Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Christian Leadership Sidetrack

Steve at Cruciorm Life has posted something of great significance, in my opinion [HT: Milton Stanley]. It's called, Is Leadership a Healthy Christian Aim?

I read a lot about the missional church movement and I thinnk it's one of the best things to happen in the church world in some time, but the conversation is almost always among leaders, about leadership, about being a better leader, etc. It sometimes seems, and I think I've even heard it said, that everybody is supposed to aspire to leadership, and there's a whole branch of the Christian publishing industry to help us do so. I think it's mostly half-baked nonsense.

No doubt we need leaders, but aspiration to leadership, thirst for leadership, can be a dangerous thing. Steve quotes Church historian John Hannah:
If we don’t develop a generation of people who are not afraid of anonymity, who are willing to be nothing as far as being unknown, who don’t see sacrifice as a crime, and who realize God has commanded contentment not happiness, then what will happen to the missionary enterprise in two generations?
After all, who was David speaking of when he refers to the quiet in the land. There is a passage in Romans 12 where Paul sums up the aspiration of the common (non-leader) Christian. It is not to have a successful ministry, but to:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
That's quite a to-do list, and it doesn't necessarily include leading. Maybe Henri Nouwen, who was in my opinion a fine leader, had this in mind when he said that the Christian leader must aspire to downward mobility. I think most of our talk about leadership militates against this vision of Paul's. We need to look more closely, and more questioningly, at this whole issue of leadership. Are we getting it all wrong? I think so.

[Addendum: Steve's follow-up post is here. And I'm nodding in agreement throughout.]

3 comments:

nAncY said...

I agree with a different view of leadership than the world view.

I think that the things that you mentioned...
(Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.)
...are important to us all in leading others to these very same qualities.

I believe, we are all leaders to others, just by the way we live and behave.

Children, friends, neighbors are watching. The world is watching. This is how many are led to know and understand and perhaps become.

It is important for all of us to realize that we are a leader to someone, and that we lead the best by living a life that is led by God.

Erin Hope said...

I sometimes wonder if the reason 'leadership' has gone so far wrong, is mostly because of the way others who don't consider themselves 'leaders' have approached it in the past. It seems like our culture loves to live vicariously through others much of the time, and maybe if people would stop giving 'leaders' so much credit and so much admiration ....they would be more worthy of it.... we might all even be more humble and might put less pressure on someone to be super-human, ultra-wise, etc....

It all just seems so silly sometimes. not that some aren't good leaders, or wise, just that we tend to look up at them so much, even though they are human just like us. They breathe the same air and walk the same earth.

I like what you have to say about this.

Bob said...

Nancy, well put. I don't disagree with anything you've said here, but I prefer not to call that leadership, because for me that word (that concept) clouds the issue. Jesus may have said some things that can be construed as leadership advice, but mostly he just said things like "abide in me." Now, it may be that abiding is a form of leadership in that someone is watching me and following my example, but better by far to just use Jesus' language and keep his focus. Let's just call it abiding! Plus, if anyone is looking to me as an example, I'd have to tell them they can do much better!

Erin, your point is a good one. We have our media stars in the Christian world, we have people who start ministries named after themselves and make a snazzy living at it, and these people are idolized by tons of folks. I do agree that leadership is necessary and not an evil in itself, but idol worship is never far behind.