Sometimes I think that those three words were left out of the Genesis account by a well meaning, but overly zealous scribe. “Let us create man in our image… just for fun,” seems to me to represent the character of God and the tone of scripture much better.
Of course I am only joking, that’s about as close as I can bring myself to being heretical.
Nick has asked for Tim and I to answer a question each, for no other reason than the fun of it.
How would Tim build a sacred tribe that includes me? is Tim’s question. I’m afraid that I have a problem with the concept of a tribe which I will explain further into this post, so that may make Tim’s task a little more difficult; sorry.
Mine is: How could I release Tim to minister to the flock in my care?
I really believe in Church in both it’s global and local sense. I believe that the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12 and the 5 fold ministry gifts in Ephesians 4 are for one purpose – Unity. I believe that the ambition of God is unity among men, and He calls His ambition “Church”. He is building His church and I cannot see that He is doing one other thing in earth today.
I also believe that Jesus started the very first church and that He gave us the blueprint in exactly sufficient detail (and without too much detail so that there would be lots of room for a variety of expression in this ultimate unity).
I also believe that He showed us how to hand over a church to another leader so that church would always be multi-generational, despite men’s failures and mortality.
Now the pictures we have given ourselves of church today find themselves in two man-made opposites (there are always 2 man made opposites in heretical error – Baal & Astarte, Fate & Luck, Bulls & Bears… the list is long).
The man-made errors are:
1. Top-down leadership – autocratic, dangerous, evangelical, charismatic.
2. And Bottom-up leadership – democratic, frigid, denominational, traditional.
Neither of these two pictures are what I believe Jesus had in mind. Both of them center around man made systems and man made structures – they are ‘hewn’ out of the mangled machine of failed humanity.
The picture Jesus paints is very different, it is of a front-back leadership:
– Where there are no levels of leadership, where equality is a practical reality (in fact the leader is called to lay his life down for the sheep. This is the key difference between Christianity and Hinduism – no time to get into that now)
– Where momentum is essential and change is ongoing. New wine = new wineskin (without momentum the church reverts to top-down or bottom-up structure)
– Where the whole structure is relationally (not religiously) driven.
That is the way, I believe to ‘bring people through’ into leadership in the church. It is what Jesus did with Peter, and it is what Peter did with James. It’s what the Church stopped doing the moment it became political and hence ‘respectable’.
It calls into action the essential ministries of the Apostle and the Prophet, not only the Evangelist.
It’s opposite, Back-front leadership, is very clearly wrong, bordering on demonically inspired. This is essentially obvious to the western mind, but it is anti-cultural in a traditionally animist context. We can see these two opposites very clearly in Jesus’ own metaphor of the Good Shepherd:
Traditionally middle-eastern shepherds lead sheep very differently from African shepherds. African shepherds have a stick or a bunch of stones, they shout, whistle and goad from the back of the heard to get them moving. Having concern or love or relationship with the sheep is initially optional and quickly becomes unnecessary. (I believe that this mindset is at the heart of tribalism and is the same reason why it is so hard to find a political leader of character in Africa. Of course the extreme Stoic is no better, but that is not what this post is about)
The middle-eastern shepherd, on the other hand, makes it his business to get to know each sheep, he learns to love them and the sheep learn to know, recognise, love and trust the shepherd; that’s why he can lead from the front because there is a willingness to follow him.
It is at once clear that this method is much more natural than any of the man made structural methods. Although it requires a lot more effort and sacrifice from those leading, it is truly progressive, not merely developmental.
Church leaders may not get it right all the time, but I believe that we are to, as much as possible, lead this way.
What does it mean practically? Let me give a few examples. A full list would require a book:
– We don’t have a church membership, and we don’t give out certificates. Yet the edges of the church are well defined (a shepherd must know which are his sheep and which are not).
– Potential leaders are both accountable to and friends with existing leaders before they can play a role in leadership. I have young men ask me to mentor them, my usual answer is, “sure, what 2 areas in your life would be the most difficult for you to hear me speak into?”
– Leaders, in Jesus’ church, do not give instruction to people in their personal lives, they give advice. I often say to people that they will get perspective from me, but not permission. But having said that someone who keeps rejecting your advice clearly does not see you as their leader. Also this does not mean that the pastor should not lead the affairs of the church, in that realm he must be giving instruction, not advice.
So we build, as Paul said, on the foundation that is already laid (he was not referring to himself, Paul was only a “master builder”, he never considered himself as the architect – Paul was referring to Jesus). Whatever we build outside of Jesus’ plan may be pragmatic, cultural even wise; but it is not Church!
I have dealt essentially in concepts in this post using a few illustrations and examples. Perhaps, instead of trying to be exhaustive (another word for verbose) it would be better to handle one instance at a time – my way of asking for a response – I may have some answers to specific problems, I’ve been in a front-back lead church for 25 years this December, and I have seen it work.
There are many ways that the traditional church, with the best intentions, has hurt those in it. (every church hurts some people – I’m sure it hurt Peter to hear “get behind me Satan.”) But none more so than its potential leaders.
I am busy with a critical look at second-in-commands in the OT, I believe that the most dangerous position in Jesus’ church is just behind the leader. There are three people I’m comparing:
1. David under Saul
2. Jonathan under Saul
3. Jaob under David
The sad conclusion is that the one who failed the most miserably (and who was lead most astray) was the one under the best leader!