Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What's Wrong With Organic Church? (Part 7)

Lack of Strong Leadership?

This criticism of organic church comes from those outside the movement, not from those within. Mainly because the perception of what leadership should look like differs from what most of us have come to expect in the traditional church setting.

When I was a pastor on staff at a traditional church I was seen as a leader. This meant my success was literally measured by how many people were following me and, more importantly, how good I was at getting them to do the things around the church that needed to be done. In my case this was either serving the poor in one of our regular outreach events, teaching Sunday School on Sunday mornings, attending a youth event, or showing up for choir practice.

As a leader I was expected to read books on leadership, to attend pastor conferences where leadership skills could be developed, and to target those in our church who had leadership potential and recruit them for my particular ministry.

In a traditional context, a good leader is charismatic, inspirational, and motivational. He or she is graded on how many people respond to instructions and perform the desired activity.

In an organic church all of this is thrown right out the window. I once described it this way to someone who didn't understand what leadership was like in an organic church. I said, "instead of a top-down, CEO-style leader like we're used to seeing, imagine someone on their knees with a towel around their waist who is washing someone's feet."

Jesus is our model for leadership in the organic church, and frankly it's much, much harder to emulate his example than it is to just take charge and tell everyone what to do.

As someone who spent a few decades learning how to be good at being up front and telling people what to do and think, this new servant model was much more challenging for me. And it still is.

When our house church group first started I used to answer every question that was asked in our share time. Mainly because whenever anyone asked a question every eye would turn to me in expectation. Everyone saw me as the leader, the expert, and I was only too ready to demonstrate my expertise. Partly because this is how I was trained, and partly because I'm a little bit proud and being seen and treated as the resident expert on the Bible made me feel important.

One Sunday morning when one of our members asked a question about a passage we were discussing together I took a different approach. She said, "What does this verse mean?" and instead of answering I sat back and said, "I don't know. Does anyone else here have an idea?" And after that I did everything in my power to give away the spotlight to the rest of the Body.

Usually I allow someone else to play the guitar during our singing times, but lately I'm the only person who feels comfortable doing this for our group. The problem this created for us was that it put me in the front of the room and after the singing everyone was left staring at me, once again, in expectation of what I was going to do or say to lead our group. To counteract this I used to play the last song and then, while everyone's eyes were still closed, I would get up and leave the room. When people opened their eyes I wasn't sitting there and it forced the group to take responsibility for the share time without looking to me for guidance. I would only return to the group after I heard them talking from the next room, usually carrying my second cup of coffee, or a book I wanted to read from.

If anything, leadership in a house church context is more about what you don't do and how you facilitate the group to function and grow apart from your constant oversight. There have even been meetings where I'm not even there! Usually those are the best meetings of all, I say.

Leadership as Jesus modelled for us was not top down, it was bottom up. He always found ways to ask the right questions, to recognize the people on the fringes, and to model a radical form of service to those he was leading. Jesus was a master at leaving hard questions unanswered, and asked hard questions of his own in order to help people work out the answers they were seeking. Even though he was full of knowledge, even though his disciples desperately wanted him to just tell them what to do and how to think, he continually kept them mentally and spiritually engaged by always giving them some other mystery to work out, or some new concept to explore.

I am not like Jesus. Not yet. I mean, I really wish that I was, but the truth is that I'm still learning how to let go of my authority and position and to help others to grapple with His Word and to be lead by His Spirit as they follow Jesus daily.

Certainly, I do have something to contribute to the church family that God has made me part of, but I do not have all the answers. I have part of the message, but according to the New Testament, God will lead each of us by His Spirit and has already gifted everyone in our fellowship with the gifts they need to be a blessing to others in our fellowship. The ministry of the Body is found in the Body, and not in me or any other expert. Allowing Christ to be the Head of His Church and to lead us whenever we gather together is not always easy, but it does require much more faith and a lot of grace for one another as we learn how to share and to serve one another in His love.


1 comment:

Alan said...

This is slightly facetious (for which I'm sorry!) but surely the organic/biblical church has the strongest leadership of all. He is the Lord Jesus who leads us by the Holy Spirit. And they don't get any stronger than that! They are utterly irresisitable!