establishing of a community that embodied the Word of God through every aspect of its social, civil, economic, and religious life…..Moses read God’s promise not only in terms of the most expeditious method of moving a horde of people from one geographical location to another, but of developing a loosely knit conglomeration of tribal families into a ‘people of God.’ (Anderson, pp.70)

As we read the gospel narratives of his life and approaching death, we see that Jesus turns aside from every opportunity to bring about the kingdom of God through tasks of healing and other miracles. He deliberately shuns positions that would offer him power and recognition as a ‘leader.’ Instead, he turns more and more to the twelve disciples that the Father has given to him. (Anderson, pp.71)

This is part of the journey. Asking questions. Raising doubts. Raising concerns. And as one who is in leadership, I hope that I, and those in leadership with me, can keep some of these things at the forefront. That we can be a part of a leadership that operates within the community we are a part of. Not above it, lording over it, and exercising power. I hope that we can operate in a leadership that empowers everyone within the community. And I hope that we can be a community, where I am not looked up to simply as a leader, but rather as one who is in leadership with them. And that through these things we can all be accountable to each other through this process.