Sunday, May 03, 2009

Leadership, Part Two

In the last post, I asserted that leadership in the body of Christ is organically grown, and that the authority it wields is spiritual rather than official. Perhaps the simplest way to restate my point is to say that local leadership roles in a church should be home-grown, and should mirror the ongoing spiritual vitality of the people in question. Leadership is not a static thing, and it changes according to the needs of a group. For example, a person who leads in one group may not find he or she has the same role in the next. It's a fluid thing.

But today I'm thinking about how leadership is still totally necessary for a group of people, however they come upon it. I find this needs to be stated out loud because those of us who are into "organic leadership" tend to entertain the notion that a church can get by without leaders at all. Or perhaps some of us like to believe that leadership happens so fluidly that it never rests on any one or two or three individuals in a church for more than a few seconds at a time.

Poppycock. I've been in an organic, simple, home church now for nine years and I can tell you that churches need leaders. They need brothers (and sisters!) to whom they can look when things get really nasty. They need stable folks who can redirect things onto a healthy path when things get sidetracked. A church needs men and women who don't freak out about everything, who don't twist the truth to fit their own preferences, and who genuinely look out for the needs of other people rather than merely their own. In other words, there really are characteristics of a followable leader, and we should know what they are.

If each person in the church carries the same weight in every discussion, then the group will too easily be swayed by those who don't know what they're talking about. Yet somehow we entertain this romantic notion that everyone leads equally. Perhaps we do this because we love democracy so much in this country. We don't like anyone telling us what we should do, and we don't like the idea that someone might know better than we do. Hurts our pride. But there really are people who should be listened to more than others. These are called leaders. And we need them in a fellowship of fallen people.

What happens if a group of people never recognizes leadership? Then people who should not be followed will determine the direction of the group. Somehow, in the end, people without those qualities which describe a leader will have their way, and the group will suffer. Churches which are suspicious of authority and leadership eventually must learn what it looks like for God's kind of leadership to show up.

Side note: Did you know it's hard to write a well-thought-through blog post while your 18 month old is fussing at you? Turns out it is. I hope this is all still making sense.

So what counts most in leadership? What kind of person should a church be looking for amongst themselves?

My answer is: A person of character.

Yes, you say, but what is character? What does that mean? First of all, it does NOT mean simply that they can speak well, or convincingly. Being articulate is nice, and it's useful for a group to have people that can talk, but how central is that, really? I suppose your leaders should be able to unify a group of people, and being able to think clearly, objectively, and being able to articulate what you're thinking is useful for that end. But the character of that person is crucial. Useful things like intelligence and charisma must never eclipse character.

Most people like to be led by people who are smart. They like to follow someone who can write a good book, or deliver stirring speeches in front of crowds of people (e.g. megachurch pastors). But these are not the real reasons to follow a person. Successful preachers, writers, and entertainers (think of actors, musicians, artists) often have really crummy character under the hood. And in the end they will make decisions that are not good for a group. They wow us with their elocution, or their charm, but that's not what we really need. So what DOES character mean, then?

Character is comprised of un-sexy things like commitment, stability, perseverance, and humility. People of character take genuine interest in the needs of other people, not merely their own needs. They take responsibilities seriously, and they follow through with what they say they will do. They have integrity--they do not say one thing but do another. In fact, as it turns out, what they say matters far less than WHAT THEY DO. At long last, I think this is what I'm getting at. We tend to watch people's mouths. But we should be looking somewhere else.

When I played football, my coaches taught us that you should never watch the ball carrier's shoulder pads. If you want to know which way they're going next, you watch their hips. The hips don't lie. A good ball carrier will juke and jive and fake you out. But a good tackler watches the hips. They tell you what's up.

Same thing here. Watch one another's actions. Pay attention to how each other lives. Notice those people who make wise decisions, who cultivate healthy relationships, and who do what they say. Follow those people. That's what leadership is about, and we need it dearly.


Blogger Bill said...

Wow. You're on tonight. And I'm startin to 'feel ya'.



4:00 AM  
Blogger Neil said...

Thanks, bro.

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Johnny said...

The truth will forver ring true, brother.
The light will always illuminate....

Great post.

12:23 PM  
Blogger konti said...

Wow, great article. Thank you brother!

11:30 AM  

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