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Group-Centered Leadership (via Dan Hotchkiss)

Dan Hotchkiss observes that churches of a certain size tend toward staff-centered leadership structures. The first advantage of that structure is that they usually depend on one leader, and any disruption to that leader can have an inordinately disruptive effect on the organisation.
He then points out a second, more philosophical disadvantage that resonates with my understanding of how a local church should function.

A second disadvantage of staff-centered structures is a disadvantage only if you believe, as I do, that committed groups are capable of making better decisions than individuals can. I don’t always enjoy group decision-making, but I have found again and again that a community willing to be patient with people’s differences and indecision will correct and improve the insights of even the most gifted individuals. If you agree with me that wide participation adds an essential element to a congregation’s search for truth, then a strictly staff—centered congregation seems wrong. Even if the staff-centered model were always more effective at producing practical results, it would leave me dissatisfied because it does not make use of every member’s gifts for discerning the congregation’s mission. This concern, at bottom, is theological: I think each of us comes with a built-in antenna tuned to the fight frequency to hear the promptings of the Spirit, and congregations ought to take advantage of it. I also believe what people call the “politics” of congregations has a good side because a group in conversation can perceive more about what is good and right than the sum of what its members can perceive alone. For these reasons, I choose congregational participation with its messiness, even though I sometimes envy the efficiency of the staff-centered way.

Dan Hotchkiss, Governance And Ministry, Rowland & Littlefield, 2016, pg 42.


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Wisdom In The Timing And Implementation Of Change In An Established Church (via Ron Edmondson)

In a church plant (and, in a more limited way in a revitalisation) the leader has a considerable degree of discretion and control about how things are done.
With an established church, particularly those of smaller to medium size, people have a sense of ownership and partnership that means the introduction of change needs to be processed with wisdom and patience.

In concluding a post on the subject, Ron Edmondson says:

Be strategic in the implementation.

Take your time. Establish trust. Build consensus. Talk to the right people. Even compromise on minor details if necessary. Accommodate special requests if possible and if it doesn’t affect the outcome. Be political if needed.
It’s part of the process, especially in a highly structured environment. (Does that describe any churches you know?)
Structured environments shouldn’t keep you from making the right decisions involving change. They just alter the implementation process.
Knowing this difference provides freedom to visionary pastors and leaders in highly structured environments. You can make the change. You can. You’ll just have to be smarter about how and when you make them.

The only thing I’d add is don’t simply bank up trust and never get around to spending it on needed change.
Sometimes that time of patience can become the status quo that you never emerge from.

Read the whole post at Ron Edmondson.


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Remembering We Are The Traffic (via Andrew Roycroft)

Here in the country we think that having five cars in front of us at the roundabout is an infringement of our human rights.
Andrew Roycroft recalls the observation ‘You are not stuck in traffic, you are the traffic’ as being a salient reminder that a traffic jam is not something that others are doing to you, but a common experience you’re sharing with others.
He offers observations to pastors, other church members, and young people.
The paragraphs directed at pastors seeks to deal with the ‘us and them’ mentality that can so easily develop (or be fed by church members).

Pastor, you are the traffic: one of the easiest areas to develop a ‘them and us’ attitude, to imagine oneself aloof from the cumulative setbacks and declines of the local church is in pastoral ministry. Pastors are called to teach God’s people, to edify and equip them for works of service, to care for and disciple Christians so that they grow through the seasons and storms of life. With this kind of work in hand it is easy to imagine that we are somehow divorced from sin’s co-operative, that we are solely curative rather than causative when it comes to spiritual regress.
In such circumstances I need to remind myself that I am the traffic, that I contribute my unit of fallen humanity to the community of God’s people who are clogging the highways to holiness and heaven. I am not merely an agent of change, but a subject for whom change is vital. My skewed perspectives and lopsided priorities, my casual acceptance of my own faults, my willingness to ignore what God says and transgress what God forbids, my truculence in the face of what God is clearly saying in his Word, are part of the problem we are all facing as pilgrims. Any other view of myself will lead to conceit, to unconfessed sin, to pastoral insensitivity, and to a Pharisaical approach to life which will be deadly to others. The acknowledgement that ‘I am the traffic’ will lead to true heart work, true self-scrutiny, and a vitality in my walk with God among his people which is indispensable.

Read the whole post at Thinking Pastorally.


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The Antidote To Domineering Leadership – Leading By The Beauty Of Example (via Sam Allberry)

Sam Allberry writes that culture on either side of the Atlantic Ocean contributes to two different strands of authoritarian leadership taking root in the church.
In concluding, his point is not that the antidote to bad leadership is not no leadership, but servant leadership – a leadership that leads by example. And that example comes not from an individual, but a team.

It is common in American churches to borrow leadership wisdom from the business world. The pastor is the CEO. His role is to bring success, often and especially measured in numerical terms: The church needs to grow in membership and giving. In the UK, it’s slightly different. The church tends toward a military model. The pastor is the three-star general who directs everyone to do the right things.
There is obviously much to be learned from both successful CEOs and also great generals, but both models can quickly become toxic. When either becomes the primary model for Christian leadership, is it any wonder that domineering pastors result? The pastor-as-CEO approach might foster entrepreneurialism and risk-taking, but it easily becomes results-oriented. The pastor-as-general approach might foster perseverance and grit, but it easily becomes task-oriented. One produces swagger: Their word is law because they’re economically indispensable to the church. The other produces presumption: Orders must be followed because the general “knows” what is best for every person. In each case we either tolerate or fail to see traits of bullying, because ministry ends justify ministry means.
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The antidote to being domineering, then, is to lead by example rather than by coercion: “Not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:3).
The flock is to be led, yes, but not by force of personality. The flock is to be led by beauty of example. Being domineering is bad leadership; and the answer to bad leadership is not no leadership but the right kind of leadership.

Read the whole post at the Gospel Coalition (USA).


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Taking The Hill – With Grandma (Canoeing The Mountains)

Tod Bolsinger sums up the Church as a body that functions relationally and purposefully. Sometimes the relationships can subvert the purpose, sometimes the purpose can overwhelm the relationships.
Pastors can focus on maintaining relationships at the cost of mission, or focus on outreach at the cost of caring for those who are already there.
If this problem or the solution was obvious or easy for leaders to negotiate churches would be a lot healthier than they are.
Bolsinger points out that pastors have to do both, lead with outward purpose and inward empathy:

We are called to take the hill – with Grandma
Christian work is a “family” and a “business” at the same time. To be a Christian is to find identity and mutual commitment in relationships constituted by God that make us into brothers and sisters, these relationships are inherently and intrinsically important. And at the same time we are a business with a mission to fulfill, services to offer, constituencies to support and regulations, demands, and obligations required of us. The organisation that has inherently valuable relationships also has an instrumentally critical purpose. And holding that tension, leading a Christian organization that is faithful to both mission and family, is indeed the challenge for most of us.

Tod Bolsinger, Canoeing The Mountains IVP Books, 2015, pg 221.


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When The Goal Is To Know Everyone, Instead Of Everyone Knowing Jesus (via Thom Rainer)

Thom Rainer features a post dealing with one of the reservations Christians have about additional church services or congregational growth.
It runs along the line of “We can’t add another service! We won’t know everyone.” or “We’re dividing the church?”

One of the observations about that which Rainer offers is:

There are often unarticulated and underlying meanings to these objections.
It is not uncommon to start a new service with a different worship style. Some of the objectors may not really be concerned as much with the additional service as the style of worship.

It’s a helpful observation to try to unpack whether the presenting concern is the actual concern.
Most Christians want more people to come to Jesus, not to put a size limit on the Kingdom.

There are more points at Rainer’s blog, along with some helpful observations in the comments.


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The Exhausting Rest Of Modern Evangelicalism (via Stephen McAlpine)

Stephen McAlpine seems to have observed some very similar situations in the church circles he moves in to some that I’ve seen in mine. (I think our circles are not that different)
If you’ve been around for a long time nothing is really new, it’s just old things turning back up relabeled.
When evangelical faith reasserted itself in my denomination it took a long time for people to stop trusting in their activity and trust in the righteousness of Jesus. Now in some circles a profession of faith is taken for granted and the reality of people’s salvation seems based on the degree to which they fall in behind the church program.
Church should never be the place that people feel guilty coming to because they don’t feel they’re doing enough.

From McAlpine’s article:

Yet here’s my concern. Just like Israel, God’s people today are struggling with that concept. There’s a relentless push for progress that we are being swept up in, and in an era of what I call “Big Eva” – the large evangelical ministry juggernaut replete with conferences after conference, ministry tool after ministry tool, leadership summit after leadership summit, technique after technique, there seems very little commitment to true rest. Apex leaders atop ministry pyramids are pushing God’s people with a sanctified version of brick making that has no end in sight.
And what does that look like? It looks like no rest. It looks like aping the pyramid/apex leadership and structures of the Pharaohs. And in a land of secular Pharaohs, the easiest thing to do is to mimic them, and create sanctified versions of the same thing.
My concern is that too many church leaders pooh-pooh the busyness of their people and constantly call them out of it, but merely to call them to a sanctified version of that busyness that, at its heart, is simply another version of brick making: “Hey you’re way too busy over there in your office/work/home, how about you come and be way too busy over here instead, for the right thing.
After all, Israel may have left Pharaoh behind, but they were about to enter a land where Sabbath was also unknown. They were going to have to go against the grain to show what true rest looked like. The default would be to fall into a Promised Land version of being too busy.
As I survey the increasing wreckage of “Big Eva” across the Western world, with the scandals and burnouts, the sexual and spiritual abuses, there is a clear pattern -rest – sabbath rest – is glaringly absent. Left behind the now disgraced pharaohs is a trail of burned churches and exhausted sheep, who were told they were doing God’s work, when all too often they were making bricks for a ministry Pharoah.

Read the whole post here. And then relax.