Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

Releasing on Mission

Posted on 18 Jun 2013 in Christianity, Leadership, missional theology | 4 comments

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.

Leading is empowering people to go (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Leading is empowering people to go (photo credit: Wikipedia)

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?

The following two tabs change content below.

Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

Latest posts by Justin Hiebert (see all)

  • Nice start to a longer conversation. Leadership is a power trip for many. The leaders in missional adventures need to open process for trust to grow and experiments to flourish. The frames our boundaries may be established by theological commitments, then leadership needs create entry points so all can share, even those with differing theological roots.

    There’s more to say, much more than I have time for now. I gotta get back to work before my boss sees me.

    • Craig,

      Thanks for your thoughts. Leadership has been (and probably always will be) a very dangerous game. It’s easy to slip from bring a good leader to a bad one and extraordinarily hard to go from being a bad one to a good one. And I like your point about needing leadership that transcends theological difference, we too often confuse personal taste with gospel mindedness and exclude those that are different that us. Thanks for sharing.

  • Justin,

    I can’t remember if I mentioned it the other day, but check out J.R. Woodward’s book, Creating a Missional Culture- I think you’d like, no love it.


    • Randy,

      I read it and loved it. If interested you can read my review of it here (to see how it compares to yours) and something you missed out on here (my giveaway of two autographed copies).

%d bloggers like this: