Reading Mark Elrod's post this morning on his blog motivated me to start thinking about leadership. After Christ, I would be hard pressed to come up with a better example of a church leader than Dr. Ganus. It also reminded me of something I had just read in Love, Foster, and Harris's new book "Seeking a Lasting City". Here is an excerpt from this really good book that has just been released. I apologize ahead of time for the length, but I think you will agree that it was worth including all of it.
"What will leadership for an exilic people look like? It is one of the marks of our postmodern age to distrust POSITIONAL power. Leaders can no longer expect to get respect simply because they hold a certain office or position, as has sometimes been the case in the past. The time for authoritarian leadership is passing away. Elders who could once count on everyone to be compliant simply because they were elders now attempt to assert the power of their position at their own peril.
For the last couple of decades, old-style authoritarian 'because I said so' leadership has been on the wane. But what has replaced it is a corporate model that, while less authoritarian, is still positional. This new breed of leader is a careful decision-maker who seeks to be sensitive to the needs and desires of a constituency....the church. Such leaders make decisions based on studied conclusions about what is in the overall best interest of the church, as any good corporate board member would.
Even though this approach to leadership is people-centered and people sensitive, it still presumes that the primary task of church leaders is to make good decisions and that they have the positional power to do that. The primary quality for eldering in this scenario is the ability to think through complex problems, gather imput, and formulate sound policy. This approach is a profoundly modern idea of spiritual leadership. Elders have moved from church boss to corporate executive, but neither is a sufficient view of church leadership for the postmodern world.
This is also an information age where there is more help for church leaders and elders than ever before. In terms of leadership techniques, our elders have never been better trained. In areas as diverse as conflict resolution, team building, staff relations, legal regulations, consensus building, decision making processes, and employee conpensation, church leaderships have become better informed and much more sophisticated. But still, this simply leads to better POSITIONAL leadership. We call for a different way.
In his book 'Spiritual Preparation for Christian Leadership', E. Glenn Hinson argues that what the church needs most are saints......those who have been truly transformed by the gospel. In the same way, we believe our great need is not for better technigues in leadership but for genuinely spiritual people leading. Leadership must be re-envisioned not primarily as an opportunity for decision-making but as an opportunity for spiritual guidance. Spiritual leadership means walking alongside people for the purpose of helping them discern God's will and mission for their lives.
The primary criteria for spiritual leadership are prayer and an awareness of God's presence at each moment. The spiritual leader is the one who pays attention to what God is doing. Spiritual leadership is spiritual guidance.
Spiritual guidance is more that just telling people what the Bible says, though Bible knowledge is indispensibable to the task. Spiritual guidance works through deep relationships with God and with other people, helping them discern what God is doing and might desire to do in their lives. Yet such guidance only comes about in constant prayer and spiritual attentiveness. A person will only accept spiritual guidance from one whose own life is clearly spirit-guided. The leadership in such a situation is completely relational, not positional. Position does not and cannot make one a spiritual leader.
So now the question about potential leaders is not about quality of their strategic thinking ability, but about the quality of their prayer lives and attentiveness to God. People long for this kind of leadership. Today most people can make their own decisions and generally want to do so.....congregations can learn to self-govern....but we all desire the relationship with that person who can guide us into the depths of the heart of God. We all need that spiritual friend and guide.
How will this need for spiritual leadership affect the way we select elders and other leaders of the church? What are the pratical implications of such a shift in point of view? We know a congregation where the elders are willing to relinquish power. Rather than insisting on making all the major decisions themselves, they appoint groups of members of the church to select new elders, make financial decisions, and more. While they offer guidance when necessary, these elders do not see themselves as executives but as servants and mentors. They lay hands on the sick, meet with and pray for those in crisis, know the names of the children and spend time with them. They aren't divorced from the administrative needs of the church, but they don't see them as their primary function either.
This is what spiritual leadership in the new world will be. The time for a board of directors approach has passed. The key to leadership in our churches today is ethical, holy living; what we desperately need now are spiritual guides. Will our leaders hear the call?"