Leading communities I

I’ve had a couple of thoughts floating around in my head for a while now about leading communities, particularly relating to the language leaders use when speaking to, and about, ‘their’ communities.

To get the ball rolling here is an excerpt  from a recent sermon on 1 Peter 5:

Facing immense persecution at the hands of the Roman’s Peter’s message is all about supporting the resistance movement—its a desperate plea for Christian’s to be on the side of the resistance. Because at the heart of this movement is a radical community of people who pledge allegiance, not to Caesar, but to the Lord Jesus. So Peter outlines what this community is to look like from the inside:

Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you 2 to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly. 3 Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. (1 Pet 5.1-4 NRSV)

So, Peter begins by picking on those in charge – the elders. And notice that he very wisely aligns himself on the team of the elders – he calls himself a ‘fellow elder’ and as ‘one who shares in their glory to be revealed’.

Its not a bad way to get people onside is it? You know to appeal to your similarities before you offer a challenge, its quite political and very wise. Because its important for Peter to have their trust because he has some genuine words of challenge for them. And in a nutshell, his message to the elders is this– ‘don’t be a jerk’

‘No matter how good an elder you are – the people under your care are not yours. They are God’s’. Elder’s therefore, have no right and no basis to lord their authority over their people. That’s what the Roman’s were doing. The leaders of the Christian community are to be different. Elder’s are ‘shepherds of God’s flock’. That means they care for communities-they are to pastor communities-But they don’t ever own communities!

I have a friend who, is the equivalent to an elder, he is the senior minister of a church. He, I think, really admirably, has decided to never speak of his church as his church. Rather, he calls it ‘the church where I serve’. Its only a little thing. But its important. Elders don’t own the church, God does.

And elder’s must want to be elders. Peter says this straight up in v2 – ‘that you’re not to become an elder because you feel you must, but because you are willing’

Need, therefore, is not a good enough reason to become an elder. This is a massive challenge to anyone who has ever thought about going into full time, paid ministry with the plan to lead a church. Yeah there is a great need for people to go out into the harvest field—Jesus said that himself. But if you decide to go down that path purely because of need—If you go down that path without ever having a genuine desire, even a passion, to be a shepherd of God’s people, then you are at real risk of becoming the type of leader Peter warns against. The type of leader who throws his or her weight around, compelling others to do what he or she thinks they must do.


9 Responses to “Leading communities I”

  1. That’s a good word dude. I reckon there’s a link there with 1 Timothy 3:1 – “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.” That language of ‘sets his heart’ and ‘desires’ seems to tie in with exactly where you’re coming from. Giddy up to these posts.

  2. […] communities II In the last post I introduced the idea of how language used by leaders reveals what they think about, and value, […]

  3. I know I’m a little late to the party, but I think I should have gotten some credit for my sheep photo! –
    That one came from my own wee camera everybody!

  4. […] communities III So far, I’ve suggested, that many of our churches have  a problem; a created divide between those in leadership and the […]

  5. […] about and their attitudes towards Christian communities. He’s written three posts so far: Here, here, and here. I think he shows a lot of insight, particularly on the concept of ‘primary […]

  6. I’m not sold on the ‘the church where I serve’ language. Agree with the underlying principle and that pastors definitely have to think that way, but we end up creating all these new legalistic phrases that end up causing us to be judgemental of others. (eg. what do you think about someone who calls singing in church ‘worship’?)
    For the average congregation member, he’d of course say ‘my church’, not cos he owns it but because he’s part of it. Like I say ‘my family’, not ‘the people I’m related to’ or parents as ‘the people who gave birth to me’
    But the bigger point about disconnect between pastors and sheep is a good one

  7. stephengardner Says:

    Gez, thanks for your comments. Don’t you think our language should reflect our principles? Because I’m convinced there is a widespread problem within churches, of a distinction between those in leadership and garden variety Christians, I think this is one principle worth getting right in the way we speak.
    The church is a family, but the metaphor of family has its limits. The church is not as easily defined as an earthly family. Surely we are (or should be) more interested in inclusion than biological families. And this, I think, must be represented in our language.

  8. […] has some timely (and provocative) words on leadering Christian communities – Parts I, II and […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: