Myth #3: There isn’t leadership in the body of Christ.
Truth: We need a new paradigm of what leadership is in the body of Christ.
The reason I posted the other two myths first is because unless we adopt those truths first, we aren’t situated to develop a new paradigm of leadership. First, leadership must be based on the truth that our status as brothers in the kingdom is that of equals. Second, leadership must evolve organically out of the unique relationships and giftings of a particular group.
Kester Brewin in discussing leadership in such a self-organizing system said this:
“…yes, there is such a thing as leadership in such (self-organizing) systems. But the model and style of leadership is so radically different to that which a) ‘leaders’ are used to using and b) ‘followers’ are used to experiencing that it is enormously tempting to quickly revert to old models of leadership where ‘leaders’ feel in control and the ‘followers’ can abdicate responsibility for their spiritual journey to them and just jump on the bandwagon.”
This change is significant because at the same time that it requires leaders to step down from control, it also requires that the followers step up to take responsibility.
We can’t read about the new testament church without seeing the aspects of leading and following that occur. I think perhaps our mistake has been in assuming that these are set roles for specific individuals. Titles and positions have set us up for a wrong mentality of leadership that is often self-serving rather than focused on serving others.
There is a vast difference in leading from position as opposed to leading from a place of responsibility that requires us to serve, possibly without recognition. Many people want to be seen as leaders, but not nearly as many are willing to serve in obscurity. What degree of service would we still participate in if there were no acknowledgment or recognition of our role?
The new testament gives us instructions on our responsibilities as leaders. In this, we are taught and encouraged to use our wisdom, resources, and gifts in service to our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is so important when we serve a brother by leading, that we understand the boundaries of the relationship and don’t presume authority in their life that isn’t ours.
We are also given instructions on our responsibilities as followers. In this, we are taught to maintain an attitude of respect and submission toward one another. There is wisdom and gifting in even the youngest believer that we can submit ourselves to. Honoring and empowering takes place when we are willing to receive from someone who may have less than us in the realm of privilege, maturity, or experience.
Although we have equal status within the kingdom of God, we recognize that in relationships, sometimes one person has more power. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it requires of that person honest and careful use of their power.
The fact is that some of us are further along on the journey than others. What this means is that we have the privilege and opportunity to share what we can with others. If we are willing to take the time and effort, we can help our brother along the way. This produces relationships that we know as overseeing, pastoring, eldering, and mentoring.
Does this mean that it is our job to manage their life? No, but we might get to be the person that believes in them. We could be the voice speaking God’s truth of their identity and purpose, and we might get to share with them a glimpse of hope in what their future holds. We may also have the privilege and burden of sharing in their suffering.
It is so incredibly sad that in the midst of self-serving, self-promoting leadership within the body of Christ, we have missed the incredible opportunity of fathering in a way that builds worth and identity into a person, especially at a time when there is such a great need for fathering. Instead, due to a need to control, models of discipleship have been the most extreme models of abuse in the church, with the fathers hoarding participation in ministry for themselves.
We can raise up, equip, and release without assuming rulership. When we are willing to lead in a way that serves another without demanding subservience to ourselves, we get the incredible blessing of standing on the sidelines and cheering at the growth and success of those we’ve had the opportunity to give a hand to along the way.
Like a little girl, dancing on her daddy’s shoes, sometimes we get the opportunity to allow someone to dance on our shoes for a bit. It is up to us whether we acknowledge and appreciate the partnership and talent that they bring to the dance. And it is up to us to realize that they will soon be dancing on their own.