Wineskins Archive

February 11, 2014

The Leadership Issue – Again (Jan-Feb 2001)

Filed under: — @ 2:42 pm and

by Rubel Shelly
January – February, 2001

Wineskins committed itself from the very first issue to encourage “bold but responsible change” that could help congregations be more effective in communicating the gospel to our world. Positive change will occur only when responsible leadership seeks and supports it.

A fundamental insight Christians need about the nature of the church is that it is a family where everyone belongs, everyone is valued, and everyone is responsible for its function. It is not a restaurant where a fairly predictable bunch of patrons show up with some degree of regularity, sit down to an appetizing and nourishing meal, linger for a while in pleasant surroundings, and then get up and go home – feeling no sense of connectedness or interdependence with one another.

In my family, I have a special tie of blood or adoption with every member. In a church of even a few dozen members, you will not know every name and be equally connected with every other believer. But you will make a few significant connections or fall away or move on for another short stay in still one more church. It takes some initiative on your part to make those “significant connections.” One of the ways to get connected is Sunday School classes. Another is a ministry group in which you use your gift with others – such as Children’s Ministry, Building and Grounds Ministry, Worship Ministry, etc. The one that works well for a high percentage of Christians nowadays is small groups of people who meet regularly for Bible study, prayer, and encouragement. By some intentional means, church leaders must create opportunities for linking members together in a network of love and mutual support.

Flexibility.In my family, we have learned to stay flexible in dealing with life. One of the things that strangles and kills churches is their utter inflexibility. In Church of Christ tradition, we have tended to work at being inflexible because of our Biblicism. Most of us were taught incorrectly that the “pattern” for the church was in Acts rather than in the Gospels, in the flawed model of the first generation of Christians rather than in Jesus himself. More of us have come to understand that the correct goal for a church to have is to restore the life of our Lord and Master in our corporate and personal lives rather than being inflexible with some imaginary church that was a model for all times. Looking like Jesus to our neighbors in the twenty-first century will have us ministering with methods very different from the twentieth, fourteenth, and first centuries. We may even need to create organizational structures that are new.

Health. In my family, our identity has never had anything to do with size but had everything to do with love for one another. Whether you are a member of a small, midsize, or mega-church is not the key to its identity. My personal vision for ministry in a local church is the desire to foster spiritual health. Because we have made some moves toward healthy spirituality, God has blessed the Woodmont Church with numbers. But we’ve never set a numbers goal for a given Sunday or for our membership roll. We can be either one tenth or ten times our present size and still be a healthy church, if we keep our eyes on Christ and our hearts open to the Holy Spirit.

Shared Leadership. In my family, we share and pass off with leadership duties. I happen to be the financial officer who balances the checkbook. Myra has always led our service and nurturing task force. Michelle has been our right-brained creative person. Tim and Tom have the good business heads in our family, and I trust their judgment more than my own. Churches need a healthier leadership style than most seem to have in which duties can be passed off to young as well as old, females as well as males, newcomers as well as longtime members.

God’s family needs effective leaders. The church needs leaders who see its life as family life rather than an organizational flow chart or business plan. We need to select shepherds, ministry leaders, and staff who are connected with the body through service, sacrifice, and submission. We need flexible men and women in leadership roles who can think creatively. And we certainly don’t need insecure people who cant trust others to have motives and abilities as good as their own, who need to micromanage others, who get heady with their own importance when trusted to lead, or who think their personal insights are better than those of the larger fellowship of which they are a part.

Until we get the leadership issue better in hand, there isn’t much that can be done to make churches healthier, more evangelistic, or more likely even to keep our own members from drifting into spiritual lethargy — perhaps even dying.Wineskins Magazine

Rubel Shelly

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