For a portion of the 20th century, the church lacked good leaders.
There were a few leaders. There were even some strong leaders.
However, a few leaders cannot lead the estimated 45,000 churches in the U.S. alone. There must be strong leadership at every level to make the church strong.
To account for this deficiency, there was a movement at the turn of the 21st century towards Organizational Leadership.
Doesn’t that sound just perfect for what the church needed?
Well, it backfired.
What happened was the church raised up hundreds of leaders and pastors that prefer to see churches run as a business, seeing their role as CEO of a small corporation. This quickly leads (and led) to Jesus becoming a brand, a trend, and a marketing technique rather than a person — rather than Messiah.
Which is why, twenty years into the 21st century, people are becoming more and more turned off with “religion” and “Christian institutions.”
And I do not blame them.
Not one bit.
What we need is a new model of leadership…
…or maybe, an old model…
Part of my journey forced me to step up as a leader and, to be transparent, I possessed few leadership skills.
I was floundering and I needed help.
I started reading and listening to some great leaders and thinkers, both in and out of the church. I have grown and learned from them.
There is one thing, though, that I have craved even more than leadership skills.
I wanted to know what Pastoral Leadership looked like. None of them were completely answering the questions I was asking. I was quickly becoming frustrated.
“How can I ever be as good a leader as any of these guys and gals?”
“Some of what it takes to be a strong leader makes me feel a little weird. I don’t know if I can do X.”
These were a couple of thoughts I had that continued to stick with me. It seemed what I thought I should be doing in the pastoral role did not line up with what I was learning and practicing from these leaders.
I was sinking into a typical, “Oh, woe is me,” mentality.
So, for some crazy reason, I decided to read about some leaders from the Bible.
This was an interesting task because some of them were undoubtedly not great leaders while others have been revered in the Christian tradition specifically for their leadership.
What I found were a bunch of cowards, and men and women who were deceitful or sly, and leaders who took advantage of the weakness of others.
What I also found were men and women who loved and trusted God despite their cowardice, despite their desire to be tricky, despite their strength.
What I found were people that, knowing how jacked up their lives were, still tried to do their best to follow the path that God had placed them on (often failing).
I went looking for strong, effective leaders in scripture and I found a ragtag group of — can I be honest? — failures not fit to lead their own families, let alone nations and tribes and cities and, ultimately, God’s People.
Yet…each of them was able to lead in such a way that, if nothing else, glimpses of God and his Kingdom shone through.
Biblical Leadership is the New/Old Model of Leadership to which I am referring. I think, near as I can tell, it means we always lead from a place of humility — knowing there is truly not much we can do in this world will make a difference in our own lifetime, but, by the grace of God and his continued work alongside his created people and their work, everything we do is a small part to the greater inauguration of the Kingdom of God.
That sentence might not make sense, but I kinda like it just the way it is.
So long as a leader leads knowing they belong to Jesus first and it is his Kingdom they are serving and building, not their own ministry or organization or institution, then they are living into a model of Biblical Leadership.
So long as a leader leads understanding that not a single thing they do or a single person they serve is for any other reason than to be as much like their King as possible, then they are living into a model of Biblical Leadership.
The problem with these ups and downs in leadership among the church is they begin to quickly rely on their own power and understanding and gifts and talents and willpower. All of that is wonderful and what a great thing to have such strong leaders and organized leaders and charismatic leaders in the church.
However, the second any leader starts to think they can do any of it apart from the King and his Kingdom they have moved away from how scripture tells us to lead because we have been given many, many examples of leaders in scripture who fell into the exact same traps.
So we must embrace a new model of leadership. We must embrace leading as the humblest of servants to the greatest of Kings and lead so the world may see our King in us in amazing and creative ways.
Biblical Leadership is messy. It is not something which can be hammered out in a blog post or an outline or a cheat sheet or even a book. It is a life of constant reminders to ourselves about who we serve, who we are meant to reflect, and whose work we are really doing. It is a life of reflection and refraction. It is a life based on the greatest Love which could ever be known.