Conferences claiming to address building up christian leadership abound. And for the past 10 years in evangelical circles “leadership” has been the buzz word. Books like “Jesus, CEO,” and MBA gurus facilitating lectures on leading the church beckoned followers of Christ to check their leadership styles. yet, much of our leadership ideas seem to follow a subtle form of consumerism, or systems of the beast. What does Lamb Like Leadership look like?
Formation of the leader is an ongoing process. The intoxication of a self-based church or one charismatic leader is deadly. Too often leaders become self-absorbed instead of other focused. Often we leaders focus on temporal desires of pleasure, recognition of people, popularity, wealth, status and power, when the eternal desires should be to know God, approval of god, servant hood, integrity, character and humility. The kingdom of God is a “rule and reign of God for the radical overthrow of self;” a leader must be focused on forming their own spiritual base, and not to the exclusion of the spiritual base of others. Leaders who rely on their own power will quickly fail and hurt others in the process. The most powerful and “important competency” of the leader is the ability to hear the voice of God.
In order to focus on others, leaders must rely on God’s power to renew their minds and hearts. Prayer, journaling, study, meditation, fasting, chastity, secrecy, confession, fellowship, submission, guidance, simplicity, stewardship, sacrifice, worship, service, and witness form the crucial disciplines for church leaders. I personally believe that solitude, prayer, mediation, and study are essential elements in our my own formation. Anytime one of these falls from the balance we suffer.
Reading through A Tale of Three Kings shows us the Absalom who reigns daily in our hearts. (and when I was in a ministry practicum- this was beat into us.) We must continually check our motives, and sometimes submitting means going against what we feel is the best solution. Yet, I believe that God elects “good fathers and mothers”, those who care and want to see us succeed, for our authorities. We in turn want to be “good fathers and mothers” to the leaders we raise up, empowering them for godly service, equipping them with teaching, and revealing their God-given talents and spiritual gifts. Many mega churches I have been involved in, suffered from an “el capitan” mentality. I saw abuses of authority all over the place, and others on the leadership team were expected to read books like “under authority” or “a tale of three kings” and never challenge anything that the “anointed leader” said. What about being in community? What about the laity as people of God? what about a priesthood of all believers? and what about Philippians 2?
Ministry requires deep relationships that emphasize accountability, emotional and spiritual maturity. At Misfits, we feel that the waning sense of community in modernity and prevalence of individualism cripples relationship building within vocational ministry. We suggest that the need to “know and be known” is a kingdom imperative. This can only take place in interactions between peers and leaders. Fostering biblical relationships and inner-circle friends promotes healthy insight, correction, and edification for mentors. We warn that relationships are not accountable, per se, but the participants must allow themselves to be so. There is a certain humility that appears as one uncovers the ghosts that haunt, the struggles that bind, and the nakedness of their vulnerability. On the other hand, there is celebration over victories, revelry in self-discovery, festivity when growth comes from loving-correction.
Our church plant (Church of the Misfits) has based our model for leadership training on biblical examples of leadership and relationship from the Book of Acts, Philippians 2, 1 Corinthians 13, and many other scriptures. Several notable associations between biblical characters set the stage for this model of discipleship: Barnabas and John Mark, Barnabas and Paul, and Paul and Timothy.
From the example of Barnabas, leaders can realize how to invest in the formation of another.(Which seems alot like the Kenosis passage- building up others and letting go of our “god-ceasar-ego-king.”) Barnabas believed in Paul’s call to ministry. He helped him network with other churches, mentored him without patronizing, and gave him opportunity to serve and lead. Church leadership should garner the wisdom of the narrative and be mentors, life coaches, and advocates to freshman Christ followers. Barnabas also exemplifies loving correction, edification, and reassurance in his dealings with the struggling John Mark. Many times failed leaders are ostracized and shunned, never being counseled or given second chances. We at Church of the Misfits experience crazed anger at the thought of abandoning those who have stumbled. It is the job of the mature to re-establish the fallen in mercy and love (Galatians 6:1).
I advise leaders to “pursue a Paul.” Theory and education have their place in forming ideologies, but personal relationships can promote spiritual formation. Leaders should be in a constant state of learning,(Christ like humility echoed in Philippians 2) allowing others to pour into their lives. I believe that a healthy way to be mentored is to follow a popular teacher through technology. By being teachable while listening to podcasts, blogs, and reading books I facilitate inward growth. This is, however, not a complete understanding of mentoring relationships. Mentoring connotes dialogue. While media may help with a variety of formation, it must not replace face to face time with a respected “elder.”
My third point of discipleship and leadership training, centers on Timothy, which displays the implications and necessity of training up young ministers. Training must compliment opportunity for implementation, evaluation and assessment. The trainer must step up to a higher plane of responsibility and accountability as she/he pours into the lives of others. While Micromanagers and control freaks might have a problem with the space for making mistakes by a new leader (believe me sometimes my inner A type wants to tell people to move out of the way so I can do it “right”) we need to let others lead and take on responsibility.
At Church of the Misfits, we believe in growing leaders from the “ground up”, which means investing in the people we have attending our services, seeing their strengths and grooming them up to be leaders. We have them share- AND EVEN Faciliatate conversation. (random tangent– how can we be lamb like leaders when we won’t share our pulpits or bar stool with others? I understand protecting your congregation from damaging sermons, but do you really want them only coming because of your great rhetoric, oration, or leadership? HELL NO. open up space for others to share- especially voices who are marginalized in our good ole boy systems) When the Spirit leads us to an individual who has leadership potential, we will spend time with these persons (have coffee with them or whiskey!), keep them encouraged while living justly. (including face-time with God, bible reading, prayer, monogamy, moderation in liberty, humility, kindness and acting justly.) that junk gets hard when we spend so much time doing, instead of being. leaders can recenter themselves in meditation, lectio devina, and creative outlets.
At COTM, we know that discipleship happens in personal relationship where elders humble themselves to serve others. Discipleship does not happen by accident. Often, discipleship of new believers means simply being there when they need someone to listen to, keeping them accountable as best we can and sharing wisdom and insights found in the Scriptures.
Although I have used the phrase “should” several times in the paragraphs above, I am firmly against shoulding on people. I think part of being a good leader means letting go of our “expertise.” No one likes to be should on,(it can get pretty stanky) and those we serve, can serve us in return. We can learn from those we are leading, and others can have a natural exchange of information.
KILLING THE BEAST
As part of our on-going strategic formula to love and serve persons in West Georgia, we looked at organizational methods that seemed to offer thoughts in according with the Paschal Lamb, instead of the “me” mentality and “beast system” of many leadership modes. Healthy church holds a definition of a place where people worship God, grow in their relationship to her/him and other believers, and become agents of change in the world. Churches must be focused on the marginalized in their loving, the “non-person.” The church exists to fulfill the Misseo Dei. It should never exist to be a social club. In his book, Church of Irresistible Influence, Lewis calls churches “anorexic” that focus solely on the needs of their members. He says that a “toxic” self-absorption can easily develop and quickly becomes cancerous. Leaders who exhibit so much “me” and not enough “us” seem to fall prey to moral failures, or develop these cult like churches, where no one can speak for God except the lead pastor. so often we reminisce about missions, sacrifice of martyrs and history, and subsequently, the notion of world changing becomes part of a glorious memory and not a fact of a present reality. Faith without works is dead. And The beast grows stronger in exalting himself with political power, celebrity, and word-systems of success.
We know we should not be consumed with noses and nickels. Bigger is not always better. This kind of “Christian Darwinism” emerges in our church planting circles. We assume that in order to survive, we must become mega-churches, with a billion dollar budget, major building programs, and in house ministries to congregants. While this model has its benefits, smaller organic churches can flourish as well. Our embryonic, small, and organic church exemplifies this model. The best organizational structures focus on Christ like living as exposed in Philippians 2, reaching the world in love in servitude, and caring for the outcast with humility. The Church is God’s agent on earth for change. It is in KENOSIS that the Church finds its definition.
The next thing that Misfits strive to do is be is aware of our environment, welcoming to the culture or indigenous persons. The specific environment in Atlanta is one of pluralism, postmodernity, and spiritual but not religious while having a greater ethos of bible-belt and civil rights. In order to serve the community we leave behind our native tongue of “christanese” and learn to speak “postmodern.” However, when attempting to explain to traditional churched persons we hope to be able to communicate the overarching truths about our heart and mission at Church of the Misfits. (feels like being all things to all persons. right now I am a bit schizoid)
Our strategic formulas for leadership and discipleship contain outreach and evangelism. (Don’t stop reading because you are turned off by evangelism and outreach) As a post-modern Church, under the umbrella of the Disciples of Christ, Outreach and Evangelism is a big part of our existence at Church of the Misfits. Our outreach and evangelism strategies are relationship based. (So, uh yeah, we do go to the bar and to the art walk, and ocassionally to the speed metal shows in East Atlanta.)As we follow Jesus, we hope to evangelize like Jesus. Jesus gained the trust of sinners, not because He wanted to sell them a product but because He really loved them; NOT because he considered himself God, but because he humbled himself to serve.He gained their trust, healed them and told them to “Go and sin no more.” We are firm believers in the statement “Rebuke without relationship causes ruptures in the body.” Building relationships, with the help of the Spirit, will bring about life transformation. We believe “tract dumping” and cold-call evangelism is ineffective.(Although Street preachers are amusing.) We do feel like community service and offering a place for dialogue and the arts attracts people and welcomes them to develop relationships. God’s best source of evangelism and outreach is the body of Christ. By living out the gospel in a humble way, we can learn from the “outsider” as they learn from us. For Instance: Currently, I am engaged in relationship with atheists. Scott, who previously railed offensively against the church (me, too) has suggested that he merely cannot intellectual ascend to figure out what God is,(what humility he has) and he is mad that many Christians assume they do know what God is. So his remark, which came after four years of relationship helps me to remain humble and abandon my old way of thinking. It keeps me acting like a lamb, instead of a beast in my intellectual assumptions.
I think its hard to kill the beast. and its difficult to lead like a lamb, especially when we have so many insecurities. insecurities masquerade as pride, and become the cult of personality. I have seen way to many leaders suffering from “little man syndrome” or some inferiority that comes out- in a defensive, control hungry regime, or an in intellectualism of everything. Why can’t we give up power and serve like a lamb? Why is our leadership so much of the time a pissing contest instead of collaboration? Maybe we are afraid of the death we might face. maybe its a type of selfish self preservation.
When I look at Revelation, I see that the lamb is exalted, although it once was despised, rejected, and endured tremendous suffering. Then I see a beast rise, with worldly powers, and gems in its crown and diadems reserved for those who have made political alliances for prestige and control while exploiting the masses. How do we serve others? How do we have this Philippians 2 mindset?
I think Matthew 25, is note worthy in this conversation. Not that there are ever any “least of these,” in the Kingdom, but Christ perhaps played off of society’s desires to label certain people as “least.” Yet Christ said “whenever you served one of the least of these, you have served me.” What if we viewed everyone as Jesus, God, or the Divine? It would be hard not to serve everyone if we really thought they were God, would it not?
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,[a] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
 Gibbs, Eddie. Leadership Next: Changing Leaders in Changing Culture. Downers Grove,
IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005. 131.
 Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 67.
 Delonn Rance, “Theology and Leadership Defined” (lecture, Asselmblies of God Theology Seminary, September 9, 2011), 67.
 Rance. 56.
 Rance. 6.
 Boa.Spiritual Formation. 86
 Rance. The Mission of God with the Spirit of God: a Great Harvest.32
 Lewis. Church of Irresitable Influence 57.
 Lewis. 60.
 Lewis. 60.
 Rance, 2.
 Bakke, Raymond J. A Theology as Big as the City. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 1997.