Everyone a Leader

There has been a good deal of conversation these days concerning leadership and/or the lack thereof as it relates to western church structures.  Once I held strong opinions that hierarchical leadership was the required structure for our times.  That was back when I could still be labeled among the ranks of professional clergy. Today I see this issue from a different vantage point and in simple terms, my paradigm has shifted — so significantly that some would label it drastic.  And they are right. 

This shift has resulted in moving away from a formalized role of leadership found in most conventional churches, where one is specifically trained (Bible College, Seminary, etc.) for a particular leadership role within the church, to one that is less formal and revolves around function – more in keeping with the early churches understanding of leadership.  Rather than conceiving leadership only in terms of a specialized or professional class or office, it was most often understood in terms of “functionality.”  Spiritual gifts were identified and than validated by the community as individuals began to function naturally in particular roles (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher, etc.).  In this climate every Spirit-filled believer was able to serve in varied leadership capacities.

Leadership was a natural outflow of the Spirit’s work in the life of a Christ-follower.  Not something needing specialized or professional training – although still a legitimate avenue for leadership development.  But so often within these parameters those who are gifted leaders see themselves as unqualified due to their lack of specialized training.  When it gets down to the nitty gritty particularly in the simple church paradigm leadership is often expressed much like what Parker Palmer describes:

Everyone who draws breathe “takes the lead” many times a day. We lead with actions that range from a smile to a frown; with words that range from blessing to curse; with decisions that range from faithful to fearful….. When I resist thinking of myself as a leader, it is neither because of modesty nor a clear-eyed look at reality of my life….. I am responsible for my impact on the world whether I acknowledge it or not.

So what does it take to qualify as a leader! Being human and being here.  As long, I as I am here, doing whatever I am doing, I am leading, for better or worse.  And, if I may say so, so are you.”    

 — Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner, Leading from Within: Poetry that Sustains the         Courage to Lead, Introductionby Parker J. Palmer (San Franciso: Jossey-Bass, 2007), xxix-xx

Certainly a more organic expression and understanding.  One that allows for all to participate in the process of building the Church for God’s kingdom.


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