by Ken Crawford
NOTE: Instructor is available outside of class and conference call for additional discussion about the paper or other topics.
The course begins by grounding our conversation in reflection on various leadership examples from the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Before God formed a people, God called a leader – this has always been the way. When the leader failed by rejecting God’s leadership, or the people rejected the guidance of their human leaders, then the people of God fell into chaos. Jesus and the early church reinterpreted the stories from their scriptures, and worked to establish a new way of being and leading that was marked by incarnation, and the present realities of “the kingdom of God among you” and the indwelling of the creating and Sustaining Spirit.
Churches are human institutions, and as such are subject to the rules of human interaction. Best practices in leadership depend in part on the social context and cultural background of those being led. Who are they, and where are they headed? We will examine psychological, sociological, as well as business leadership principles, always keeping in view our biblical and theological framework.
Who are you as a leader? How do you understand your gifts and graces, as well as limitations? Using both biblical examples as well as secular leadership assessments, we will consider how each of us is uniquely suited to particular ways of leading.
The world is changing. The church is changing with it. These are not new ideas. Our responsibility as leaders is to understand these changes, and be proactive rather than reactive. We are to capture and cast vision – God’s vision – for where the church needs to be going. The gospel message includes the truth that salvation comes through transformation – through dying and rising, once for all, as well as individually and daily. Our congregations will be transformed – death is not an option. The question is whether we will change in such a way that something new and life-giving may be born in and through us.
Change is often experienced as crisis – something sudden and dramatic happens creating a distinct before and after. Before the crash and after. Before my heart attack and after. Communities (family, congregation, neighborhood, business) often experience the natural developmental changes taking place as a series of crisis events. And because we are often uncomfortable with change, even change we desire and pursue, conflict results. Crisis and Conflict (two expressions of stress) are not in themselves negatives. Without them we would atrophy and die. Our challenge as leaders is to recognize what is happening, manage our own anxiety, and then help others to receive and live into the new and life-giving opportunities presented.
Teaching as Leading – Leadership can take many forms. Jesus’ leadership most often included teaching – of principles and ideas, the ways of living out those new understandings, and how to pass them on to others. It is the difference between giving a fish and teaching someone to fish. Too often leaders in churches (and many other settings) fail to build capacity into those being led. Instead, we seek ways of leading that replace dependency with interdependence and mutuality. Every act of leading teaches something, so we want to be intentional in our leading and teaching. As we form disciples of Jesus, we form leaders for the kingdom that is coming, and in some ways already present among us.
Children and youth provide us special challenges and particular inspiration. We think we are teaching, leading and forming them. Yet scripture tells us that we are to become like them, and that at the consummation of all things “a little child will lead them.” How do we lead and teach young people so that we are also learning from and following them? How do we enter into this mutuality when stark power differentials are present? Several of the Prophets and Apostles were teen agers – what does this say about how we might relate to our youth, and those in the community around us?
Organic leadership. Leaderless organizations. Grass-roots leadership. Even militaries and multinational corporations are exploring these ideas as modern hierarchical structures are being deconstructed. Jesus called, equipped, inspired and then released the disciples, giving them leadership of the church. Paul identifies 5 leadership gifts (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd and Teacher) the purpose of which was to equip “the saints” – i.e. all followers of Jesus – for the work of ministry. In our leadership, do we equip others and empower them, or restrain them in servitude and dependence?
What is the Missional Church? How does this way of feeling, thinking and being – this way of faithing – differ from other patterns we have known? The modern church of the 19th and 20th century was primarily a destination, a place for people to gather and be blessed. The late 20th and early 21st century saw a shift to attracting – realizing that people were not just going to show up, we had to do something significant to get them there – resulting in our attempts to provide more relevant music, teaching, programming, architecture, etc. It has been suggested that we are now in the transition time of another 500 year upheaval of Christianity. Missional shifts the flow from inward to outward. The purpose of the church is to send, be sent, and go out into the world. Jesus never invited, nor told us to invite someone to synagogue/church. He went, and as he went, he invited others to go along, be in community, learn, be equipped, and later to be sent to repeat the process. The Missional Shift is about recognizing this new day and learning how to lead.
Leadership in church and community takes many forms as expressions of our roles and relationships. Each person has potential, and with it responsibility, for leadership in her or his spheres of influence. Preaching, teaching, leading worship or meetings – these are obvious expressions of leadership but represent a small percentage of people actively living out the Christian faith. Whether or not you fill any of these roles, we need a comprehensive understanding of the times and places where we are gifted and called to lead, and just how to approach those opportunities.
Seeing our reality, recognizing the need for change, and acting on that in a strategic way. When Jesus sent the 12 and the 70, he give them specific instructions. Through his ministry we can trace a particular strategy (or strategies) that he employed to call, equip and send his followers. Perhaps this is part of what Jesus was doing when he got up early and stayed up late praying in a deserted place – working out in his own heart and mind, with the Father’s guidance, the next steps in his ministry. We will look at several approaches to planning and work toward developing one that is a good fit for our particular personality, gifts and leadership style.
Looking back over the preceding modules, each participant will consider how to synthesize these ideas into an overall Leadership System. Participants will identify areas for further individual study, and develop a personal leadership growth plan.