Leadership – Part 1

I would love to see a moratorium on the word leader within the church for whatever length of time it takes for us to undo the power positions of leadership that we have adopted in the church.

My thoughts about leadership have continued to evolve through the detox process. I’ll admit to being somewhat cynical. A lot of the ministry things that I have experienced have been about people positioning themselves so that they are the one on top, everything from global networks down to local house churches, all motivated by a person looking to be the guy in charge.

At first, I thought the problem was the lack of servanthood in leadership, and so I latched onto the idea of servant leadership. However, after a time I became skeptical because the focus still seemed to be on the leadership part. What would happen if you dropped the title leader and just kept the servant part? Who would be just as willing to serve without the position of leadership? Honestly, the herd thins significantly when there is no opportunity for recognition or elevation.

Do we know how to understand leadership without assuming a hierarchical power-over relationship? As explained in the last posts, I don’t believe in positional authority within the body of Christ. Understanding the equality of our relationship as brothers in the body of Christ is essential in understanding spiritual leadership.

It is never our “right” to lead another believer. Our leadership of another person is a role given voluntarily to us by the person choosing to follow us for a time. It should not be completely one-sided, and it is usually for a short season.

I was thinking of another aspect of this in the shower today (which explains why I can’t ever remember if I’ve shampooed yet!)…

I don’t have a problem with hierarchical leadership when it is within an organization. I believe that some type of leadership structure is necessary for administration. But how does that apply when the organization is a church?

We have blurred the lines within the church between the administrative organization and the organic spiritual life of the church body. While a person may be needed to administratively lead an organizational structure, if that structure happens to be a church group, he must not assume that his organizational rank presumes an elevated spiritual position in the group.

In fact, it would be important for everyone in the group to recognize and understand the difference between structural, organizational leadership and spiritual leadership within the body. Maybe this is why this has become so confused in the church. We have set up structures for organizational leadership and then assumed that rank of position and leadership also apply within our spiritual relationships.

More later…


30 thoughts on “Leadership – Part 1

  1. Grace,

    Once again your thoughts are creepily the same as mine, minus that whole shower thingy… that was just wierd… yuck! Just like the thought of your parents having sex. Gross! Where’s the brain soap?!

  2. Oh good grief! I didn’t mean it in a creepy way. Everybody showers, I hope! I do some of my best thinking in the shower.

  3. Grace … your thoughts are a balm for my soul today. You have no idea what a help they are for sorting out some very knotty problems I’m working through.

    OTOH … I too have problems remembering whether or not I’ve shampooed … so I’m glad to know I’m not the only one. Thanks for that as well ;-)

  4. A very large part of the problem is that we put a far greater emphasis on ‘leadership’ positions than any other. The entire structure of our church body and life points to the guy at the front of the room as being the most important, while the women in the nursery are tucked away downstairs, out of sight, as are the deacons, faithfully shoveling snow and salting the steps, or the janitors, doing their thing each week without a moment of thanks from the congregation.

    The entire organization is geared towards elevating a select few individuals. It doesn’t have to be this way, but it’s pretty hard to do anything else while we’re all sitting in a big room with the chairs in rows facing the front.

    And really, I thought I was the only one…. about the shampoo thing, I mean!

  5. Grace,

    Have you ever read anything about chaordic leadership? Here’s an article that (IMO) describes it.

    I think this describes the type of organic leadership that exists in churches but there’s a catch: the real leaders aren’t the ones carrying the titles.

  6. Nailed it once again, Grace!

    So maybe for the time being, administrative leadership should be divorced from spiritual leadership?

    Something for me to think about while I’m in the shower.

  7. Great job, grace.

    Not only is the organization focused on those “leadership” positions, and centered around them, but any other opportunities to “serve” are largely acts of service that help maintain the organization, not edify the body.

    In our simple church pursuit, since we meet in homes, we have no need to say, “We need someone to ‘serve’ as the janitor” or “We need someone to ‘serve’ by shoveling the snow” — these types of needs are met organically, if they need to be met at all.

    What frustrates me is that, except for the select couple of gifts that result in “glamorous” positions within the organization, everything else is demeaned while couching it in very spiritual language about “serving God”, etc.

  8. Grace-
    The best thinking and the singing are in the shower. Even when I am not thinking in the shower I can never remember if I washed my hair or not.

    These are great thoughts. I look forward to the more later part too. You are my first stop everyday at work and my last stop at night to read all the comments. I should really be doing math homework right now, but this is more exciting. Thanks again Grace keep on posting and keep on throwing the thoughts out there they are making a difference in hearts and minds.

  9. grace,

    I may have mentioned this elsewhere, so bear with me if I am being repetitive.

    I think the fundamental (excuse the pun) problem is the lack of well defined boundaries. Positions in authority function well and effectively if they stay within well defined boundaries. Cops can pull you over for speeding, but can’t ask to see your tax returns. Only the IRS can.

    I have yet to see anyone come up with well defined boundaries for “spiritual authority.”

    “As the Spirit leads”, or “biblical” is all I have heard. Or that defining boundaries smacks of legalism. Oh now you’re concerned about legalism?

  10. Grace,

    Could it be that we have misunderstood Jesus statement about leadership and service? Jesus said if you want to be a leader, be a servant. We have read that: Leadershp is really servanthood. But, if leadership is servanthood, then what of real service? What is real service? Well, it must be something less…


  11. We often put our structural leaders up on some kind of pedestal and assume they can also be spiritual leaders, and vice versa. But that’s not always the case. Leadership in the body can be a very tricky, and dangerous, thing.

    Interesting thoughts from you and the comments.


  12. It seems that many of us do our best thinking while in the shower. Something about the steam cleaning of our brain cells, perhaps?

    I hereby move that all future church leadership meetings take place in public showers. This will encourage clarity of thought and keep us all humble.

    BTW, I always know whether or not I’ve shampooed. That lye really stings, especially if I get it in my eye!

  13. My God! Are we all a bunch of anarchist but Church loving shower happy naturalistic fiends?!

    Grace, I am sooooo sorry. What have I done?!!
    I hang my head in shame…

  14. Everybody sing together now!

    “There shall be showers of blessing…”

    C’mon, people. I can’t hear you!! ;)

  15. Well, as long as you all don’t become legalistic about showering and telling others what soap to use and whether we must wash our hair first, I think the shower thing is a good idea. I have some of the best conversations with myself in the shower. :-)

    Great thoughts Grace!

  16. dangit. i left a brilliant comment last night, or at least i thought i did. shoot. that’s what i get for not having a blog leader in my life, nor a shower. argh……..

  17. I’ve yet to come up with a cure for the leadership problem, but I have found a cure for forgetting if you shampooed…just shave your head! No shampoo necessary;)

    Great thoughts about leadership (whatever that is). I think that Alan might have hit it earlier when he said:
    Jesus said if you want to be a leader, be a servant. We have read that: Leadership is really servanthood
    It seems to me that we have entirely missed the point of what Jesus said. I think that Alan is on to something. I don’t think that Jesus was saying “here’s what a leader should look like”. Rather, I think that He was saying “forget about elevating yourself to a position of authority or leadership (thereby looking out for yourself) and instead endeavor to serve other people (thereby looking out for the needs of others).” Leadership is not our calling—servanthood is.

    BTW, I don’t ever forget if I shampooed because I never have to;)

  18. Sonja,
    I’m thinking of you, and I’ve been praying for your situation. I’m guessing it is more than just an excess of frozen convenience foods.

    That is so true, and it is that very thing that disenfranchises the majority of the body. I wonder if we’ll ever truly learn to do church differently though, or if we are completely reliant on that system.

    Thank you so much for the link. I have read it several times already.

    For now, I need to think of them as separate aspects of leadership because spiritual “leadership” cannot have the qualities that organizational leadership often has.

    Great point, organizational leadership often serves the organization. No matter how we spiritualize it, in a hierarchical system there is always striving for position.

    Thanks for leading us in song!

    Thanks for you encouraging words! I don’t do any singing in the shower, just thinking.

    Interesting point. From my point of view, the boundary would be that we are not bound to following someone spiritually, we choose who we will submit to and follow.

    Yes, we seem to skip write over that serving part, only looking at how it will result in being a leader.

    Yes, and we’ve usually assumed any type of positional leadership automatically indicated spiritual leadership too.

    moscow bob,
    I thankfully haven’t had to deal with public showers since jr. highschool.

    You might have gotten the link from Bob’s comment above. I thought the same thing…wow.

    No shame here. This is a really clean blog!

    Thanks! I thought about recommending a better quality soap to moscow bob so he wouldn’t have to suffer from lye in his eyes. :)

    I’m sorry we missed your other brilliant comment. You are always a treat.

    Thanks for expanding on Alan’s comment. I liked how you explained that leadership is not our calling, servanthood is.
    I don’t plan on shaving my head. ;)

    Thanks everyone for all the great comments. You really help me to process these ideas as I continue to envision leadership in kingdom communities.

  19. As I just wrote my apology over at John Smulo’s site for drawing attention to me rather than God, this was a poignant post. Thanks.

  20. Raborn, that is SO funny that you commented on this because I came very close the other day to commenting on this very topic saying “You should just do what Raborn does and shave your head” — and then this morning, I find you saying that very same thing!!! LOL

    See you in 35 minutes for another wonderful “church over biscuits and gravy”, brother!! :)

    (Grace, sorry to use your blog for personal correspondence with my buddy!! hehe)

  21. Hey, I really appreciated this post. I think you’re on to something w/ the moratorium on the word “leader” or “leadership” in the church. Am I a “leader” in my church? Good question. I am involved in making a lot of decisions about “stuff”, but that is really just a logistical thing…not a “leadership” thing. I get to talk on Sunday morning once a month – does that make me a leader? I’m really just sharing stuff God has taught me.

    I’m not convinced I know what leadership really is…and the truth is, I’m not to worried about it. I just know that I have to get up every morning and listen to God like everyone else. I get up and try to walk in the freedom Jesus has given me. Along the way, I hope I encourage someone else to do the same. I don’t even have a job title in my church cuz I don’t know what it is I do!

    What I do know is that as I’ve lived life with a few others and learned ever so slowly to “give myself away”, and as I’ve experienced the power of the good news in my own life and in sharing it w/ others…I’ve felt FREEDOM…and I wouldn’t trade that freedom to be the “senior pastor” of any church in the world.

    Btw, I still find it really, really hard to serve others.

  22. Great dialouge you have here! I have nothing to add but sure enjoyed reading the different thoughts.

    (I can’t tell you how many times I have used conditioner instead of shampoo for the same reason…the shower is a great think tank)

  23. Bryan,
    Thanks for your comment. I’ve noticed your comments at other sites that we both frequent.

    Steve and Raborn,
    I hope you enjoyed your biscuits!

    I really appreciate your perspective on this. You have such an incredible opportunity now to develop your leadership style and giftings, to redefine those things that haven’t “fit” before.

    In the end, I hope to have painted a new picture of leadership, because I think we do lead. It has to do with what we are willing to share with others which is seen in our willingness to serve them.

    You are right that it is sometimes difficult to serve, usually it’s much easier to “boss” someone than it is to come alongside and truly give of ourselves.

    It’s always nice to see your comments. After growing up with 4 girls in a house and constantly running out of hot water, a 15 minute hot shower every morning is a luxury I allow myself. It’s amazing where the mind can wander in those 15 minutes.

  24. Thanks, Grace, I hope they have been edifying. I just came back because of Jamie, and I need to come here more often. I reread this post and really enjoyed it the second time. I think you are capturing something here that Jesus wants us to grasp, and I think of His Sermon on the Mount. I am very sensitive to this subject because I have spent most of my life clamoring for leadership or at least clamoring for attention. Even blogging presents that temptation, and, prayerfully, God uses it in my life to teach me more about what being a real follower of Jesus means and how it is so different than self-promotion and human concepts of leadership.

  25. Bryan,
    I read through your comments backwards today. In one of your later comments you asked about authority, and this post probably best describes my thoughts about it. Basically, I don’t believe we have authority over other believers. I believe we all have the authority delegated to us as His agents in the world, but I don’t think this authority is used to rule over other people.

    I’ve spent a lot of time thinking through the ideas of power, authority, leadership, and how they are related. There were two posts at Scott B’s where he and I discussed this indepth in his comment section. They were in October 2006, #7 and #8 of a series he was doing.

    This post links to several posts that I have written on the topic of power in the kingdom of God. Don’t feel like you have to read them, but if you enjoy this topic, you might like them.

  26. Oops!
    I meant the next post probably best describes my thoughts about authority, post 2, myth 1, which deals with the equality of our relationships.

  27. Do you think, then, that the true job of separation of church and state (which is losing this positional leadership within the church) never really took place?

  28. emergingchange,
    Sorry about the delayed response. Tis the season! ;)

    My understanding of the phrase separation of church and state has to do with the institution of church being free from the control of US government as opposed to the control and influence the church had experienced in England.

    I believe the origin of positional leadership was through the influence of Roman government structures being adapted to church life. This form of hierarchical government has been accepted within the church since then.

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