Emerging Churches: Leading as a Body

November 2, 2006 at 8:41 am Leave a comment

Chapter 10 examines the type of leadership modeled in the emerging church.

“Emerging churches, in their attempts to resemble the kingdom, avoid all types of control in their leadership formation. Leadership has shifted to a more facilitative role as emerging churches have experimented with the idea of leaderless groups. The leader’s role in such groups is to create a space for activities to occur (p. 192.)”

Raise your hand if you have a hard time picturing the leader of a leaderless group. Well, hold that fuzzy image, because it’s a picture of what is happening in the discussion of leadership in emerging churches. Some seem to think the entire idea of leadership is deeply flawed, and others have seen that no matter how much one tries to avoid structural leadership, there are people who gravitate into a leadership role within the community. To me, it seems like there is a distinction between hierarchical leadership and functional leadership. What I am getting at is the distinction between people who are leaders by virtue of office and those who are leaders by virtue of gifting. In my mind there is a distinct difference. We all know there are people elected into leadership positions in some churches that are never going to be the actual leaders.

Emergent churches are more interested in leadership based on passion than leadership grounded in power. Paul Roberts of Resonance, Bristol U.K. says, “Leadership at Resonance worked on the basis of a ‘get-off-your-ass-ocracy‘ (i.e., those who were prepared to do stuff got the most say in how things happened).” I’ve tried to implement this in my churches. Those who care enough to help plan have a far greater say in what happens. Sure, we listen to those voices who aren’t around much, but they carry less weight than those who are active.

“Leading in such a way that points to the presence of the kingdom – through servanthood and consensus expressed in collaboration – requires leaders to recognize that God’s kingdom always preceeds them. They must lead as servants, facilitators, and consensus builders (p. 214).” I believe the United Methodist Church is flexible enough (in Discipline if not in practice) to embrace these models of leadership. We’ve emphasized the idea of servant leadership, we talk about collaboration/connectionalism, and we have the systemic flexibility to operate through consensus of the passionate willing. We also share the Wesleyan emphasis that God’s kingdom precedes us – we’ve even got a name for that: prevenient grace.

I agree that we should avoid power-plays and control games. I agree that leadership should be broadly distributed across the congregation. In many ways, I believe I operate out of the same paradigm as these representative voices from the emergent church. My role as a leader is to prayerfully seek God’s vision together with the congregation, communicate that vision, and equip the congregational body to be the body of Christ redeemed for the world.

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Entry filed under: Religion.

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