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My radical views on leadership

In honor of blogging about churchy stuff for 2 years, I will post a few of my more “troublesome” views. Let these be a lesson to any of you in “traditional” churches - don’t be radical if you want to keep your job. (my use of the words *troublesome and radical* is tongue in cheek in case you didn’t catch it)

My radical views on leadership from Dec. 2006

In light of yet another Colorado pastor stepping down for homosexual “impropriety”, I present some very honest, raw thoughts and questions. If you don’t handle “raw” well, do not continue.

Could it be, that the model we currently have for church “leadership”, the methods we currently have in place for the pastorate and elders and deacons and everyone else is perhaps flawed and no longer viable in most churches in America today?

Do you think that super human expectation is perhaps setting people up for failure? Do you think that it segregates them from “real” relationships within the body so much so that they no longer have any kind of authentic self remaining?

Could it be that the way we view leaders and polity and all that “stuff” actually contributes to these situations?

I was ticking off all of the things I’ve seen in my 25+ years in the church and I could only name a handful of pastors who had not had major “moral failings” or other crisis’s that ended their ministries. Here is a sampling (keep in mind that I have been an active part of over 11 churches - due to geographical relocation not church hopping):

* Three divorces due to infidelity
* Two attempted suicides (one by a pastor, the other by his wife)
* One cult-like spiritually abusive pastor who lost his church because of it
* Two families ripped apart to the point where the parents, children and siblings no longer have contact
* Two financial scandals

….does this disturb anyone? Is anyone concerned that perhaps we are feeding the machine? Does anyone think that MAYBE, just MAYBE we need to re-evaluate our choices? Does anyone feel that this is, in part, why we exceed in creating heavy yolks for people and fail at advancing God’s Kingdom?

And lest anyone be deceived into thinking they’re following a “New Testament” church model. NO ONE in America is doing that. There is no “holy grail” of church polity that is laid out in the New Testament. There are no sacred cows of organizational structure that we are commanded to bow to. If we can allow women to wear jewelry and braided hair, then we can reassess the role of deacon, elder and yes…even pastor.

This is not to say that there aren’t good pastors who don’t end up “falling”. This is not to say that we have to change everything, change now or that there aren’t people doing it well (there are, many…our church is just one that is doing it well). This is not to say that I don’t LOVE the Body of Christ and have great hopes for her future.

But it is to say that I wonder if we shouldn’t be looking beyond the stuff and fluff of what a church looks like externally and dig into the guts of ourselves and how we view leaders, the pastorate, church government, etc.

I just can’t shake the feeling that we are doing something horribly horribly wrong and that we will continue to pay the price for it if we don’t change soon.

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  1. Tia Lynn — January 10, 2008 #

    I could not agree more. One of the biggest problems the American church encounters today is its constant fixation on image, especially for its leaders. How can we expect pastors to remain vulnerable and authentic to their humanity, when we demand perfection. Oh, we don’t call it perfection, but isn’t that what we expect from them? Don’t we think they should have all the answers (God forbid a leader admits to not knowing, or is unsure, or heaven forbid, experience some doubt or fear!). Don’t we expect them to say all the right things, look the right way, and have the picture perfect family? Don’t we rely on them to tell us what and how to believe? While some might enjoy such a power trip, I believe that kind of pressure is to be that in CONTROL of other human beings is scary and burdensome, especially when leaders have their own questions, needs, and flaws. Doesn’t the traditional church structure create a disconnect between who leaders (and other members) are in public and who they are in private, which then hinders the intimacy and transparency necessary for the body to completely love each other and bear each other’s burdens?

    When leaders strip themselves of their raw, honest humanity and cloak themselves in that plastic Christian image to satisfy some implied requirement to be “together,” they kill off the very essence of what makes them relatable to both christians and non-christians alike. It’s very sad and I am surprised how long pastors and leaders hold up under such pressure before stumbling….

    BTW, did you see I tagged you over on my blog, under “The Wonderful World of Books”? I am curious to see what your list would be….

  2. Jonas Lundström — January 11, 2008 #

    I definitely agree, Mak. But I also think there are good biblical reasons for avoiding our practice of leadership. So, just because of the bible, I think we need to reevaluate this. Jesus is or only leader and no (other) man should be our leader (Mt 23:8-12). It is wrong to use power as in the system, appearing as “leader” (”lord”) and using power over others (Mt 20, Mk 10, Lk 22, Jh 13, 1 Pet 5, 2 Kor 2). Decisions should be made by a united gathering of believers (Acts) where everyone participates freely (1 Kor 14:26-). We have no other prophet, priest and king but Jesus, and through his spirit everyone of us participates in his prophetic, priestly and kingly ministry (1 Pet 2, 1 John 2, Rev 1, 1 Kor 12).

    Sorry for appearing as a fundamentalist with also this bible quotations, but I actually believe that few people takes what the bible says about leadership seriously.

  3. Pistol Pete — January 11, 2008 #

    Compelling comments.

    There is no doubt many individual churches have long histories of chewing pastors up and spitting them out. It’s also true, however, that many people with serious, unresolved issues are drawn into pastorates. This can make for a volatile mix.

    We do need to constantly reassess the role of each pastor within each church to see that “the boundary lines fall in pleasant places”. I don’t think this will require an overhaul of the pastoral position (any more than a university needs to overhaul the professorial position). It simply requires a lot of careful and prayerful evaluation and reflection on the gifts of particular pastors and needs of individual congregations to see that they remain a good fit.

    One other note - I would agree with you that divorce, spiritual abuse, family separation, and fiscal scandal are definite moral failings. I wouldn’t put suicide in this category, however.

    Suicide is most often than not the result of a serious chemical imbalance that causes a person to misperceive reality. Perhaps you could say it is a moral failing that something wasn’t done before it reached the point of suicide, but even this is dangerous speculation. I would say suicide is a great tragedy, not a moral failing.

    Good post.

  4. Mak — January 11, 2008 #

    I don’t see suicide as a moral failing at all. I didn’t say those things I listed were all moral failings necessarily anyway.

    moral failings … or other crisis’s that ended their ministries.

    Thanks everyone for your comments :)

    Jonas - you just made a lot of my points for me and we do indeed turn to the Bible for guidance true? so you’re not a fundie for saying so. I believe people are called to leadership but not as many in institutions define leadership

    Tia - yep, I’ll get to it eventually hehe

  5. Pingback - Swinging from the Vine — An imperfect faith — January 16, 2008 #

    [...] and not being too “open” about one’s life. I am convinced, as I mentioned in my leadership redux, that this is bad advice. It might make the congregation feel good about the leader but it lacks [...]

  6. Michael — January 16, 2008 #

    Yes, how very tragic the examples you give. I think a big part of the reason, aside from those already listed, is that those bold enough, brave enough, to take on the mantle of leading others in glorifying Christ, are naturally going to be a prime target for the enemy who wants to take them out. If not them, then their family. They surely need our prayers. I don’t think we can underestimate the spiritual warfare going on all around us, behind the scenes. It’s no coicidence then we are given so much scripture to pray for spiritual armour, wisdom and such to watch out for the wiley ways of the evil one who comes to steal, kill and destroy. I like how the Lord’s Prayer says to “deliver” us from evil and for us not to be (therefore) led into temptation and so on…

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