#Leadershipthoughts – Compassion in Crisis
Is the current crisis in the mega church movements of the West pointing us back to Jesus? I know there is a lot to be concerned about with the impetus amongst some to deconstruct everything. Building is so hard, why on earth would we tear down? But it feels to me like the collapse of the “bigger and shinier” consumer church models may be a blessing. And this includes its obsession with “Leadership” and the monetisation of leadership training that has popped up here there and everywhere, feeding narcissistic tendencies in its sales people and in us all as who doesn’t want to be told they are leaders with great potential who need to focus on themselves? Somewhat ironically, the New Testament rarely uses the word “leader” or “lead” – only really 3 times in any kind of positive sense at all.
“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who leads like the one who serves.” – Luke 22:24-26
The Greek word here for lead is verb hegeomai and it means to guide. Jesus is saying – don’t import or follow the authoritarian, hierarchal or business control management tools of your age. Leadership in my kingdom is to serve, and to guide those who need it. Hegeomai is used again in Hebrews 13:24 “Greet all of your leaders and all the saints” And in Hebrews 13:17 “obey your leaders and submit to them” The word translated “obey’ here is peitho which means to persuade or here to be persuaded. It might better be translated be persuadable by those guiding you,
Other than that the words used to describe what the writers of the New Testament actually did are “bond-slave” – Paul and James uses this title in Romans 1:1 and James 1:1 and Simon-Peter and Jude used it in 2 Peter 1:1 and Jude 1:1.
The Early Church didn’t envisage leadership in the way our conferences, courses and podcasts seem to today. The term diakonia (servant, service) is the most commonly used word to label people in leadership in the NT. This cannot have been an accident. The NT writers used a word to describe leadership in the church which was diametrically opposed to the contemporary ideas of their time. The theologian Hans Kung points out that the NT writers saw that any words which suggested a relationship of power, hierarchy, rulers and the ruled were unusable in the Early Church. The NT appears to carefully avoid the models of authority available in the surrounding society for defining leadership in the church. Perhaps we could consider doing the same? The obsession of the last 20 years within evangelicalism appears to have been learning from consumer-based business models of growth and consumption mindsets or from pop-psychology like Myers Briggs, in order to become “better” more self-realised leaders. No wonder the model is collapsing.
So, let’s build and rebuild, but maybe we could try an organic and not a mechanised approach. The leading of the Spirit more than a marketed system. Let’s follow Jesus’ teaching drawn from the natural world, that values people, the poor, the broken, the small, the defeated - electrifying and astonishing us with the possibility of transformation, new birth and life in the Spirit. And maybe it would help if we could start using the words he used for us– servant, friend, brother, sister, and disciple.