Leadership really is one of those big words which can be thrown around, analysed, studied, pursued and even cherished.
People arrive at leading via many routes: to adjust the quote: ‘some are born leaders, some become leaders and some have leadership thrust upon them.’
The adding of ‘ship’ to anything implies to me the art, science, skill, expectations and accrued experience of the word in question. Thus leadership suggests that there is much more involved than merely a position held. Even in that simple phrase lies the fact that some acquire merely positional leadership while others achieve per-missional leadership which may have happened before and actually been the reason why they were given the actual position of leader.
Leadership to play with the pun gives to the leader a ship and so the valid question is where is the leader taking his people to. When it comes to leadership in the church context it will also very definitely depend on what ship the leader is building.
That destination or building ‘project’ has in my immediate spheres of influence changed significantly in recent years and that means that the leader has had to change the way he thinks and develop different skills to accommodate and pursue these changes.
Alongside the changes which we have experienced I add what is becoming a strong personal emphasis regarding the training and developing of leaders. That is that the church has tended to be a place of training people to become leaders in the church. Though very valid and necessary it has left a huge gap. My self assessed estimate of only 3% of a congregation being paid to lead in the church leaves 97% who are paid to lead elsewhere. If this group is only trained by the church to lead in the church then we have failed.
Allow me to briefly address these two areas.
The Changing Context of Leadership
Taking three of the shifting emphases shows an immediate need for a change in leadership positioning.
Moving from an emphasis on gathering (pastoral model) to an emphasis on sending (apostolic model). This is one of the first places to see that the recent emphasis on inner healing, sonship and identity is really essential. The gathering leader was not dependent on his followers being as secure in their identity, in fact it may have been discouraged, following the leader required the followers to succeed by becoming like their leader often with tragic consequences. In contrast the sending leader who is creating an empowering culture and structure will need his ‘followers’ to be secure in who they are as they are sent to influence the world around them,
Church to Kingdom: This security of identity for the leader and the follower is no more clearly seen than in the transition from church focus to kingdom focus. Success for the leader is now not in the number of people who gather or their contribution directly to the church but in their impact on the world in which they live and work.
The third relates strongly to the first two and that is the emphasis shift from building Big Churches to ‘growing’ Big People. Similar to the first two but recognizing that big churches in their own right do not change cities or nations.
Interestingly all three of these shifts in emphasis will actually increase the former but only by emphasizing the latter. People drawn to a sending church will greatly value being pastored, kingdom minded people will actually end up contributing more to a local church which believes in their contribution to the wider world and churches which raise big people will attract more and result in church growth. All three of these confirming the well known quote of CS Lewis that in putting second things first you get neither first nor second but if you put first things first you will get first and second.
As is clear from these three examples the leadership development task has changed dramatically. Starting with the shift to the apostolic or sending developing identity is vital. Sending those who know who they are is vital if they are to transform the world rather than the world transform them. It is why I am so delighted that this season is accompanied by so much inner healing, emphasis on sonship & daughtership and the fathers heart for his children, without which we would quickly revert to gathering and controlling. so too with a kingdom emphasis the need to empower leaders in the marketplace is vital. That they know that their identity and value is not in the time and resources that they give to the church and so valuing them for being kingdom minded educators, artists, mums and the myriad of vital occupations is essential. Leading a bible study will be less vital than leading a board meeting with kingdom principles to these leaders.
And of course all of this adds up to raising ‘big leaders’ by which I mean those who can take their place in the places of their calling while still finding home and community in the church.
And if we do it well we will still have large congregations but they will be constantly sending their people, transforming the world and providing a place of community and relationship with each other and experience of the power and presence of God which refreshes and empowers them for their next week, challenge or opportunity.