All Quiet on the Western Front

Seems like I have not been blogging of late. I guess I either blog lots or read lots. I just read two books. I have finished a brilliant book about a guy called David Bausso (Don’t Look Back). He started Opportunity International. Well he pretty much started the revolution of mirco-finance and trust banks into the third world.
He has a leadership style most akin to what I imagine Jesus being like as a leader in some senses. Not all but some. He just never really wanted to “lead” people in the way we understand it, just have relationship with them, build them. I think what we see as leadership so often is…oh, forget it, I really don’t know what I see as leadership. My boss, Neale…a well known public servant in WA, well, many would say this man is the ultimate ‘leader’. He is amzing in what he is able to achieve and the balance he has in his life. But then I would say Keith Farmer my former boss and x-principal of .acom is another great and inspirational leader I know, but totally different to Neale. David Bassau was maybe a blending of both of these guys. Not sure how to put it, but the model of leadership I see in Christ is rare. I struggle to lead in any way, but leadership from behind, this is a challenge. It’s easier to just say this is where we are going. For many who follow this way of being lead is easier too. Passive. I don’t have to think, I just choose if I like it or not and either go there or don’t. But you see it’s in just that where the problem is. If I am committed to relationship above role or even purpose and if I have committed myself firstly to a community of friends and ‘soon to be friends’, then in some senses to just say, “I was praying” or even “I have just decided that we will do this or go there or be this” etc this could be a form of abuse. Yes I think that. It’s a type of relational abuse or passive violence. What right do I have to just say “we will do this“?
Is this the cohesive community I read about in scripture?
Is this the heart of Christ for his “No longer slave nor free, male nor female...” type community?
I think democracy is not God’s heart for the church…but neither is autocracy.
Bonhoeffer said this about community –
Those who love community, destroy community
Those who love people, build community.

If we try to build the perfect community in our church, our small group etc at the expense of the people in it we will destroy the very community we are trying to build.

Imagine this for a second…I make a decision to do ‘x’ in our community/small group/life group etc.
All but 1 person is all for the decision or at least nonchalant about it.
For some reason this decison will adversly effect this person, emotionally, financially or in some way.
What do I do? Go with a majority? Talk him around? Pressure him into it? Ask him to leave? Make him feel silly for his pettiness?

What if we took a vote on a selection of choices? 7 of the group decide on choice ‘x’, the other 4 were split between choice ‘y’ and ‘z’. Of course we go with choice ‘x’…yes? What of the other 3 this time? What if choice ‘x’ really is not suitable for them, what if their participation in choice’x’ actually contradicts a value for them, a core value?

(obviously there will be many decisions that the non agreers would just say, I don’t care, it’s not important to me, I will ‘go with the flow’)

So I make a decision ‘as a group’, this is by far the hardest choice for me as a ‘leader’, (whatever that means) because the easy thing is just to make a call, that’s ‘good leadership’ is it not?
Oh he is such a strong leader, you always know where you are going!”

Well I have to ask the question, “You might know where you are going but did you participate in the choice of direction or did you just get taught somewhere to blindly go where leadership says to go?”
What part did you play in where you are today? More importantly to me is the question, “What group process were you involved in to get your community to where it is today?”

Maybe ‘leadership’ (including the gift of leadership) in this context is more about wise facilitation, guidance in process and guarding values of group participation, rather than ‘making it happen’.

Someone wiser than me once said that “community is a matter of the extent to which [a society] participate[s] in it’s governance…

So you say you are in a community, then based on this, the level of which you are ‘in’ community is directly proportional to the the extent to which you participate in it’s decisions and direction…interesting ramifications for many of us only ever connected to big churches and never participating in smaller groups who together set their their own journey and direction. Or sometimes even these smaller groups are ‘lead’ in a manner more a kin to larger groups.

My challenge as I write this is that my wife has looked over my shoulder and read it (in between both of us putting kids to bed, phone calls to my bro, and Christine’s trip to buy her chocolate fix!)
She feels I am off beam…again!
Her challenge is in regards to a new testamant model of leadership. She asks, “Did not Paul act more like what we see in our model ‘Senior Pastor’ style leader? Instruction, direction, vision casting?”

Or did he?


6 thoughts on “All Quiet on the Western Front

  1. from my take – paul came as an apostle and laid the foundation for a community to build upon. this foundation revolved around a firm christiology. these values needed to be central to the future of the community.

    after he left, he would often hear both good and bad things in regards to whether those communities had strayed from the core values, or if they had embraced them and built on them.

    it seems that the apostle’s job was to protect the core of the message which hy originally entrusted with each community he planted. if they strayed from the core – rebuke and further teaching; if they embraced the core – encouragement.

    i think this is very different from what we see in operation today. most of the dictatorial or CEO-type leadership revolves around a senior pastor hearing from God about where the church is to be in a few years time. then God gives the senior leadership team a strategy on how to achieve these goals, and then the vision is revealed to those in the congregation, who are expected to embrace and bind themselves to it with faultless alliegance.

    by the time it gets to the masses, there is no decision making left, just a pre-set plan to be followed.

    i can’t find paul ever delivering a 10 year strategic vision and year by year strategy. he went from town to town, sometimes staying a little longer than other places; he preached Christ, and gave them the discipleship necessary to begin following in the Saviour’s footsteps.- which seemed closer to building the type of community you alluded to where people participated freely in all levels of the transformation of each community.

  2. i have never considered myself a decision making leader, autocratic as you put it. I also dont work well under that style of leadership either. I am a team man through and through. We make the decisions together.

    I have struggled in my new role because everyone expects me to just make a decision. Just chose the direction and lead us there….

    But it seems every time you do that you get more and more ppl who are not sold out on the direction you chose….but then if i dont just make a decision ppl think i am a weak leader….

    very tricky stuff to ‘lead’ ppl eh?

  3. its a huge tension Roo and my guess is that there is a place for both kinds of leading.

    There is stuff to be strong about – paul def was – and there is stuff to be consultattive about. That’s not a ‘mid ground cop out’. I believe its a common sense reality.

    All CEO = bully, all consultative = getting nowhere fast

  4. my question is hamo – where do we have to get to in such a hurry anyway?

    if it is more about the journey of transformation than the destination of where(?), maybe “all consultative” allows everyone to participate in the journey without compromising anyone’s dignity.

    this is my tension with much of today’s leadership – trying to reach this “destination” that no one really knows how to measure if we are ever successful as reaching.

    either you can measure it, or you can’t – and if you can’t then it’s only about the journey & if you can, then shouldn’t it be about getting there no matter what the cost? i think this begins to stray into your recent post hamo on what we talk about vs what we practise, and how the two often contradict each other.

    this is tricky stuff…

  5. Thanks for the challenge Matt 🙂

    Maybe ‘getting nowhere FAST’ is the wrong expression but I definitely sense that we do have a destination. Whether we get there fast or at a reasonable pace is not a great issue. (However getting somewhere at a snail’s pace just doesn’t sit well with who I am as a person. ) Now keep in mind that as I write this, I do so as one who would see himself more as an evangelistic/apostolic type – and also as a more task oriented person with a specific job to do.

    I feel great urgency for people to meet Jesus and be ‘saved’. I also feel a great compulsion to work with others to create churches that will resonate with these new believers. In my mind these are both destinations – actually for me these are both critical destinations.

    Will I stomp over people to get there?

    I hope not, but honestly Matt, if there are Christians who just want to sit comfortably and ‘play church’, who are not interested in these issues, then I will certainly ignore them, maybe even push thru them because as I read scripture this is a matter of life and death.

    Now… I keep in mind that as you read this, you do so as a pastor with a great deep love for people and my previous paragraph may disturb you. As you’d know this is why we need each other. The pastors keep the apostolics aware of the people – the apostolics keep the pastors aware of the mission.

    I don’t think its ever as simple as one or the other, but perhaps its more about being sufficiently self aware to know how our own orientations drive us and recognising that each of us only has a piece of the puzzle to bring.

  6. thanks for the warning on the 3 postings hamo – you’re right it could’ve looked a bit like an all out assault.

    firstly, when you say you feel a great sense of urgency for people to meet jesus and be “saved”, i totally understand what you mean – but i still don’t see it as a destination.

    you only have a say in the first part – as you are transformed to be more like christ by the holy spirit, people begin to meet him as they encounter you in their life.

    as to whether they respond to the Christ – i’m not sure that you can place the burden of that happening on you or your team’s shoulders. it would be nice to measure, but what measuring rod will you use to confirm a “success”? you can long for it to happen, pray for it to happen – but “make it happen” – i don’t think any of us can.

    your other destination – “to work with others to create churches that will resonate with these new believers” – awesome thing to spend your time doing.

    now this is where i’ll need your help – if the forge mantra is “christology -> missiology -> ecclesiology” then talk of “types of churches” isn’t able to be discussed except in theory, because until you know who will respond, you are unable to know what church may look like for this type of person.

    for example – brighton – your backyard. when you talk about church, the people you concern yourself with firstly are the crew who moved to brighton with you. they are all christians and therefore you are able to discuss and mould an appropriate model of ecclesiology for these poeple.

    but let’s say no one in brighton has “become a christian” (thinking in a closed-set theology), and therefore you do not know if the model you come up with that suits your core group of believers, will transfer to suit the style of any new believers. then who will you seek to serve – those who moved with you, or those who already lived there? or will there be different churches springing up all over brighton?

    i’m not meaning any of this flippantly or tongue in cheek – this is serious stuff for all of us and you know that some of the answers to these sorts of things will shape what many people will choose to do with their gifts and time in the days, months and years ahead. love your work bro – look forward to coffee.

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