Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Leadership or Lordship?

I am away for a time of study in England. Over the last few days, we have spoken much about leadership. I am intrigued as we have discussed the various aspects of leadership as to the differing definitions. Certainly, culture does play into the definition, but not necessarily the way you would think it would.

I am here with people from several countries. There is some cultural shading in the way people think leaders should act. I found it interesting that as we spoke of Christian leadership and our movement's leadership structure, that it was very corporate in its nature. I know the movement is large and needs structure and some protocols built in. It is a given. The layers of structure are amazing and complex.

Yesterday, we had a very challenging lecture and discussion on servant leadership. This model is based on Phil 2:5-11. It is based on Jesus and his willingness to lead, but serve and sacrifice for the good of the mission and the people who followed him. It does not mean weakness. It does mean firmness with grace.

We also looked today at leadership styles and building good functioning teams. We examined the structural leadership of the movement. The lecturer rightly pointed out that there could only be one true leader, Jesus. He also pointed out that the lowest man in the corporate structure could go right to the "Boss."

It has been interesting to me to see how corporately we think as a movement. There are great differences between corporate and kingdom leadership. The leader who recognizes these differences and can balance the two for the good of the Kingdom, is a great one. I did sense in our discussion a real tendency toward judgement instead of grace. That attitude definitely, when unfettered, is not of the Kingdom.

Kingdom leadership, uses influence and grace to get people on board with mission. It communicates directly and effectively. Kingdom leaders also are emboldened and empowered by the Lord himself. Theirs' is a sacrificial style.

Leaders on all levels though can have an identity problem. They often think for whatever reason, their word is law and that respect is given by their position and not their person. In today's culture that is not the case. Actually, it probably never has been. They can be a boss. But leaders get people to follow because they want to follow. They don't have to remind people that they are the leader.

The worst leaders act as lords in a feudal sense. Their style is incredibly autocratic. They exclusively own the mission and use people to fulfill their purposes without consultation and grace.

I began to wonder, "Do I practice leadership or lordship?" I could point to examples of lordship in leaders with whom I have been associated. Or should I say bosses? I have more often, thankfully, seen leadership which is caring, graceful and kind.

I wonder though, if our structure and culture leads more to lordship or leadership? Are we born with a tendency for one or the other? Or are we nurtured into "hammering people?" Is it better to influence or direct?

What do you think?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Who is Right?

Well, as usual my thought practice has stepped across the bounds of traditional thinking. Today, I was in a discussion about the "content or lack thereof" in sermons. I was in a group of preachers.

I had the temerity to indicate that I thought preaching, although important, is overrated. That sparked a bit of a debate. My point is, that we have a ton of people filling the pews who have never really "processed" their faith. They tend to regurgitate some long standing word they have heard. Rarely, have I met many people who have really struggled through debate and process to come to an embodied faith. Their faith may be embedded, but not really embodied.

They may take good notes. They may be able to quote scripture, but rarely find themselves in any kind of question with what they have heard from the pulpit. I am not talking about the disagreement out of a spirit of antagonism, but really wrestling with what the Spirit is teaching them as a result of what they have heard and studied for themselves. It is part of what I like to call our "McFaith Church Culture." For example, have you ever heard just the simple description of the wine which Jesus produced at the wedding feast being "grape juice?" Sadly, I know a ton of long-time Christians who believe that, because of a missional stance they take.

I do believe the Word is paramount to the building of community. I also believe that long held views can sometimes be an impediment to what God is trying to reveal. Scripture does not change but maybe the hermeneutic does.

Well, the problem is, that often the Christian has not been allowed to wrestle with faith openly, especially in our evangelical circles, for fear of being branded a heretic. Aren't we glad when people really search after God and are put in caring communities where they are encouraged to do so and to really think about their faith?

Is it time to teach people how to think as well as what to think? Are the people right who believe preaching is most important? Am I wrong? Who is right?

What do you think?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Is Your Jesus Too Small?

Last Monday night I was in a virtual heaven of sorts. I found out that Brian McLaren and Brian Hollen, a professor of Theology at Malone University, were going to debate the validity of the emerging church "movement." McLaren is a terrific writer and has been asking many of the same theological questions I have been asking over the last several years. He articulates these questions much better than I could ever think of doing.

I found it interesting that Brian Hollen stood at the beginning of his opening statement and said, "I don't disagree with you very much Brian." The three critiques that Hollen offered were in my opinion pretty weak. He called emergents weak on dogma and kerygma. He then went on to say that he found very little to disagree with. "After all, I think that your desire to have people really seek after Jesus is admirable."

There was some time for conversation between the two proponents and then there was time for open questions. There were protesters out before the debate calling McLaren a heretic. One of the protesters strolled to the microphone to ask McLaren a question. This man was loaded for bear. He asked "Do you believe in the substitutionary death of Jesus to save people from a literal hell as outlined in the Bible?" McLaren's stance on hell is well documented. He questions the validity of hell as evangelicals would normally describe it.

McLaren's answer to the man struck me in its kindness and challenging nature. His reply was simply, "You make some assumptions about scripture with which I don't necessarily agree. I think though if you ascribe only that to the mission of Jesus, then I suggest you have made Jesus too small. I think what Jesus said about Himself in Luke 4 is so much more than what you assert if you limit Him to that."

It got me thinking. How much have I hemmed in Jesus? Have I domesticated Him? Do I want people to follow Jesus? Absolutely! Do I want people to be real disciples of Jesus? Of course. I am not a universalist, but I do believe that we may have ascribed as dogma and doctrine, things which Jesus never intended. Maybe we assigned doctrine through the lens of modernity. It is not that Jesus changed. Maybe we made Him too small. Maybe Jesus came for more than just our salvation on a personal level.

Well, in this upcoming Holy Week, we will focus on the death and resurrection of our Lord. Will we make Him too small? Will we assign doctrine to Him with which He would not agree?

Am I drinking the emergent Kool-Aid? Is there more to Jesus than just the evangelical tradition of making Him our personal saviour? Is hell real?

What do you think?