"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
January 23, 2007

Leadership Again – Part One

John Smulo is blogging about church leadership ‚Ķ again. Whilst I don‚Äôt entirely see eye-to-eye with John on this issue, I find his ideas and ruminations quite thought-provoking, as you can probably see from my responses on the question of leadership last year (here and here). In fact, there will be at least three posts […]

John Smulo is blogging about church leadership … again.

Whilst I don’t entirely see eye-to-eye with John on this issue, I find his ideas and ruminations quite thought-provoking, as you can probably see from my responses on the question of leadership last year (here and here). In fact, there will be at least three posts on the subject this time round, maybe more if the comment-conversation kicks off.

This time round, John has two key questions,

1. What does leadership not involve in your thoughts?
2. What does a reimagined leadership look like in theory and practice?

Well, to me leadership does not involve talking about leaders or leadership. Neither does it involve leadership conferences, leadership “summits,” or any other leadership paraphernalia. In my view, if you feel the need to call yourself a leader, or to mark out your status by referring to the people who work with you (or report to you, or rely on you) as leaders, you have disqualified yourself as a leader in my views.

It’s real simple; Jesus said the first shall be last РPaul said I must decrease so that he can increase.

When someone talks about their downward mobility, about the promotional, speaking and publication opportunities they have forgone to be focussed on their mission, about their way their calling makes it harder for them to get opportunities in the current status quo, about the real friction they have with received ways of working, then I find myself interested in listening. It seems to me that sort of thing means disavowing leadership-talk, at least in the conventional sense.

To me there is a very important distinction here. Are we talking about leadership as the courage to forge a new path that is worthy of following, or are we talking about leadership as the ability to make the system work for you?

I don’t hide my belief that a great deal of the leadership literature and debate in church circles today is about the latter. It’s ultimately self-serving and totally lacking in interest for me. I recall a few years back, hearing an Anglican minister who had grow up in the Baptist church talking about his decision to be ordained in the Anglican church. He said “the church of England is the best boat to fish from.” From the point of view of making the system work for you, being visionary and maybe even mission-minded, that is leadership.
It doesn’t work for me.

I’ll admit that part of the reason for that is that even when I’ve been in positions of “leadership” I’ve always felt an outsider. I felt like an outsider as a Pastor, as a Chaplain, as a Theological College Lecturer. I don’t trust the system, but perhaps more importantly, I don’t see it as fundamental to my faith to try and trust the system.

In fact, I’d go further and say I feel called to dis-trust the system, which carries with it the next step of distrusting approaches that are based on making the system work for me.

more to follow…

[tags] Leadership, Ministry, Ecclesiology [/tags]

John Smulo 17 years ago

Wow! Lots of strong words in this. I feel like a contradiction looking through your picture above. On the one hand, I think I’m a leader. On the other hand, I’ve been effectively black-balled from a number of churches because of my involvement with building relationships, etc. with Satanists and Pagans. I’ve been slandered and treated like dirt because of this, and against all “wisdom” from fellow “leaders”, have always persisted with things that I’ve known I need to do before God.

In addition, I’ve found myself taking roles as a pastor at churches that people you and I both know would tell me isn’t a good ministry step, rather than opportunities at churches that have far better reputations with more people in them.

So I don’t know how this fits in your thoughts. I hope this comment itself doesn’t sound like a self-serving response! Though I share some of my experience in hopes of trying to understand further where you’re coming from.

Paul 17 years ago

Interesting thoughts…

I think I agree with you to the extent that leadership is not about self-promotion and status – although i think it is part of the ongoing shaping process of leaders that they have to deal with that pressure and learn humility – usually through something blowing up and them continuing to walk with a limp ever after…

I am not so sure about downward mobility part – yes if that is part of the tale then by all means tell it but then again it might not be everyone’s path – i don’t have time for boasting but then again i don’t have time for false modesty, if God has given you something that you rock at then heh all glory to him and don’t be backwards in coming forward on it.

I think it is a good thing to not get too hung up on the system, whatever it is, afterall leadership does not take place in a vacum and there are people who are gonna be better suited to leading in one environmnet than another. I think it is worth recognising strengths/weaknesses and realising that none of us are ‘perfect’ in leadership…

Mostly i think leaders are people who follow Jesus and show up, who do what needs to be done, who help others and see folks at their best and their worst – in the former they don’t take too much credit and in the latter they don’t take too much blame…

Brodie 17 years ago

Fernando – some of what you write here makes me think back to my post, to which you posted some comments on “elites and church” – see here; https://viewfromthebasement.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/01/elites_and_chur.html#comments
I too am rather suspicious of technique driven leadership, which seems to have all the trappings of summits etc.
Interestingly any sermons I’ve heard on leadership seem to draw almost exclusively on the OT and then we try to bolt on the servant heart bit. For me the servant heart bit needs to be foundational and this then dictates the kind of “superstructure” that you can build upon it.

Phil Reilly 17 years ago

Fernando, just swung on by via Brodie’s blog. Really appreciate your discussion throughout this blog and on this subject. I rather like this translation of Philippians 2:6 “… did not consider equlaity with God something [to be taken to his own advantage]…” Upside down leadership, servant leadership that’s what I’m interested in.

Fernando Gros 17 years ago

Phil, thanks for stopping by and for opening up that Philippians passage in such a way. No doubt that is a key text, maybe the seminal text for rethinking ministry.

By the way, I was looking through my old journals today and stumbled upon a list of potential book/essay titles I wrote as part of a creative thinking exercise. One was called,

The Kenotic Minister: A Self-Emptying Approach To Christian Influence

I have to admit spending a few different moments today wondering if I should do someting more with that.

Dana Ames 17 years ago

Hope so!

Fernando Gros 17 years ago

Thanks Dana.

Fernando Gros 17 years ago

Brodie – I agree; there is a lot of bolt-on theology associated with leadership discussions, even the servant-oriented stuff.

Fernando Gros 17 years ago

Paul – thanks for your comment. I really like the way you put in your final paragraph.

Fernando Gros 17 years ago

John – on this subject my tone is all too often, lamentably brutal. I consider this a weakness, not a strngth and evidence that I far too easily provoked on the subject.

Your personal examples speak to me of leadership, in part because the “road less travelled,” thing is so evident. I recall the “things you need to do to be a sucessful pastor” type conversations with more than a degree of revulsion.

I guess I chose to be a “loose canon,” instead of a “safe pair of hands.”

To me, it’s a fairly straightforward question. If the church really is as troubled as as the missional/post-constantinian/emerging theorists claim, then we really need to be more than a little suspect of those who are not willing to sacrifice the status and security of the “system.”

Toni 17 years ago

Consider this a mark that I’ve read, absorbed and am digesting.

For me, I see leadership as serving others. That’s more or less it.

That’s three times I’ve deleted a comment.

Churches need that 5 fold ministry, in practice. They need people of experience, humility and accountability. They need to provide opportunity for many to learn to lead and many to learn to follow: with leading comes training, an awareness of weakness and a need to press further into God.

To me, almost all the models of leadership used by the majority of churches are desperately un-new testament biblical. Worse, the means by which church leadership is derived is so badly flawed it can only compound what’s wrong.

I’m too fuzzy-headed to write about the solution clearly on this now, and I suspect it would come out like garbage anyway. Maybe later.

Fernando Gros 17 years ago

Toni, that is a little fuzzy, but I’m getting a sense there of both character and practical service, which I do agree are important leadership “traits.”

I’m going to blog at some point in the future about the 5 fold thing. I’m not totally convinced about it.

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