I’m going to go out on a limb here. This whole leadership freak out in the church, and all the conferences we run to help people be better leaders, all the books that we write and read to successful leadership, and all the seminars and school classes we take to build up our character so we can lead better; I think its all a major deviance from the kingdom. There is way too much pure propaganda encouraging our youth, and our type-A’s to take hold of their skills and direct them to being a good Christians leader. The whole movement has very little theological basis. It’s a cultural phenomenon, not a biblical one. I grew up in churches that put a lot of emphasis on leaders, and growing leaders and discovering your potential as leaders. We end up building up really strong, confident people who can sway masses of people to do whatever God has called them to do. We end up building a lot of people that aren’t any better leaders, but are just really confident in their leadership abilities.
Even in youth, we allowed some kids to be on the worship team, and we didn’t allow others. So here I was, as a seventeen year old know it all who lusted daily, telling a sixteen year old girl that she couldn’t be on the worship team because she had a non-Christian boyfriend. Yes, I actually had this conversation. This kind of action was encouraged by all the leaders above me. I was a confident kid who had no problem removing people from places of leadership because for some reason I found myself as the gatekeeper for these types of things. This of course only served to empower me to build even more clear lines that would keep people in and out of roles that I thought needed to have only specific kinds of people in them. Inevitably this causes only people that I like and appreciate to be in any kind of leadership role at all, so I have an entire group of people that I like who are in any kind of position to remove me or change anything at all. It’s a slippery slope. It’s building an army of people that will protect you. So, in my previous experiences, the closer I got to leadership roles at my church, the quieter I am forced to become if I want to keep my position because the people above me could take you out because you are outside their lines. I could keep towing the line and exercise the power I was given, by guarding the gate of who else is allowed in. Fortunately for me, I didn’t shut up. I kept challenging the leaders above me. This caused me to be pushed out a lot quicker than I expected. I only really picked up on the challenging of the leaders above me, it took me a lot longer to realize how I should be treating the people that I was supposedly leading.
Here is my issue. We spend way too much time on something that Jesus barely talks about or refers to. In fact, many would argue that in every case that leadership or power comes into conversation with Jesus he flips it on his head. If you want to be a leader, don’t be one, be a servant. If you want to be at the top, then be at the bottom. If you want to be first, then be last. I never, ever heard these phrases in any leadership talk in church, and I certainly never practiced it or saw it practiced. If you want to be a leader, which you should, the general idea is that you have to be leadership material. You have to be strong, visionary, gets to-do lists done, strong communicator and you need to do whatever it takes to build those gifts into your character so you are a better leader. Right.
So there was a time when you would hear the term “servant leadership” thrown around. For a while, this started to seem like a good thing. This is more in line with what Jesus was saying and at least now is using the language that Jesus used. However, I’m unsure why we have to add the word “leadership” onto the phrase at all? Jesus didn’t do that. He didn’t say be a servant leader, he just said be a servant. It’s like we don’t want to let go of the control, the power, and the respect that comes with a term like “leader.” Perhaps we just can’t bare the humbling that comes along with that. If you do that you might end up just cleaning dishes a lot, or making too many hospital visits and not enough time for “real ministry.” We just can’t let go of the delegating, preaching, meetings, and the cool vision stuff, we think it’s way too crucial for everyone else. We think that eventually we outgrow this whole servant thing and move into the leadership thing. Then, to appease the biblical people, we just call ourselves servant leaders.
My suggestion is to just throw out the term leadership all together. Let’s become better servants. Let’s become better disciples. I can assure you, the problem with the church today isn’t that our leaders aren’t good enough. I don’t care how hard we try to build up better leaders, and invest in our leaders, and make better leaders; that is not the solution to fixing the church, or being more in line with the kingdom. Our problem is that we have way too many people thinking they are leaders and not servants. Servant-leadership doesn’t count. There is no such thing. Just be a servant. Let the leadership lingo slip from your language. If people end up following you, don’t focus on that, just keep serving. Then when you start to think you’ve been getting better at being a servant, and you start getting elevated to more places of leadership, humbly decline and take worse positions even further down the totem pole and serve everyone. Get rid of your books that give you all the techniques and pointers for being a good leader, and pick up some books on building a humble character who looks to be a servant. I can guarantee you, that if you do that, and you are in some type of “leadership” position then you’ll actually empower the people in your midst rather than control them to do what you think is right.