I’ve seen this a number of times over: An individual is definitely touched and transformed by God. They develop into a disciple of Jesus and manifest the fruits of the Spirit and continue to grow in sensitivity to God and in knowledge of the Word of God. Their character is obviously being conformed by the Spirit of Christ. With a heart eager to serve God they allow themselves to respond to invitations of service and of leadership within God’s Church. It is then apparent after a while that the fit into a church leadership role is uncomfortable for those who are to be led.
This could be a youth pastor, a Sunday school teacher, a board member, a bible study leader, even a senior pastor. These individuals often entered leadership roles with hesitancy and uncertainty, but how can a person learn if he or she has leadership gifts if never given the opportunity to lead? Then again, with the church in such need of leaders, how can there not be a leadership role for each one interested in serving? The outcome for too many for too many years has been wreckage alongside the road of Christian leadership. Egos are deeply hurt. God’s wisdom or ability is questioned. Roots of bitterness deepen and the positive work of God that began with such promise is halted and even put in reverse.
How did this happen and how do we stop it?
First, in most settings within our Canadian culture we need to break from the corporate model that just finds a person for a position and gives them a job description with responsibilities and a salary attached. In this model those of the church may see the hireling as there to serve their needs. This can eat away at the individual who is wired simply to hear God’s voice and follow it. Instead of that structure we need to grow in our transparency with that part of God’s community that is our spiritual family. That family is to affirm, discern, correct, and place into service. Genuine love, concern and compassion are graces all leaders and all followers need to embrace. Some of our churches and ministries are learning to do this better. More and more I see God’s people seeking a greater sense of “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us ….” It is the Body working as a whole instead of as independent entities where we see good progress and less destruction along the way.
Second, we need to let certain images and models of leadership die. One size does not fit all. Again it is an older corporate model that puts forward the concept of a leader that tells people what to do and barks out orders through their Type A personality. This style of leader is not as compelling or productive in most of our world today, though I admit it still works in some limited settings. It may have worked better generally in Canada when family systems were more top down and people were less educated.
The individual who loves God and loves others, shepherds those around him or her, gives generously as moved by God, serves out of compassion and not from duty … that individual needs to see themselves as successful in their role for God, even if they find themselves outside of formal church structures. Every disciple is not to draw their identity from their role, their responsibilities or their salary, but in Jesus alone. To those who have been hurt, it is not too late to “fan into flame the gift God has given you.” Seek to be successful in God’s eyes and let the church structures do what they must.
Your co-worker, Dennis