The Church is one of those Sesame Street deals where “one of these things is not like the others…” There are some similarities, even overlap, with a lot of institutions – ie. government, business, education, medicine and farming, among others. But despite the similarities, the Church is supposed to be the same but different – in some cases, very different.
I used to believe the Bible actually had a blueprint for the Church. That there was, literally, a prescribed form for any and everything Church and especially leadership in the Church. I don’t believe that anymore. I’ve come to believe that God gives us more room to participate than that and our culture should, in some part, inform what our local expression of the Kingdom looks like.
But there are character things, personality of Jesus things that are non-negotiable and I think even non-compatible with a great deal of what we’ve developed or adopted and called leadership in the Church.
Part of the change of perspective for me has happened as I read the Bible for what it said to the time and culture of the first readers rather than reading my time and culture into it.
Here’s an example. Today we tend to talk about Apostles being the top of the leadership pyramid. I can give you some books from my library (seriously, take them, please) that insist that that’s exactly how it is and it’s what God is ‘restoring’ to the Church today – people who will tell us what to do and we, if we love Jesus, will do what they say. But even a casual reading of the New Testament, one that reads forward from rather than back into, will see that Apostle was closer to the bottom than the top and churches that received letters from an apostle sometimes did and sometimes did not take to heart what they were told. These were people who had authority because they were literally dying for the Church but even then they weren’t CEO or Kings, they took Jesus to heart and sought to be servants to all.
Another part of the change in perspective for me occurred when I became part of a band. Being the leader of the band was a point of influence that God used to help me understand myself and how I function best as a leader within the Church/church.
The lessons I learned from the band have stuck with me and formed my view of leadership that continues to grow and evolve today. I’ll repost some of those lessons and here’s one for today:
EVERYONE PLAYS AN IMPORTANT PART
As the Partridge family once sang, “Something always happens whenever we’re together…” and Three Dog Night was right that “one is the loneliest number.” Each person in the band/team/staff is vital and while I might not notice how they’re doing if it’s going well, if someone gets out of tune, plays a different rhythm or overplays then we all notice. Everyone notices. Each part needs to be honored, resourced and on the same page musically and relationally. The lead singer is only as good as the rest of the band makes them look. And the sound guy at the back may not get many applause but he can turn up the “suck button” and make the band sound terrible any time he wants.
Being a leader is more about helping each person in the band excel in their area of influence and making room for everyone to add their bit. Musicians are like everyone else, they know when they are valued and when their just playing role anyone could fill, like the drummer for “Spinal Tap”. Collectively we are greater than we are on our own. When I played on my own it would easily resemble a single vehicle accident but when we played together we could support each other, inspire each other, cover for each other and fill the gaps.
Jesus said, simply, that they will know we are following Him by our love for one another. I recently heard a pastor say to a conference of leaders that if “feeling loved” is the chief criteria for the Church then we’ll always have people questioning whether they’re loved by the leadership. He insisted that that was a faulty metric. “Is Jesus who he says he is.” Was his preferred standard – whether you or I feel loved by leadership is immaterial. After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to go with Jesus on this one.