Recently columnist Elizabeth Farrelly wrote an article calling for a project to “Rescue Christ from the Christian church.” Her call was a plea for people not to give up on spirituality because of the heinous crimes of the Church and simultaneously a scathing critique on the Western Church because it has lost its way. This fall of the Church, she believes, is evidenced by the church’s lust for power. In my view, Farrelly’s point is not so much that the Church itself is a failure, even though Farrelly chastises it, but rather that the Church has become compromised in the most profound way because of its hierarchical structures, patriarchy and entrenched institutionalism. Farrelly writes Continue reading Rescuing Christ from the Christian church?
Brad Brisco and Lance Ford in their excellent book The Missional Questhave a really helpful chapter called “Stop and Go: Rhythms of Inner Formation.” The chapter is about the importance of rest in the life of a missional leader.
They say that “the major emphasis of the missional movement is the sent nature of our calling as the body of Christ- going into culture with the gospel, practicing and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. However, it is incumbent on us that we not lose our grip on the truth that we cannot go out under our own strength, understanding or power. To rely upon savvy, reason and human talent is to invite trouble along the way of mission.”
This is a really important caution and so they propose that the missional leader should enter intorhythms of formation which they describe as “Stop and Go.” They explain, “Jesus was well aware that his incarnational plunge into the brokenness of humanity necessitated soul care for himself and his disciples. It was necessary for him to embrace the spiritual formation processes and patterns that any man or woman who hopes to connect with God must do. Jesus followed a self-imposed habit of discipline that frequently took him away from the crowds and ministry into solitude, rest and prayer, both alone and in the small company of his twelve disciples.” Continue reading The Spirituality of Jesus: Stop and Go?
I remember very well the time that a wonderful elderly lady from the church I was leading, made an appointment to see me. On the day, she came to my office holding a scrumptious cake she had made so we could eat together. She sat down, then proceeded to tell me what a terrible pastor I was. Even though this scenario sounds terrible, it actually wasn’t a bad experience, we had a good discussion- and there was cake! However I did find it interesting to hear her rationale regarding why she thought I could do a little better at pastoring. The issue lay with my title. Since my title was Senior Pastor, the logic went, that meant that I was the one responsible for the overall care of the congregation. The care of the congregation was ultimately up to me and no other. It didn’t matter that we had a Care Pastor and a care team who were responsible for and gifted to care for the congregation, because I was the Senior Pastor, it was basically up to me. That day I became aware of the expectations that some in the congregation may have had around my role and also that I did not share those expectations. The responsibility was all on me and there was little room for a shared sense of ministry with other leaders in the church. I remember feeling burdened by that sense of responsibility. Of course, a role which oversees an organisation will always have that sense of weight and pressure that comes with it, however I feel that leadership should and can be shared. Essentially, there was a dissonance in this encounter around how my friend and I defined church leadership.
There has been a lot written on the theme of the so-called exile that Christians are experiencing in the West as a result of the demise of Christendom. The argument goes something like this, Christians are no longer at the centre of society but instead they are on the margins. Gone are the days when Christians and the church could expect to be in a privileged position in the eyes of secular institutions and be given rights or inroads into broader society. In the same way that Israel was sent into exile by God, we have been sent into exile by our culture as it finds the church unnecessary and irrelevant to its day to day existence. Two great books on this theme are Michael Frost’s Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture  and more recently, The Church in Exile: Living in Hope After Christendom by Lee Beach .
Many Christians like myself have used this image of exile as a tool to help us navigate the uncertain waters of our liminality in the West. Personally, instead of finding the image a negative one, as a few of my peers have, I have found it a source of comfort. It is in humble exile that God purifies us, draws near to us if we let him and speaks to us about the hope of the good things that are to come.
Recently I was at a gathering of church planters and I had a conversation with one planter which made me think again about how we view church leadership.
I’m thinking about planting a church myself, so I am interested in the opinions of others around vision and especially how that relates to church structure. I was in conversation with one planter and I asked him about leadership in his recently established church. I wanted to know what sort of leadership structure he had in place and how it was working. As it turned out, the leadership structure was very similar to that of an established church. It was fairly hierarchical, had different team members assigned to various ministry areas and ultimately responsibility for the church fell on the team leader.