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Wednesday, 6 February 2013

'When you ask the wrong question...

...you get the wrong answer.' Put it another way, bad questions lead to bad answers. I think this has happened in relation to hierarchy in the church. I want to suggest that one bad question, when it comes to the church, is: 'who has the final say?' It reflects that we are thinking in the ways of this world's structure and culture rather than in the ways of God's different kingdom - and it contributes to a culture of hierarchy and rank. It is really just saying 'who's the boss here?' That might be appropriate in many organisations in the world but I would be sad if either question was ever asked of my family. And church is a family - a community modelled on the community of the Godhead, the Trinity, a community of equals where leadership is expressed within that equality.

Even though there is a leadership in the church and I believe that leaders should lead, this has to be based on a common recognition of the grace gifting within that leader (even when he or she may have to make unpopular decisions) - not because s/he is in some unassailable 'position'or he outranks anyone. Also, the leader should not think of himself as the ultimate decision maker, but as one who develops and uses the skills to lead a team of leaders and powerful, spiritual  people to the point where they are able to say 'it seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us' (Acts 15:28). This is not consensus leadership (which I do not agree with) but it is inclusive leadership (which I do agree with). Consensus leadership is just about collecting people's opinions and coming up with a democratically agreed direction or decision (democracy is as much of this world as hierarchy is). Inclusive leadership is leadership which listens, values people's voices, draws upon their contributions and seeks to create an environment where we hear God together. There may still be times when the leader has to take a strong lead in a direction that people are unsure about, but he or she will have   established a trust that enables people to follow, based on both clear gift and anointing, and through the general practice of the kind of inclusive leadership described above. To reduce this relational and charismatic dynamic to the simplistic question, 'who has the final say?' is to contribute to a distortion of church leadership.

7 comments:

  1. This is probably one for me to ponder, but I reckon I agree with both. Consensus of spirit filled people, or the majority vote of spirit filled reputable leaders. Sounds good! Does it depend on the nature of the decision? Whether a decision could be wrong. Can a decision be wrong (would an option a group like this ever take be wrong) or just different?

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    1. I think Spirit-filled, good-hearted and well-intentioned people can and do get it wrong. Interestingly, the Acts 15 example I give was not a great resolution in my opinion - it was either just wrong (despite their sincerity) or it was an interim measure. It took a man appointed and anointed, called to be an apostle to the Gentiles - Paul - to bring and work out the required revelation to move the church forward into its inclusive destiny. We should be careful not to use consensus against recognising (honouring) an individual's revelation and anointing - but we must then be careful that that doesn't then become hierarchy or the one man show!

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  2. "Inclusive leadership is leadership which listens, values people's voices, draws upon their contributions and seeks to create an environment where we hear God together."
    I like this a lot, but wouldn't most leaders following an hierarchical leadership model say the same thing about what they do? I would imagine you would have done back in the day. I agree that a simplistic question as the one above leads to a distortion, but it's not a question without an answer. Unless you are following a consensus leadership model, there will have to be someone with the final say (at least on major, directional decisions).

    I guess what I'm pondering is whether there really is a third model of leadership between hierarchical and consensus, or whether what you describe (which I like by the way!) is just a "nicer" version of hierarchical leadership? (Which I'm not saying is a bad thing!)

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    1. You make a very fair point, Ian. And yes I have tried to do what I describe for years (though very imperfectly!) even when I was operating in a hierarchical model (though I would never have called it that). But I would still hold out for a third model, which I have tried to picture as the dance of freedom and honour (I may have to find other ways of describing it). It is modelled for us in the Godhead I believe. It assumes equality and freedom, but enables leadership through honouring i.e. recognising the grace-gifting. In this model, a leader desires people to be free and powerful so that they can contribute to hearing God and finding a way forward together. But people will also honour the gift and anointing to lead; if he or she ends up with final say (still don't like that expression) it is not because he or she has asserted rank or authority, but because they have honoured gift and anointing. That seems and feels really different from typical hierarchy to me; and I have to confess that learning this dance is not easy! But you and Jon are keeping e on my toes! Great to hear from you, Ian.

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    2. It strikes me that in a hierarchy someone has leadership as a result of structure; they may have obtained that position by gifting and anointing but the structure then ‘solidifies’ that arrangement. In this model I defer to you because you are positioned higher than me in the structure. It speaks of something rigid, static, set in concrete.

      In the dance you have the honour of leading, again, because you are gifted and anointed to do so. But there is movement; we move together. I contribute to the dance but yield to your leadership not because I must but because I know that when you lead the dance is beautiful and purposeful. Nothing is rigid, quite the opposite, it is dynamic.

      The dance is not a variation of hierarchy even though someone leads; the nature of the relationship between those who lead and those who are led is fundamentally different.

      Isn’t it in our human nature to want to schematise? A hierarchical system is easy to understand, I can see the diagram, I can see where I am and I can see where everyone else is; I know my place. In a dance, however, there is fluidity and changing positions; I don’t necessarily know or understand what everyone else in the dance is doing but as we all move to the same ‘Music’ the overall effect is amazing.

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    3. Trevor, please keep commenting like this! You have put it so, so well. Brilliant!! I could not put it any better - clearly, because I haven't. Absolutely love it!! So much so I think I am going to make it into one of my next posts - acknowledged of course!

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  3. Thanks to Ian and Jon. Great to get good conversation going. This to me is what blogging is about!

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