I had a great day last week at the CMS open day for their new Pioneer Mission Leadership Training course. Christians from all over the country gathered to talk about the new ways of doing mission and church they are pioneering and find out more about how they could be equipped, resourced and encouraged to achieve even greater things with the gifts that God has blessed them with. However, it was also heartbreaking to hear story after story of how church leaders have sought to quash their passion and imaginative ideas. This seemed to come out of a fear that valuable members of their congregation might be redeployed behind someone else’s vision and that an understanding of church and faith could be shaken such that an already beleaguered Christian minority might never recover! On this day I also met someone who is seeking to understand this dilemma. He asked me to consider the following question in order to contribute to his research:
How does leadership within church need to change to meet the challenge of our changing culture and Gods mission within it? Here is my answer:
“I think that first and foremost leadership should be recognised as being primarily about seeing, releasing and making space for the gifts of church members so that they fulfil the vocation that God has for each one of them. It is then in this context of working out what that vocation is, how it can be lived out and how it fits within a larger vision of the coming of God’s Kingdom, that the real business of discipleship happens. This would require a really radical grasp of leadership as servanthood. Vicar, minister, leader as servant to the members of the congregation who are seen as being mature followers of Christ when they are totally consumed with fulfilling the purposes of God in their own lives and not sidetracked into passively or dualistically maintaining and resourcing the vision of a particular church. I realise this could be potentially individualistic but I would trust that God would call some to be partners, workers, intercessors, financial backers and encouragers of those who have a vocation to start new things for the sake of the gospel.
In my experience, while I seek to pursue my own vocation, I am still able to disciple people as I further this, as well as encouraging the call on their life and putting them in touch with others that I think could help their dreams and visions become reality. In biblical terms, I think it requires a shift in emphasis in the 5-fold ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher and pastor that Paul writes about in his letter to the Ephesians (ch.4). If we had apostle/prophets leading churches rather than teachers/pastors, I think the focus of church would be re-orientated to going rather than receiving. There would be less fear that what we try might be potentially harmful so more risky initiatives would be started. Also our faith would be much better integrated so that we are changed by God’s spirit as we live out a more holistic expression of work, church, family and community.”
Since writing this I came across the following in the book, ‘The Shaping of Things to Come’ by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch:
“We need to dream again, and to do this we must cultivate a love for imagination. Before we can do it, we need to dream it…Considered philosophically, all that a great visionary leader does is awaken and harness the dreams and visions of the members of a given community and give them deeper coherence by means of a grand vision that ties together all the ‘little visions’ of the members of the group…My task as a leader is to so articulate the vision that others are willing to embed their sense of purpose within the common vision of the community…It is this capacity to articulate a preferred future based on a common moral vision that allows people to dream again. This is true of all true apostolic leadership. And in a profound sense the leader is the key person in the release of the spiritual creativity and innovation in any setting – the catalyst for reconceptualising the mission of the church (p.188). But imagination takes courage, as it involves risk. In fact if there were no courage, there could be no imagination. And if there were no risk, there could be no apostolic leadership, only priestly maintenance and more of the same boring stuff that is keeping people from getting in touch with that most radical and dangerous person…None other than Jesus (p.189).”
This is exactly what I was trying to say, only better! If you would like to do your bit to encourage visionary and apostolic leadership that ‘reconceptualises the church’ and puts those who are not yet Christians ‘in touch with the radical and dangerous person of Christ’, then why not consider becoming a friend of CMS’s Pioneer Mission Leadership Course? To find out more visit the website: http://pioneer.cms-uk.org.