The Context
This is Part 2 in the continued series, Becoming a Heretic on Church Ministry.

Last week we looked at Becoming a Heretic on Church Ministry: The Sermon.

When we think about what a heretic on/in Church ministry is, I am taking a cue from Seth Godin’s book Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us. See my review for Leadership Network here.

Godin says:

Challenging the status quo requires a committment, both public and private. It involves reaching out to others and putting yourideas on the line. (Or pinning your Ninety-five Theses to the church door). (pp. 49)

and later in the book, Godin says:

Religion and faith are often confused. Someone who opposes faith is called an atheist and widely reviled. But we don’t have a common word for someone who opposes a particular religion.

Heretic will have to do.

If faith is the foundation of a belief system, then religion is the facade and the landscaping. It’s easy to get caught up in the foibles of a corporate culture and the systems that have been built over time, but they have nothing at all to do with the faith that built the system in the first place.

Change is made by people, by leaders who are proud to be called heretics because their faith is never in question. (pp. 84)

Church Leadership
One of the areas that I want to look at is “church leadership” which is such a broad topic and can literally mean anything. As we look at this topic, I want us to remember…I want to remember…that this is really an exploration on looking differently at some areas in Church that we have often taken for granted, or have always performed the function the same way. And I’m wondering, and believing, that we need to re-think, re-imagine some new ways to do things. As we look at this list you will see some of the strong influence I have received from the world of technology and social media, and how the tools they provide are setting the agenda for a new way of leadership…actually, I think it takes us back to a more Biblical form of leadership (minus the internet). So here are just 5 areas that I have been thinking about…that I think need tinkering, re-imagining, etc. What do you think? I would like to hear your thoughts on these ideas that seem heretical in some circles…but may be common sense to you.


  • Participatory: Church leadership canvtake cues from the world of technology and social media and understand the need and desire for participation.  The reason that Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Yahoo Answers, blogs, etc. are so popular is that it offers individuals the ability to participate.  Not only can they participate in regards to their own content, but they have an opportunity to participate in the larger content…larger narrative of what is happening around them.  They participate in the content they manufacture online, and they participate in causes, both global and local that have their source in origin in the content of others. I think most churches would love for everyone to participate. In fact, they hope they do.  It’s just that church leadership doesn’t structure itself in such a way that communicates or makes it possible for everyone to participate.  Participation is not about a few people telling others how to participate…participation is about opening up the avenues that allow others to participate more fully with the gifts, desires and skills that God has blessed them with.Does your chuch leadership structure itself in such a way that it communicates to the whole church that participation by everyone is important?  How?
  • Egalitarian: Some churches have leadership that are egalitarian, and others that are complementarian.  When church leadership allows only certain people (especially men) to participate, then you are automatically eliminating a large percentage of the population of the church from participating fully in the body of Christ.  A large percent!  Probably the majority percent.  This type of exclusive leadership doesn’t exist online. Everyone, both men and women can participate as fully as they desire.  If you want to see how one Bible Church near me respectfully and courageously went about this change, then check out Irving Bible’s process here. Does your church leadership reflect the entire body of Christ?  If not, what are you communicating to them?
  • Bottom-Up Leadership/Non-Hierarchical: You are beginning to see how all these things flow together. But one of the things that I think is essential for church leadership is that we move away from a Top-Down Model, to more of a Bottoms-Up, Non-Hierarchical way of doing things. This is one area that technology has taught us a lot. Anytime a person logs onto Facebook and participates, or posts photos on Flickr, of changes an entry on a wiki, they are essentially working from a bottom-up model. They did not have to go through some elder board, or head pastor, or church committee to participate. There was not red tape, there was not waiting for the group to decide on an answer for weeks at a time. When church leadership structures itself from a hierarchical, top-down structure, they are removing themselves from a valuable resource…all those on the bottom. They are also cutting off important communication, as well as communicating the message, whether consciously or unconsciously…that all the important decisions and leadership reside in those at the top. I am not saying that hierarchy is all bad…many church leadership structures exist in hierarchy form, but they have also taken advantage of a more bottom-up leadership. They have figured out the dance. But I would say most churches protect the hierarchy and are afraid of losing authority if they change structure. I think the bottom-up leadership is very Biblical model which allows for more participation. I think we see it in the leadership of Jesus who gave away his power….and yet retained authority by giving it away. His authority was built on relationship, not Office or Title. Though the NT will talk about church positions and leadership, the way that it was carried out, especially as we see it in 1 Cor. 12 and Romans 12 reflects much more of a bottom-up, egalitarian, participatory structure. For more of my thoughts on this issue, especially in Church leadership and ministry, check out my chapter in The New Media Frontier (New Media Ministry to the MySpace-Facebook Generation: Employing New Media Technologies Effectively in Youth Ministries.)
  • Open Source: I’m still thinking through this. Meaning, open source is a word most often thought of in software. But what if church leadership offered themselves up in such a way that they were viewed as an open system, rather than a closed system which I think most of them are…and most of them are perceived to be. In an open system church leadership would let the body know what they were up to, let them in on decision making, various processes and they would be a leadership team that was seen as giving themselves away, rather than holding things in. I think one church leadership team that really exemplifies this is the Digerati Team at in Oklahoma. That team continues to develop and give away what they develop…for free…to everyone. They are a truly open source church leadership team. Just check out some of their work at YouVersion or Church Metrics. Tools they develop, share and give away for the betterment of the body. Part of being open source in my opinion is being vulnerable, available and open to the church community. It’s about giving away of power, hierarchical titles and authority that is only maintained in structures, and not relationships.Is your church leadership open source?
  • Architecture/Office Space: This is a really important issue, and I think a growing concern, especially among a younger generation who often equate large office, corner suites with those of executives, CEO’s and the scandals at Enron, etc. I’ve noticed the growing trend among many churches, especially newer ones to design office space where every office is the same size, or is designed around cubicles…I have often talked to churches where the head pastor works out of a normal desk among the rest of the staff. How you design your space says something about what you believe about leadership and authority. Corner offices tells the rest of the staff that the person in that office is the most important, the place where authority resides. But a pastor who resides in an office the same size as the rest of the staff, or in an accessible space communicates to the rest of the staff a more servant style of leadership. I have heard church pastors complain that they need privacy, etc. But I would say, that’s why private offices, designed for everyone to use for meetings are built…but the rest of the time people share a collaborative space. I know this is a tough issue for many, but the longer that pastoral staffs reside in luxurious offices communicates a real negative message to the staff and congregation. I think Leonard Sweet puts it best:

Collaborative Space: Leaders need spiritual design as much as “smart design” in their use of space. A “sick building syndrome” can afflict the soul and mind as well as the body. Healthy space is team space, shared space, not a hierarchy of space with royalty inhabiting offices fit for the gods while everyone else lives in convict cubicles. Already in the business world the walls are coming down in the office space. More and more senior managers now sit in open offices with no doors. The dimly lit cubicle with one’s own private space is become more rare. Pittsburgh’s Alcoa has banished all private offices, even for its CEO. The future is “teaming rooms,” “common areas,” “playrooms.” People need their own personal spaces, their cliff dwellings, but personal space is basically electronic space (laptops and portable phones) conjoined with team space–hangouts like water coolers, living rooms, and snack bars dominated by casual learning, casual dress, and casual connectedness. AquaChurch: Essential Leadership Arts for Piloting Your Church in Today’s Fluid Culture.

Some Resources
There are lots of great resources out there on church leadership, but here are a few great ones that I think really reflect the influence of technology and social media in our culture, and the valuable lessons we can glean from them in regards to church leadership.

The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom.

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky.

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Dan Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams.

Facebook for Pastors: How To Build Relationships And Connect With People Using The Most Popular Social Network On The Internet by Chris Forbes

The New Media Frontier: Blogging, Vlogging and Podcasting for Christ, edited by John Mark Reynolds and Roger Overton

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff