Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Leaderless Church

For many among the emerging or self-described reforming church there lies at the back of their mouth a bitter taste that their taste buds tell them is leadership. For some, they have tried to get rid of this bitter taste by sticking their fingers to the back of their mouth and, in process, have gagged themselves often to the point of seeing their lunch again. Any time that you see your lunch for the second time you know that something has gone horribly wrong.

The truth is that in many cases leadership has indeed left a bitter aftertaste for some and, much to the delight of local media, has even at times gone disgustingly sideways. People are naturally becoming more and more wary and less and less trusting of their leadership; whether at work, in the political arena, at church, or otherwise. Leadership, it seems, has become to the churched, disoriented churched, and maybe even the unchurchable a word, idea, and system that does not allow for honest community. Why? Because we don’t trust leadership. And so we do not trust.

The backsplash that surrounds the leadership sink is a ‘popular among the emerging church’ idea that suggests we can have leaderless church and leaderless structural organizations. If you are one of these ‘bad aftertaste’ people then this is a really sexy idea because now there is no leader and there is a group of people who are gathered around a common cause. Sounds good doesn’t it? Too bad that it actually doesn’t work.

Most often the leaderless organization is set up as a backlash to an existing ‘personality driven’ style of leadership. However, leaderless leadership (yes I recognize the oxymoron) and over zealous personality driven leadership are both at unhealthy ends of the same continuum. The goal is neither a leaderless leadership nor a one man band leadership but rather a type of connected matrix of leadership.

Leaderless organization is a very appealing ideal that at first tries to pass itself off to the eager consumers as very community driven. The problem is that the consumers of this ideal are likely more selfish-driven then community-driven. Let me generalize; proponents of leaderless organization often struggle with submitting to authority. In fact, leaderless organizations actually perpetuate personality driven leadership because someone will eventually emerge as ‘the leader’ and, because there are no other leaders or leadership development, the organization will become focused on that emerged leader.

Sadly…
Leaderless church can quickly become the very thing that it was trying to avoid.
Leaderless church rejects one of God’s spiritual gifts to the church; leadership.
What else will a leaderless church reject? God himself? Maybe.


There is a fear out there that says we must not base our ministry on a specific person; we don’t want personality driven ministries. Leaderless leadership structures do not fix this. Yes, I would much rather a group rally around a cause and not rally around a person…but what proponents of leaderless organization do not recognize is that there still needs to be some rallying people to a cause.

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23 comments:

Markimus said...

I think the gut response that you are defining really is more a question... What kind of leadership/leader do I want to follow? The traditional form of leadership has proven to have some serious blind spots... Can these be addressed in order to rebuild a trust?

jeffro said...

that process begins with you. me. and us. Will we notice those blind spots and change them in our lives?
im not into this whole ditching the past movement..
im into developing and progressing.. our history is a valid expression of who we are and history is in constant formation. i don't dig the idea that there is a "Traditional Leader" and a emerging leader.. ( a little rant... cough )

i think you hit something HC jer, and that is that often we reject things that are biblical... such as spiritual giftings in leadership... will we reject GOD? i hope not..

again.
change begins - or... continues here.
Jeffrey.

the misfit said...

Great post Jer,

Kind of reminds me of the PAOC. Was the PAOC (and other denominations) not formed as a backlash against the traditonal churches of the time? And now they are like what they went against in the beginning.

As for the leadership deal, I am one of those people that has a had run-ins with some of the bad leaders out there. Do I want to be part of a leaderless church, NO, there is nothing right about that structure. I think the real problem is that real leadership cannot be learned from a book or books, leadership is modeled by someone who has the gift of leadership. Jesus spent 3 years with his disciples, they spent everyday with him and he taught them everything. He took them everywhere with him and let them experience everything that he experienced. It was only after that time that he let them go off on their own, and then they still had lots to learn.

How many better pastors would there be, and leaders in general, if our leaders took the time to pour into us the way Jesus poured into his disciples.

Paul & Wanda Moores said...

I'm not sure if I'm smokin what you're rollin (to quote another blog). I believe in the principal of developing leaders but I also believe that self organization is what really works long term.

Maybe what we need is not more church leaders but more churches OF leaders?

Markimus said...

I don't think leadership is about pouring special things into people (thats a blind spot of the past) it is more about setting people up to learn... notice I did not say succeed... its equipping people to learn to create a collaborative culture around them that to me is leadership... not leaderless but sustaining a legacy of leading not a dependance on a person/gifted leader.

Is there really a leaderless movement? this is not familiar in my 'emerging' circle.
***
note Jeffro's point ... a good lesson for all... never disregard our 'father's' ... the sons of noah that did not cover their father's nakedness were cursed.
Might be a good post sometime.

Steve said...

What are we aiming for?
Pleasing people, or God?

Is there a reason why the church is regarded to as sheep? Sheep are pretty dumb creatures. haha.

There needs to be a leader to guide the people. It's made clear throughout scripture.

I'm noticing more and more, that there is a central leader in scripture, but that leader has people who help keep him accountable and he pours into them... (Moses, David, (Jesus didn't need accountablity but he did pour... or DID Jesus need accountablity? Afterall, he was part human?)). Developing leaders is a huge part of leadership.
Quoting Bill Hale here, "Learning = change". And our goal is to change into a more Jesus-like people. Right?

I see value in having a network of 'central' leaders in a church, those leaders need to be kept accountable (making even they key leader on the same grounds in some ways as everyone else). All those central leaders build up eachother, and the non-central leaders in the church (the general laymen... elders, etc).

Markimus said...

We have too many preconceptions on what leader is. There are already several preconceptions lurking on this blog that are painting a picture of both sides of the spectrum. Some speak of biblical leadership... or the gift of leadership... these are not positional postures although they may be seen as that. Stop ... back up and remove the current cultural paradigm of church leadership before you address this issue. You may also want to remove your current interpretatio of biblical leadership. Jer ... in the embryonic stages of this blog you posted a great article on leadership... I would encourage you to link to that puppy.
Think about our lenses of leadership ... those could be part of our problem... leader or leaderless.

Markimus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Definition of a leader, for those who are wondering.

leader |ˈlēdər| noun 1 the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country : the leader of a protest group. • a person followed by others : he is a leader among his classmates.

Oxford American Dictionary

the gab said...

My thought on leadershipship is that God has always used leaders... but not in a human context of leadership but of spiritual leadership; someone who serves others, in every and in any level of leadership.

Maybe leadership isnt the problem, it is those who are in leadership.

Steve said...

Basically, what the 'leaderless organizations' are fighting for is communism. But as stated either here or in "Hawkins and Macks" blog, even in that kind of situation a leader emerges and it falls onto him/her.

e.d. said...

Hey guys - I just got back into town late last night! Great to be away and good to be back. I was wondering how the conversation was developing as I was away...

Anyhow, Paul, in self organization wouldn't you say that there is someone or a few who the others look to as 'the leadership'? I think so.....and I think it is very hard to get away from.

And I'm not sure exactly how you are using the phrase 'churches of leaders'? I would love to hear a little more about what you are suggesting. Reason being, we have been trying to use a self-organizing leadership model for the last year in the name of 'organic' and 'community' and it doesn't seem to work past a critical mass....

Oh...and Mark...you were thinking the link to the megaphones and walking sticks column?

Markimus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Markimus said...

Jer
1) Yes - October 20, 2005
2) You have been trying an 'organic' model but in doing so have you made the shift in your metrics? How are you measuring the success of your organics? Organics is a self growing model and does not demand 'fertilizer' for quick results.
3) Kim [ the kim in markimus] and I were discussing a work issue in an company in the fashion industry. One of the problems they are having there is a sudden loss of high level leaders who no longer want to work for the company anymore. This is a result of a leader who is cranking out great numbers for the organization as well as all the high level leaders directly under her. But the problem is that she is building a quick performance model that works great short term but is demoralizing over the long haul. You might get quick results with 'fertilizer' and lots of excitement.
If you go with an organic model several things must happen.
1) Metrics must change - organizationally wide... from adherants to Leadership [not just in leadership]
2) I don't think you can experiment with organic with the option of 'going' back. It takes systemic change that will change what you see and what it looks like.

Some thoughts I have been processigng and woudl love to hear more of the 'critial mass' scenario so I can qualify this further.

Anonymous said...

Is it leadership that leaves a bad taste in our mouth-or our perception of what leadership should look like?
most everyone says leaders are naturally born, i hear people tell me they have been a leader since they were babies, leaders in school, in jobs, in churches......yet I look at who God made leaders, and they seem pretty much opposite to whom we would choose as our leaders.....
the world chooses the suave, well spoken, polished, suit wearing, BMW driving, tanned...on and on......yet who has our Father chosen??
NOAH was a drunk...
ABRAHAM was too old...
ISSAC was a daydreamer...
JACOB was a liar...
LEAH was ugly...
JOSEPH was abused...
MOSES had a stuttering problem...
GIDEON was afraid....
SAMPSON had long hair and was a womanizer...
RAHAB was a prostitute!
JEREMIAH and TIMOTHY were too young...
DAVID had an affair and was a murderer...
ELIJAH was suicidal..
ISAIAH preached naked...
JONAH ran from God...
NAOMI was a widow...
JOB went bankrupt...
JOHN the baptist ate bugs...
PETER denied Christ...
The DISCIPLES fell asleep while praying...
MARTHA worried about everything...
The SAMARATIAN WOMAN was divorced....more than once!
ZACCHEUS was too small...
PAUL was too religious...
TIMOTHY had and ulcer...AND
LAZARUS WAS DEAD!!!

we need to stop looking at the world for our guide to success and look at the one who created us

Paul & Wanda Moores said...

Churches that lead with people rather than churches run by leaders. There will always be a tendancy to slack off when the leader is too out front. I just finished "Organic Church" and Neil Cole says all his church plants that started with "Cracker Jack" leaders failed because the rest of the people thought they could just coast and let the "leaders" do the work.

Anonymous, Where did you cut and paste your post from?

Markimus said...

anonymous - your post makes me wonder...Does John Maxwell blog?

Anonymous said...

maxwell does not BLOG , at least not that I am aware of............I heard this blurb on a radio show, listened to when it would be rebroadcast, and taped it, wrote it out, it really hit home, that one God can use anyone, and our Father often uses those we least expect.
i wrote the first and last bit, teh rest is outta the bible, that someone took time to research

Andy said...

can someone say communism? a leaderless society. has it ever worked?

Markimus said...

There are some key primers and ideals [utpoian or not] that we are carrying into our cognition of leadership. A 'leaderless model' is not lack of leadership. They are not the same... It is an viewpoint of leadership that is different. That being said any reactionary movement has its dangerous blind spots of which it is good for Jer to post this article. I am personally in agreeance with what he is saying but I think generally we are not thinking this down to its basic thought process.
Martin Luther Put it well 500 years ago and we still are trying to figure it out. The Just shall live by faith... it is something that we own for ourselves. Faith is ours not to be interpreted by another body to tell us how the scripture tells us to live. Leadership is given not demanded. That is the crux of our current system. Too much is expected rather then received and too much is taken rather than given. A leadersless concpet is about removing that anomally and allowing people to give leadership to those around them [Example = I trust my friend so I give him leadership in my life to correct and discipline] He does not demand or expect my allegiance or adherance. He in turn gives to me the input needed into my life.

Biblically there is no such thing as a leader who led by themselves [unless they were faultering] Is there a case in scripture where this happend? Also there is no case in scriputre where someone demanded leadership? And lived to tell about it?



****

Do we understand that communism is not a leaderless ideal? Where are we getting that idea?

Steve said...

From what I know about communism, there is no government leaders, because, "leadership corrupts." (I don't actually believe that in all cases, some it does). So, from what I do understand of communism, it is a leaderless ideal, where everyone is equal and every one looks out for eachother. If someone can give me a clearer understanding of communism, please do.

Anonymous said...

Ignorance breeds misconception- i.e. communism=no leaders
to many people trying to talk above thier intellectual level leads to missing what is sometimes the obvious........
mark your case is very well stated in that leaders are people who are willing to trust, put thier faith in not only those around them but fully into our Father as well......
not me Lord rings true to many of the biblical leaders, as it should be from the "leaders" of today....
we need to live our lives so that the other biengs around us (human biengs-my fun for the day) see in us what they desire-
peace perhaps, love, acceptance, on and on........grace is a wonderful attraction, and the cost is-while you get the jest

e.d. said...

Annon said "not me Lord rings true to many of the biblical leaders, as it should be from the "leaders" of today...."

Are you suggesting that today's leaders who are naturally gifted at leadership should not pursue leadership? Maybe God has something against competent leaders?