March 7, 2006
The Paradox of Emerging Leadership
How do we organize a church without becoming "organized religion"? Dan Kimball, author of The Emerging Church and pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California, wrestles with this paradox in the upcoming Spring issue of Leadership. Here is a preview.
Leadership in the emerging church is a paradox. I am someone who fully sees the need and value of mission statements, organizational charts, and a strategic approach to leading. I read everything John Maxwell, Bill Hybels and Jim Collins write, and they really do fuel my heart and passion for leadership. The irony however, is that most growing up in our emerging culture are fairly critical of anything that looks like "organized religion." So when it comes to developing a leadership culture, there is great suspicion of anything that seems to be "business" oriented or too structured, since that feels like a reinforcement of the exact thing they are critical of.
Where previous generations were more understanding and even related to more of a highly structured leadership culture in a church ? many in the emerging church are drawn to more of a loose, lesser emphasis on strategic goals and a non-hierarchical approach to leadership. Much like what is emphasized in the writings of Henri Nouwen.
I've read Nouwen's book, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership a dozen times. Reading that book convicts you to the inner core about motives and the heart of leadership. However, Henri's leadership writings were directly about his experience in shepherding and loving a relatively few people. Leading a church that is growing, launching new worship gatherings, and building multi-level leadership teams needs Henri Nouwen, but also needs John Maxwell.
So I wrestle with this paradox. I find that in our church we live in the tension and try to do both. I dive into my John Maxwell books and focus on building leaders and setting up the organization of developing various leadership structures needed for a healthy Ephesians 4:11-12 equipping type of a church. After a while, I need to run back to Henri for a season. To some degree, these two paradigms seem polarized ? but I think it is possible to still be "organized" without becoming "Organized religion". In the end, it is the Spirit of God who does things through us anyway ? but it is definitely a paradox we live in today with new thoughts and values of what is looked for in emerging church leadership.