Monday, 21 September 2009


Recently I was asked this question;

Describe what you understand by the term leadership, illustrating your perspective with a recent example from your present church and leadership context.

In a leadership context, I value more the fact that leaders never ‘arrive’ but that we are journeying just like everyone else.

By applying this thought to the previous prefix, ‘leaders’ and ‘players’ are able to be interchangeable. The primary language is one of ‘hearing the call’.[1] Therefore, by providing the arena and creating a safe space, people can find their vocation through experience, experimentation and connections

I would go further and state the leader must set the pace and fashion this by his personal Missional life. This ‘Spatial Evangelism’[2] is not just done in a program or project and is not linear or two dimensional it has volume to it, three dimensional, spirit, heart and venue. It encompasses all of the week, time and space the leader works in. This space is made safe by core values and virtues: providing a positive culture to live and work in. As stated by Nelson;

‘Leadership is the social process in which people confer influence to individuals so that they can organise and assist the people in achieving what could not be otherwise be accomplished.’[3]

In this very social process I find the best expression is done in a team. Leaders need to move away from an isolation mentality towards the team where they can explore together the process of achieving.

In the last two posts I have held, as a project manager and director of a Church / Charitable Company. I have been the catalyst that has begun this change away from traditional Church leadership models. I believe in progressive change that enables rather than change for changes sake.

Today’s leaders need to be learners, but I find the more I understand about how much there is to know, I become aware of how little I know.
The futurist Alvin Toffler says ‘ the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn’[4] Thus our understanding of different models of leadership and the culture of the organisation in which we apply our principles and values to is key to the successful working. I am convinced that the models of leadership I have encountered to date in the late 20th century are inadequate, out dated and will be of little use in the future.

The next question is to ask what this means for the next generation of leaders. The leader’s shape in the 21st century needs to be aware of past and present but is not shaped by ‘being right’ or driven by ‘meeting needs’[5]

Leadership needs to be ever more aware of the fact that life is messy and sometimes chaotic yet however the leader embraces this and asks, what is God doing here and then asks How can I interact with this?

What is interesting is that a linear sequence is excluded. Cyclical and seasonal influences are rhythmic and ritual to this process. I find this exciting as it reflects my own journey: I have become dissatisfied with next-level thinking and the next new thing. I feel more at ease exploring the dimension of the present.

Another important aspect of leadership is the leader’s perpetual learning and development, a leader is a reader and acknowledges that they will never master the art of leadership. They continually learn and develop and recognise that in order to hone their skills it will take a life time.

A key shift in my thinking and theology is that we move away from the leader who comes and sets the vision for the Church largely based on their ability and then whips people up to fulfil this vision. This is sadly par for the course in many Churches and is the main reason why there is so much fatigue in Christian circles.

We must raise up team and body ministry and ask the questions ‘What is God doing here? Where can we see him in action in our community? Why are we here? Why do we do the things we do?’

All these are key components the leader must encourage his people to answer and work through. Teamwork encourages a communal expression of faith and helps us to re-frame and re-form our individual limitations of our revelation of God. The paradox the leader lives in here is that they fully understand and are committed to team yet are aware of times of isolation and aloneness; they must try and bring that into the team in an appropriate manner so that the burden may be shared.

My Question to you is;

What do you think about Leadership?

Have you an example that may help the discussion along?

I really would like to hear your thoughts on this matter.

[1] Sweet, L Summoned to Lead. Zondervan P.13.
[2] Creps. E. Off- Road Disciplines P.145
[3] Nelson, A. Spirituality & Leadership Navpress 2002 P.24
[4] Sweet, L Summoned to Lead. P.122
[5] Webber. R. The Younger Evangelicals. P.240

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