Thursday, 3 March 2011

Leadership and mutual submission

I’ve nearly finished my essay about Christian leadership that I mentioned on here in January. It’s been so interesting and thought-provoking, and it’s really developed my thinking about what Christian leadership can look like. A question that has come up a couple of times in discussions with my course-mates has been about leaders and submission. How should leaders react to Paul’s statement that Christians should ‘submit to one another out of reverence for Christ’? Does this mean leaders should defer to what their followers want to do? But surely nothing would get done! Maybe it doesn’t apply to leaders at all, then.

Perhaps a clue is in this wonderful little quotation I found about Paul’s leadership style. It’s from a book called ‘Paul’s Idea of Community’:

‘The apostle [Paul] – for all his divine call, diverse gifts, and founding labours – does not set himself in a hierarchical position above his communities or act in an authoritarian manner towards them. He refuses to do this since Christ, not he, is their master [2 Corinthians 4:5].’

I’ve also been reminded recently of a great illustration our senior pastor used in a talk, about how he saw his role (and the leadership team’s role as a whole). He said it’s not up to church leaders to make everything happen, but they should make it possible for everyone in the church to use their gifts and skills for God’s glory. So if people have identified a need of some sort then it’s not for the leaders to directly meet the need themselves; they should encourage and enable people in church community to meet the need. Leaders might be involved in the work, or they might not be. What matters is that the need is met, not who meets it.

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