Leadership – Part 3

Myth #2: Leaders Shape the Community

Truth: Leadership is shaped by community.

This quote by Leonard Sweet (ht to Len) applies to the myth that the leader holds the vision for the community:

“Leadership as “vision” has become another way about exercising dominance and pushing other people around your ideas…Vision has become a way of declaring dominance, of achieving alpha status and stats.”

Many people seem ready to debunk the myth that a single person is responsible for the vision of a church, and the purpose of the community is to serve that individual’s vision. Others are beginning to explore the idea of leadership that is shaped organically among a community of believers.

In reading Exiles, it would seem that within communitas, the vision evolves based upon the shared values and visions of those who make up the community. I believe it is the synergy of the shared vision that actually inspires and creates an environment to draw forth the leadership giftings in the people involved.

Leadership in a community should evolve from the giftings that are present in the community. With this kind of leadership, different people lead in the areas in which their giftings indicate leadership.

There should be a mutual submission to and recognition of the giftings within one another. If we are truly living the reality of preferring one another, then we will be most attentive to acknowledging the gifts and wisdom of others rather than promoting our own. And yet, in that mutuality, our gifts will be drawn upon also.

This quote by Dwight Friesen describes very well the idea of leadership that is developed in community:

Who is a leader? Leaders are people who tacitly know themselves in relation with others; who live present to those relationships, emptying ‘self’ for the fulfillment of the ‘other.’ Leaders do not exist in an ontological sense.

Leadership is summoned by a communal-ethos to serve a socially determined set of functions which the community itself determines and invites a person to fulfill.

The person responding to the specific ethos invitation to serve a momentary leadership function is both shaping and shaped by the vision that the community is calling forth.

This doesn’t fit our existing structures and paradigms very easily. Yet if we first change our concepts of what leadership is, we are better equipped to then address the structural and practical issues.


16 thoughts on “Leadership – Part 3

  1. Wow. This is some good stuff. I am right here on the same page (and about to order Exiles…that’s it, I’ve heard enough good stuff about it that I’m afraid I can’t abide by my “no more new books on Amazon” resolution)… lol

  2. I left this on Robby Mac’s blog, but thought I’d repeat it here. It’s a few quotes from a book that dealt with issues of authority way more than it did with women, even though I bought it while studying WOMEN–lol. It’s relating to when the church’s views of authority shifted (this author claims there was a distinct shift in the 3rd and 4th century and the church has yet to recover from them):

    From “When Women Were Priests,” (by Torjesen) pg. 155, 156

    “Somewhere around the beginning of the third century a gradual process of transformation begain in the leadership and organizational models of the Christian churches.

    By the third century Christianity was attracting members of the municipal ruling elites, who were trained for public life and experienced in city politics. Many Christian communities welcomed these aristocratic members, and they moved quickly into leadership positions. These men were schooled in the institutions of public life; their notions of authority, order, organization, and leadership came from the political life of the city. They brought into the churches new leadership models, models that had proved effective for governing large and diverse communities.

    In the provinces of the Roman Empire, the clergy who collectively shared the tasks of leadership began to model themselves after city councils. As a consequence the concept of leadership began to shift subtly from ministry to governance.

    An important element of this transition was the growing divide between the clergy and the laity. The language in which this demarcation was cast achoed the division in city politics between the rulers and the subjects. In a liturgical prayer for the ordination of presbyters in the early third century, the presbyters were cast as rulers. “Look upon this your servant and impart the spirit of grace and counsel, that he may share in the presbyterate and govern your people with a pure heart…”

    As the concept of leadership shifted from ministry to governance, advocates of the newer concept of leadership appealed to the Old Testament, for the leaders of the nation of Israel were indeed rulers. And as the church understood itself to be Israel’s successor, the leaeership patterns found in the Old Testament became useful…”

    ppg 157:
    “…From the third to the fourth century the office of bishop became increasingly monarchial. The biship’s throne stood at the front and center of the worshipping community and was eventually placed on a raised dais.

    …In this new understanding of church office, the bishop ruled the congregation in God’s stead. He or she was “God’s mouth” and the “mediator of the word”; one who held the power of life and death. ”

    pg. 162: “Tertullians description of the Christian community dramatically marks the transition of the model of the church from the household/private-associations to the body politic. With him the church became a legal body (corpus or societas, the term the Romans used for the body politic) unified by a common law (lex fidei, “the law of faith”) and a common discipline (disciplina, Christian morality). “

    …Tertullian conceived the society of the church as analogous to Roman society, divided into distinct classes or ranks, which were distinguished from one another in terms of honor and authority. The clergy (ordo ecclesiasticus) formed a rank similar to the ordo senatorius (the ruling senatorial class); the laity formed the ordo plebuis (the subject plebian class)… “

    This is just a taste, and I do highly recommend the book (I bought it while studying women, but found it helpful in SO many ways, as evidenced above). All her sources are cited, etc, of course.

  3. Molly,
    Thank you for the quotes. It is very interesting hearing the background on some of the concepts of leadership and how they made their way into the church.

    It seems that this topic and the issue of women in the church are inevitably interrelated since they are both based on a belief in an egalitarian view of believers.

    As far as the book Exiles, so far my feelings are mixed. I hope to begin blogging about it as soon as I get the leadership posts out of my system.

    Have fun on your trip!

  4. Good post, Grace. And good comments Molly.

    I want, sometimes, to direct my anger and frustrations at clergy who’ve bought into this governance model of church leadership and then come to enjoy too much the power they wield. But, leaders and pastors wouldn’t be able to continue as power mongers if congregations didn’t allow them to. In the days of Constantine it would have been really hard (and dangerous) to push back, but today, with a church on every corner (and in a house in every other block!) it’s as much the fault of the laity as the clergy. We can just go somewhere else.

    Yet, faced with the fact that I’m unable to even suggest meaningful change in our church community because the pastor seems all too comfortable with his position as sole visionary, I live with the frustration that comes from the problems you describe here. Nor have I gone anywhere else yet, either. So what does that say of me? I’m still trying to decide if it’s noble or cowardly to stay.

  5. Molly,
    Thanks for the great quotes from the book. Sounds like it would be up my alley.

    What we become accustomed to holds powerful sway in our lives. A lack of freedom to change is not what holds us back. However, fear can cause our freedom to effectively be null and void. What do you believe holds you back, love for the people you are with or fear of their responses, the unknown, etc.? What do you think?

  6. Good question, Ray. (It is ray, isn’t it?)
    Primarily the thing holding us back is lack of options. We live pretty far out- the next best options are 30 miles away. There aren’t so many good choices there, anyway. We also feel obligated in our role as music leaders because leaving would put the church in a very difficult position. Like you said, I don’t always agree with them, but I love them nonetheless.

  7. I really think that some leaders (patriarchalists) are getting their roles confused.

    Here is a good example of what I mean:

    http://timbayly.worldmagblog (dot) com/timbayly/archives/028854 (dot) html#trackbacks

    “In fact, the headship of Christ over His Church is not the model Scripture routinely holds up for manly leadership. Complementarians focus exclusively on Christ to avoid confronting culture. But the mandate for manhood begins in the character of God. Reduce manhood to the life of Christ and we have no template for understanding fatherhood.

    New Testament Scripture, indeed the teaching of Christ Himself, points time and again to the Father as our paradigm. Jesus argues from the nature of human fatherhood to the Fatherhood of God when He urges prayer: “What father gives his son a scorpion when he asks for a loaf of bread?”). We’re told in Hebrews that just as earthly fathers discipline children, so the Heavenly Father disciplines all He accepts as sons.

    The poverty of the “complementarian” position (and the PCA is complementarian at best in its approach to sexuality) is that it denies the Father by affirming only the Son.”

    Here we see a major problem. Jesus is our example and scripture repeatedly tells us so. Husbands are to be like Christ in their LOVE for their wives. Fathers as well as mothers are included in the verse speaking about scorpians and bread. Husbands are never told to discipline their wives, that is God’s ROLE.

    “Yes, we all must agree that Christ’s role as Head of the Church is Scripture’s model for husbands in marriage. But is the Headship of Christ over the Church the sum total of what we learn of manhood from the life of Christ? What about Christ’s role as King of heaven and earth? What about Christ’s warrior triumph over His enemies? Are “servant leadership” and “spiritual authority” ALL we learn of perfect manhood from the life of Christ?”

    But, we see men taking on a role that scripture never gave them. They are not Jesus the King. Jesus is the One who triumphs over His enemies and He uses all of us- male and female to accomplish His will on this earth. Even without us, His will hs already been done and He has already put His enemies under His feet.

    Reduce manhood to the life of Christ and we have no templatr for understanding fatherhood? I don’t think so and I think this is a dangerously unbiblical way of thinking.

    Are we better than Christ that some feel that they would be incomplete by following Him in the way He told us to follow Him.

    Let God be God. We are not God. Both men and women are to be like Him. I don’t see men being more like God in any aspect and I have yet to find a scripture that says women are any less like Christ in any way.

    We focus on Christ to avoid confronting culture? Does this sit right with anyone?

    I have known many comps who bring up the discipline verse in Hebrews that refers to God and teach yhat this is also the role a husband plays. Both parents are to discipline their children, so that aspect of God the Father isn’t a male-only gender thing. God the Father is a model to both parents not just the one.

    Like i said, I think the real problem is confusing our role with God’s role and with the role of the Risen Christ. Leaders are not King Jesus in is risen glory, they are footwashers and bondslaves and servants of all. The above quotes point to a sort of God-complex that is not supported by scripture. Husbands are to model their love for their wives after Christ. It doesn’t go beyond that application but some are sure trying to get us to believe that husbands are to be like Christ in all ways that Christ is to His church and His creation.

    I agree with Cindy that many of these leaders enjoy power and their self-proclaimed lordship all the while calling anyone who disagrees with them “proud” and trying to lift themselves up out of the place God has given them. :-) That is a bit of irony. (Just read the comments at the above link to see what I mean.)

  8. Cindy,
    While I agree that the governance model of leadership is absolutely destructive to body life and relationships, I don’t believe that all who are in the role of pastoring are abusers of power.

    From what I read around the blogosphere, there are many devoted men filling that position with a sincere desire to serve God, to serve the body of Christ, and to serve their fellow man.

    Why main issue is with this model which is often eventually destructive also to these men. There are so many senior leaders also destroyed by the church political system.

    I would love to hear from people involved in traditionally structured churches that have leaders who are empowering the leadership of others in the congregation. I believe that it is possible even in traditional structures if it is in the heart of the leadership.

    As to your situation, I don’t think there is anything wrong with enjoying your situation for what it is and looking for the fulfillment of expectations you might have elsewhere. For example, while you may continue to attend for the fellowship and the opportunity to serve in music, you may find expressions of ministry and a different type of fellowship elsewhere in the community.

    Sorry, you probably weren’t expecting a book for your comment. I must have woke up with a lot of words today.

    Hi Ray! I appreciate when you guys feel free to respond to one another here.

    Thanks for the quotes. I agree with you that Christ is head of the marriage and head of the church, and that we don’t need to try to step into His role.

    Sadly, there are men who truly believe that as the leader of a church they speak for God. That is an incredibly scary and deceived place to be. Often they become unable to be corrected in this position.

  9. “Why main issue is with this model which is often eventually destructive also to these men. There are so many senior leaders also destroyed by the church political system.”

    I may be the only one that’s experienced this from both ends, the traditional and the emergent.

    “I would love to hear from people involved in traditionally structured churches that have leaders who are empowering the leadership of others in the congregation. I believe that it is possible even in traditional structures if it is in the heart of the leadership.”

    I think the model is less important than the heart. I have seen very healthy traditional churches. I have seen toxic emergent churches at the leadership level. It is all about the heart. Unfortunately, we are fallen creatures… regardless of our environment or structure/understanding of leadership. As Christians, we follow the Son of God who transforms the heart and mind… ironically, when it comes to issues of power… many of us are reluctant to give that over to Christ.

    Back to your original post, Grace, where do you think Paul and his church plants fell in this understanding? Did the community of Corinth, for example, develop their vision through their community or Paul? Which was on target? The community or Paul? And what was Paul’s leadership role now that he was no longer actively a part of their community?

    David Cowan

  10. David,
    Thanks for your comments. I enjoyed your post on unity.

    Your description of Matthew 18 is very close to my thoughts on this scripture. Often one of the hindrances in the Matthew 18 process is the imbalance of power when it is approached as a disciplinary procedure.

    I absolutely agree with your ideas about the importance of reconciliation.

    I believe the vision of both Paul and the church was the original mission that Jesus called the church to and that their understanding of that missional calling was so much clearer than ours that they would probably consider the idea of needing a “vision” somewhat silly.

    If I am understanding your questions correctly, I believe that Paul’s role continued to be what it had been. As apostle, he loved and served the church at Corinth by teaching, sharing, exhorting, and encouraging them. I believe he probably continued with this kind of nurturing relationship, although obviously in a less hands-on way as they were released to continue on in what he had taught them.

    Let me know if I’ve missed what you were asking.

  11. In my personal journey, I learned something about God and leadership through the microcosm of my marriage. Having gone to a church since childhood that taught patriarchicalism/authoritarianism/(maybe) complementarianism, I always saw myself as “THE MAN” in my relationships/marriage. And, if God spoke to me, then it was as good as done, regardless of what my wife was hearing.

    I had to learn the error of that way the hard way. Praise God not to the point of divorce, for God saved our marriage, but I have learned that God speaks to both of us equally and what a wonderful accountability tool that is. I may be fooled by my heart into believing something is God’s will, but with both of us seeking and considering and listening it frees us so much as we follow Him together.

    I think the same, as you are saying, must be said of the church. I didn’t really realize how much I still thought of leadership in the church as a pastor or a group of leaders seeking God’s vision, casting it, and then others following. I think it can work that way, but clearly God can lead entire groups of people to His vision for the group. And, as people see that vision, hear that calling, how much better will they lead and follow His calling?

  12. Bryan,
    That is a perfect example of the kind of synergy that can happen when we allow the vision and purpose of a group to be shaped by the giftings of those involved. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this.

  13. If the vision of the church should come from everybody (which I don’t disagree with) then how does this vision get spread to everybody? I mean, is the vision something that’s stated, or something that’s understood? How do people coming into a specific church know what the vision is?

  14. emergingchange,
    The vision of a church body is the unique expression of the many visions of the individuals who make up a particular group. Each member carries the aspect of the vision that is in their heart. The question is whether they find a church that will encourage and release them into the vision God has given them. The vision of a specific church is revealed in the expression of the gifts and visions of the individuals.

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