One of the great misunderstandings about living missionally is that it’s void of leadership. The (mis)perception is that everybody can just ‘go do the missional thing’ and have success. That’s just not the case. Good, missional living isn’t void of leadership, it is just going to require a different kind of leadership. I’ve written before about some of my pretenses with being the answer man, and my desire to find new ways getting people involved.
For many years (particularly in America) leadership has been power centric. Those at the top have the power, set the goals, and then in large part, are responsible for accomplishing the goals. They get to lead the Bible studies, sermon times, fellowship gatherings, singing times, and anything else that the ‘church’ does when its gathered. This sort of leadership is primarily done out of either fear or a controlling attitude. They get others to ‘stay in line’ through manipulation or embarrassment. This is leading through fear.
The other option has been to be controlling. They get the say and the only say. Others may offer opinions, but the leader always makes the final decision and everyone is expected to follow that decision.
These two leadership traits cannot work (and will not even be tolerated) as the church shifts from institutional to missional in mindset.
And thankfully, not every leader has operated out of these two modes. Growing up in the church and having now worked in several different capacities, I have known far more good leaders than bad ones, but the reality is that in a hierarchical mindset and method, these two types of leaders are easily cultivated. The goal in this type of structure is to maintain the status quo, usually in the form of programmatic material. Since it is hard to get things done when everyone has a voice and a certain level of power, churches have tried to streamline the process and create clarity when it comes to creating vision. The one sets for the many, and the many follow behind like good little sheep.
But in the missional frontier, new leadership is required. It still needs leadership, it just can’t be done out of fear or the urge to control. Instead, missional leadership needs to be done by empowering and releasing. The identification of gifts, passions, and calling is going to require missional leaders to equip Jesus followers and then release them.
In short: it takes trust. Studies have shown that people are increasingly distrustful of institutions (schools, churches, governments, whatever), but increasingly trustful of those around them (friends, family, neighbors). Missional leadership is about equipping the saints to live faithfully, trusting them to carry out the message of hope found in Jesus, and serving others in humility. As those that we are trying to minister to sense this change, their trust in us begins to grow and they become more open and receptive to the work of God.
What do you think? How have you seen good or bad leadership exercised? In what ways do you need to improve as a leader?