The basic formula for leadership in the church (especially church planting) is this:
1. See a need to start something
2. Find a solid, well liked, person who people follow or be that kind of person yourself
3. Invest in that person so that they can maximize their following
Now, a few things about this model. First, you’ll notice that step number four isn’t there and it is certainly isn’t “start that thing that needed to be started” rather it just kind of ends at step three. I see it this way because in this model it seems that the end goal is just to have good leaders with large masses of followers. If you have that then you are successful. Who cares if you ever start that thing you thought needed to be started there is lots of people here now so God must have lead you somewhere else because clearly it’s a good thing and there is nothing wrong with it. Crowds equal success in this model. It’s just a bonus if you are doing the very thing you started off thinking you needed to do.
Second, this model tends to see “leadership” as a spiritual gift in which some people have it and some people don’t. Those that are leaders have a certain kind of personality usually. They tend to get things done well. They tend to be dynamic speakers. Most important, they are usually great managers. In other words, they are great at managing other people and making sure that they are doing what they should be so that the goals get accomplished.
Third, to build on the second, this model makes these ‘leaders’ find all their value in their abilities to lead. If they are dynamic and good enough, their entire identity gets wrapped up in being a leader. They end up crafting their leadership abilities and figuring out how to be the best leader they can be. They end up needing to do more and more things and constantly be taking people somewhere. If they are really good they might even start mentoring other leaders and send them off to do the same. However, if the crowds start to dwindle, or the leader begins to notice that they aren’t being followed anymore they will very quickly start to feel restless and need to go somewhere (or start something new or push for a new direction) in which people will follow them still or listen to them.
The whole idea of leadership in the church is pretty much bull shit. We have set most of our “leaders” up to fail by defining their role as leading (which btw is not a role at all). As soon as it’s someone’s job to lead we have a serious issue on our hands. When someone walks into a room full of people and their role is “leader” then we have lost sight of the Kingdom of God and how it understand relationships. Unless of course this leader is washing everyone’s feet around him. There is a reason why Paul has a five fold ministry setup. There is a reason why none of them are designated as the “leader.” There is a reason why Israel was dying for a king and God didn’t want to grant it. There is a reason why we want to be followed.
The church was never meant to function with authoritative leaders calling all the shots and being put on a pedestal in the spotlight and teaching all the individuals how to think. The church doesn’t need visionaries that are constantly dragging people around from one idea to the next. The church doesn’t need more followers of Christian leaders.
Maybe I’m beating a dead horse. Looking back at some posts that I’ve written over the last few years, it seems I’ve been saying the same thing over and over again. When Leaders Fail At Leading, What Next? | Church Is Just Leaders and Followers | The Art of a Good Leader | Servant Leadership Doesn’t Work. So I should just stop, I really need to get new ideas.
But I’ll end with this. Leadership isn’t a thing we need to be pursuing. Servanthood is, love is, community is. There is a reason why Christians didn’t call each other leaders and followers in the New Testament. Rather they consider themselves family (brothers and sisters) and part of the same body. In both cases, Christ is the first born and Christ is the head. That is the only leader we as Christians should be acknowledging.
My friend Dan, left this comment on my post called “Servant Leadership Doesn’t Work” that I thought was fitting to end this.
Neither Jesus nor Paul called people to be leaders. Instead, they created a fictive kinship group wherein the various individuals would relate to one another as siblings. Now, if you know anything about family relationships at the time those fellows lived, you will know that sibling relationships were to be defined by mutuality and equality (with the exception of the special treatment received by the first-born… but, of course, Paul refers to Jesus as the first-born so that conveniently removes that obstacle… just as naming God as the Father of this family conveniently prevents any person claiming the authority and power ascribed to fathers). This was a mutuality that involved each person sharing the same status and power as the others and each person sharing in the material belongings of the others.
This is also why Paul is writing letters to assemblies (ekklesiai) that are in constant conflict and turmoil. Because there was no clearly defined human leader(s) within the assemblies, things were terribly messy, factions developed, etc. Paul, however, encourages people to remain in this messy place rather than developing a more regimented structure of leadership. This is also why he must cajole, beg, plead and convince the audiences who receive his epistles – Paul did not do much to consolidate himself as a “leader”. Of course, as with most of his other efforts, Paul fails to convince here and so leadership structures rapidly appear (as in the deutero-Pauline epistles) and, not surprising, those structures favour people with (relatively) higher status and wealth (some things never change).
Thus, Nathan is bang-on when he argues we should strive simply to serve (and not be “servant leaders”). In service, I surrender my desire to lead a person anywhere. Instead, I assist that person in getting to where s/he wishes to go (even if I sometimes question the destination).
Really, the notion of “servant leadership” functions as little more than an ideological gloss for those who wish to have their cake and eat it too (i.e. I can be self-glorifying and possess power over others, while also having a clean conscience and believing that I’m acting in the best interest of others).