Showing posts with label leader. Show all posts
Showing posts with label leader. Show all posts

17 September 2012

Organic leadership?

I thought it would be good to repost this from April 2010 as we've been thinking about leadership recently. This old article is a good reminder that it doesn't really depend on us, it depends on Yahshua. He is the one who builds the church!

Oak leaves and acorns
Brian Hofmeister has tried organic church and found it difficult. He writes about his experiences in a report in Christianity Today - Leadership. Brian's conclusion is that leading organic church was just too onerous, and was not achievable without some degree of professional input.

However, this has not been my experience, nor that of many others. And I don't believe it was the experience of the early church either. There's little evidence of paid leadership in the New Testament.

So what went wrong for Brian and the people he met with? To answer that we need to go right back to define what is and is not organic church. The word 'organic' implies an organism, whereas much of our experience of church comes from organisations. An organisation usually has a top-down management structure and a hierarchical authority structure. Something which is organic begins from a seed and grows until it reaches maturity and produces more seeds which grow in their turn.

In this way, one tiny seed may produce not just a tree, but an entire forest. It takes a certain amount of time, but it speeds up dramatically with each generation and will eventually fill the space available. Trees and forests can be managed, but they don't have to be. There were very successful forests in many parts of the world before human explorers arrrived to manage them!

I think that Brian simply tried too hard to manage and guide and educate and persuade. But that's not organic. The seed that germinates and grows amongst a small group of people is the expectation that Yahshua himself will do the managing, guiding, educating, and persuading. He said, 'I will build my church.' And he really meant it! He is the only one who truly knows how to do it.

Church is a community of people who love one another because Christ has first loved them. When we come together to meet it's just the tip of a giant, hidden core of fellowship and community. When we meet, Yahshua is there at the centre. He is with us because we are his and he loves to bless us and guide us. But he's also with us day by day as we live our lives, he is with us in defeat and in victory, in sorrow and in joy.

A group of new believers, if they focus on Jesus, will help one another along the road to maturity. The wiser and more mature will look out for the others. There will be problems, but rather than training programmes and theological studies the believers need to discover how to be disciples. They need to be walking with the Lord, listening to what he says and watching what he does. Reading the Bible together will provide a lot of useful guidance. Eating together when possible, helping one another with practical things, and having good, family fun together will help too. Encouraging one another, praying for one another, all these things help to build community.

But the key is listening to the Lord and doing what he says. Out of this will come mission, church growth, and all the rest.

Brian tried an alternative model of church and found it wanting. But it wasn't really organic church. My advice to him would be try again but to do a whole lot less while expecting Yahshua to do a whole lot more!

For some related ideas, click the 'Links' button at the top of the page, some of the links will lead to other useful material - books, mp3s, DVDs, videos and more. But above all pray and ask Jesus himself to guide you, he won't let you down.

16 September 2012

Keeping watch

We consider the Koine Greek word 'episcopos' and see how Luke uses it in Acts as he records how Paul spoke to the Ephesian elders on his way to Jerusalem. It seems that Paul was most concerned with preventing misleading teaching from confusing and scattering the believers.

A flock of sheep
Let's take a look at another Greek word used in the New Testament and usually understood as a leadership term. The word is ἐπίσκοπος (episcopos) and is variously translated bishop, overseer, ruler or supervisor.

It literally means someone who looks around, or across, or on. Does it have the sense of governing others in some way, or might it rather have the sense of keeping watch and staying alert as a way of serving others?

There is a widespread perception and presumption that New Testament authors intended it in the former sense.

We can rule out 'Bishop' in the formal sense used by Anglicans, Catholics and others. The early church had no hierarchical structures anything like those of these groups. Nor is the term 'episcopos' understood in this way by methodists, baptists, or most other more recent church groups. They usually retain some form of structure and government, but often limited to the management of local congregations. Terms like overseer, elder, deacon, pastor, moderator may be employed, but are not normally used to denote hierarchical position.

To understand 'episcopos' properly we need to examine how it is used by the original authors and how readers at the time might have understood it. There are five passages where it's used in the New Testament. We'll check them out one by one. (Note that the word ending varies in Greek, depending on context and the rules of grammar.)

Saying goodbye to the Ephesians - ἐπισκόπους is used in Acts 20:28. To properly understand this passage we need some context, I recommend reading Acts 20:13-21:1. Paul has called the elders from Ephesus to meet him on the coast before he sets off for Kos on his journey to Jerusalem. (We'll look at the term 'elder' in a later article.) It's an emotional meeting, a final farewell. For Paul it's a short pause on a long journey.

In verses 17-21 he reminds them how he lived when he was with them. He was humble and severely tested, but he spoke only what was helpful and taught in their homes about repentance and faith.

In verses 22-25 he explains why he's leaving and that he won't be back.

In verses 26-36 he reminds them again of his teaching and tells them to keep watch and act as shepherds. They have a duty to keep watch, and it's very clear that this means guarding against wrong teaching. They are to be on their guard against the things he warned them of over and over again.

They were appointed by the Spirit (not by men, not even by Paul). They are called not to govern but to be alert for error and to be shepherds. In other words their responsibility is to be aware of the right way and trustworthy in walking it so the sheep will be safe in following them.

Paul commits them to 'Elohim and the word of his grace'. They are to be built up by the Lord, set apart for him, helping the weak by working hard to supply their own needs, giving not receiving.

ἐπισκόπους evidently has a sense of being vigilant and guarding against wrong teaching. There's an emphasis on bearing in mind the dangers and pitfalls, and on humbly serving and leading by example so that the sheep remain safe.

Next time we'll look at  the use of this word in Philippians 1:1.


11 September 2012

More on leading

In an attempt to pin down what the New Testament writers meant by the ideas of leader and leadership, we take a look at some of the words that have been translated into English as 'leader'.

A famous leaderFollowing my previous post I noticed Alan Knox's repost of his earlier article, 'Follow the Leader or Simon Says?'

I left a comment on Alan's post, referring back to my own blog. I was perhaps too hasty and didn't really make my meaning clear. When Alan replied, I tried to clarify, but the exchange of views had the side effect of making me think harder about the underlying issues.

As Alan rightly mentions, 'Scripture uses the Greek term for “leader.”' But then he goes on to add, 'I don’t see any problem with having leaders among the church.'

Issues with leadership - Nonetheless I do still see issues with human leaders. And these are issues that were already arising very early on in church life. This is made quite clear in 1 Cor 1:10-17 for example. In verse 17 Paul explains that he was sent for a purpose.

We are all called for a purpose, and for most of us that is likely to include some elements of leading others. During a local meeting all should bring something. In other words, to a degree, everyone should lead (and everyone should follow).

The fact that the Greek word for 'leader' is used in the New Testament is not enough, in itself, to suggest we should follow human leaders. There are a number of Koine Greek words translated 'leader'. Let's look at them in turn.

  1. ἀρχηγός (archégos) - has the sense 'prince' or 'founder'. It's used in Hebrews 12:2.
  2. ὁδηγός (hodégos) - here the sense is 'instructor, 'teacher' or 'trainer'. When Jesus says the lawyers and Pharisees are blind 'guides', this is the Greek word used (Matthew 23:16, Matthew 23:24 for example).
  3. πρωτοστάτης (prótostatés) - the sense is chieftain or ringleader and it's only used once, in Acts 24:5 in the 'ringleader' sense.
  4. ἡγεμών (hégemón) - this word means a ruler, commander or governor and is used in Matthew 27:2 of Pontius Pilate and in Acts 23:26 of the governor Felix. The English word 'hegemony' comes from this source.
  5. καθηγητής (kathégétés) - meaning teacher or leader. Jesus tells us in Matthew 23:10, not to be called masters or leaders. This is the word used in that verse.
There are two further Greek words that I might write about, sometimes used for leaders in more specific ways - episcopos and presbuteros. But that can wait for another article.

Meanwhile, is it fair to conclude that the five words listed above for 'leader' don't really fit our role in 'one anothering'?

Conclusion and some questions - I would argue that we should not think in terms of leaders and leadership in church life. We can all lead by example (and I encourage everyone to do so) but that's as far as it should go.

Is this fair? How do you think Jesus intended the church to be led? Did he intend you to lead, and if so how? Did he intend you to follow, and if so how?

Can you find other examples of leaders in the New Testament? What are they? What does this say about church structure and government?

See also: 

08 September 2012

Strategy? Who's strategy?

Do we need to follow good strategies, or do we simply need to obey everything the Holy Spirit shows us to do? I believe obedience, not strategy is the key to success. How about you?

Obedience training
I'm growing tired of hearing about strategy. Don't misunderstand me, there's nothing wrong with having a strategy but it had better be the right one, from the right source.

My strategy always misses something important.

My strategy is based on limited experience and the goal is one of my own choosing.

I select goals from a place of partial knowledge, poorly developed wisdom, and a proud and selfish heart.

Therefore my strategy will fail.

Perhaps I need an expert's strategy. If I read all the right books, listen to all the right teaching, get the right counselling and coaching, follow best practice and model my techniques on those of others who have succeeded, maybe I'll do much better.

So how, exactly, do I choose the right expert, the best example to follow, the best plan or programme or technique? However and whoever I choose, I am really just going around the same loop again. I am the one judging who represents the best example to follow. And I will be depending on the rightness of someone else's vision and judgement. I will still fail!

There is a solution, there is a way to succeed. It's called obedience.

I need to begin by listening to the Holy Spirit, then I need to do what he tells me. That's it, here endeth the method. There are good examples out there and it's good to be encouraged by the good examples of others. But the best examples are people who demonstrate obedience.

What do you think? Is obedience all we need if we are to follow Jesus into the harvest?

If not, why not?

What else, in addition to obedience, do we need?

26 July 2011

THOUGHT: Follow my leader

Ex Google CIO, Douglas Merrill, says that businesses tend to look in all the wrong places for strategies that will lead to market success. He doesn't say it in so many words, but he certainly implies it. I think he's right and the principle applies in every field of human endeavour - work, sport, church, business, science, technology, and more.

Douglas Merrill, ex CIO of GoogleSome of the things Douglas Merrill said are mentioned in this IT World article, I'll list the most provocative of them below. My own experiences working in science, technology and IT for BBSRC and in web development for Unilever strongly support the Merrill view.

Below each item I've added some questions about common ways we 'do' church. Do we need to rethink?

  1. Companies stuck in traditional management practices risk becoming irrelevant.

    Might this apply to some of the more traditional denominations? Might it even apply to some attempts at smaller, organic expressions of church too? What practices and traditions and habits do we cling to - even though they don't feature in the New Testament?

  2. Leaders should not be afraid to do 'dumb' things. Sometimes being dumb changes the game. (Example - In 1990 a young Kodak researcher invented the charge coupled device which is the core of every camera today. His boss said, 'You're a moron - we make film'.)

    Where do these 'dumb' things originate? Often from the 'naive and simple' people on the 'shop floor'. People who know how things really are, people who are not divorced from the practicalities! Managers are often not in touch with reality. How often has a church leader dismissed a good idea as impractical when it might have made a huge difference?

    Innovative ideas in technology and business are like inspiration in church. Can we rely too much on the Holy Spirit's guidance and prompting? Should we suppress some of the things he reveals to us? I don't think so!

    Just because a new idea challenges the status quo does not mean it is wrong.

  3. The more project management you do the less likely your project is to succeed.

    Jesus said, 'I will build my church'; how much room does that leave for project management? If his role is to build, what is your role, what is my role? Hint - we are living stones, he is the builder, what is the role of a stone in the hands of the builder?

  4. It's not about hardware and capex.

    Buildings, sound equipment, projection facilities, big budgets - is church about these things? Does it really need these to succeed? What are the truly important things about church?

  5. Build your product and then figure out what to do with it.

    If someone comes up with an idea that might work, give it a try. What is there to lose? If it turns out to be effective take advantage of it. If not, look for the next good idea. Be open to spiritual guidance and prophecy. Test prophecy, in fact test everything. But don't reject something just because it's new or different.

    When Jesus gives you something but you're not yet clear what it's for - ask him to show you.

  6. The most important thing to take advantage of is to see innovation from everywhere - inside and outside.

    Steal good ideas wherever you see them! Something that works well in other walks of life may adapt very well for church application. Be wary and alert, not everything is suitable or beneficial but rejecting an idea just because it comes from business or education or entertainment is foolish.

  7. It is prudent not to listen too carefully to customers ... you can't ask your customers what they want if they don't understand your innovation.

    For 'customers' read people who need to get to know Jesus. Don't pay too much attention to what people say they need. Show them love, demonstrate the truth, let the light shine.

  8. Don't lose the ability to learn from the people who do the work. People will do what you measure - make sure you measure the right stuff.

    Don't pay attention to things like tithing, attendance figures, outreach programs. Instead try to find ways to 'measure' (in the loosest sense) love, caring attitudes, gentleness, wisdom, joy, and peacefulness. Give out feedback on what you see. If you tell someone how impressed you were at the thoughtful and loving way they handled a situation they will be encouraged. Never miss an opportunity to encourage!

  9. Hire someone who annoys you as they are more likely to be diverse and diverse practices are better.

    The hiring part probably isn't relevant, but do try to spend time with people who will challenge your actions and words and motives. Don't avoid people who think differently from the way you do. Make up your mind to benefit and grow in grace through everyone you meet, however inconvenient or unattractive they might seem at first.

  10. The single most common thing executives do is get in the way.

    Hmm... Who are the executives in church life? Don't listen to them! Love them, but step around them when necessary. We have one head, not many headlets.

  11. The culture of secrecy in business is a fallacy and people should talk about everything, well, almost everything. IT security people tell you what you can't say and HR people say you might hurt people's feelings, but the actual stuff you need to keep secret is small.

    Be suspicious of any areas of secrecy in church life. There is no place for 'us and them', for clergy and laity, for special and ordinary. Sometimes there's a need for confidentiality, but ideas, plans, proposals and decisions should all be as open as possible. Everyone should be involved in these aspects of church.

Food for thought? Please leave some comments, I'll check back to reply.

26 January 2011

NEWS - Some items worth more than a glance

This brief article is a round up of some significant contributions from other people. All of them are worth some attention.A megaphone
  • The Jesus Virus - Ross Rohde shares some thoughts on servant leadership. Is it a paradox or an oxymoron?
  • Harvest Now - Steve and Marilyn Hill report on events in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. The church is growing in exciting ways, but there are also huge problems. Read about the situation and pray for the people involved.
  • The Nomad Podcast - Tim interviews Neil Cole on the topic of church multiplication. Neil talks generally about lowering the bar on how we do church and raising the bar on how we disciple. He explains about the Life Transformation Group (LTG) idea and how it can spark growth in small groups.
  • Simply Church - Felicity Dale asks whether we believe in leadership. The article is a brief precursor to a series on this topic, but already there are some interesting comments. Remember to scroll down to read them, and maybe leave a comment of your own.

21 April 2003

Eaton Ford - Weak and strong

< 17th March 2003 | Index | 13th May 2003 >

Once again this was a meeting of just two people (three if you count Yahshua himself!) Even before we met, the Holy Spirit gave me the verses Psalm 81:6-7 and reminded me that we don't have to struggle; we've been set free. HalleluYah!

And in verse 12 it's clear that we do have an alternative. Instead of doing it his way we can 'follow our own devices', we can do it our way. But that's not a good idea.

Concrete foundation title=I'd been mixing concrete most of the afternoon, and pouring the foundations for some garden steps; concrete was on my mind. So I wasn't surprised when the Spirit told me that people mix concrete which is wet and weak and can support nothing, but they pour it into the trench knowing that by the following day it will be set and within a week will have become strong enough to support a tall building.

He said, 'So it is with you - you are weak but I am patient and I know you will become strong enough for the task I've given you'.

While we were meeting together he said to us, 'I am like a beating heart in the body of my church, and I will lead you'.

This was so precious, and so relevant to our needs. For years I've been struggling with the issues of leadership. It seems very clear to me that the church shouldn't appoint leaders to tell us what we should do. I had concluded that the only alternative was to have no leaders at all because we all share one leader, our saviour and king, Yahshua.

But now he was showing us that we should all lead, and we should all follow. A third alternative that I'd failed even to notice! How simple, how elegant, how revolutionary, how obvious!

So now, instead of agonising over every issue in the church, if something seems right to me I will simply do it. We all have permission to act providing we do so in love, guided by the Holy Spirit, and under the kingship and headship of Yahshua.

Psalm 81:6-7 is right; we don't have to struggle; we have been set free.

< 17th March 2003 | Index | 13th May 2003 >

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