Leading communities III

So far, I’ve suggested, that many of our churches have  a problem; a created divide between those in leadership and the rest of us sitting in the pews. And in the last post I suggested we tend to recreate this problem by the way we train future leaders.

Today I want to begin to flesh out some of the implications this might have for church life. And I want to suggest that one of the symptoms of this problem is when a leader begins to blame his/her congregation. Bonhoeffer takes this accusing back to a misplaced model of ‘visionary dreaming’. He describes it this way:

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realised by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of the brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.             (Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Life Together, 27-28.)

Can you see Bonhoeffer’s point about the danger of visionary leadership?

There is nothing wrong with visionary leadership, in fact we could do with more of it. But there is a problem when a leader’s vision for the church is not met and the leader becomes ‘an accuser of the brethren.’ This is a symptom, of a far bigger problem, of a leader who does not identify as a belonging member of that community.

If the leader’s vision is not met, who’s fault is it? Surely not his! How often,do you hear leaders speak against their congregations, blaming them for the reasons why the church is not welcoming enough, not growing, not looking for ways to serve etc…

There is a place for a loving rebuke from a leader to his/her congregation. But there is something quite wrong when a leader cannot see their own participation and involvement in the community. Bonhoeffer goes on to say:

Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. (Life Together, 28.)


5 Responses to “Leading communities III”

  1. I’m enjoying these Posts steve. Scratching an itch for me.

  2. wow. great quote(s). thanks bro.


  3. Have you read much of Tim Chester (eg Total Church)? I reckon you’d love it mate

  4. stephengardner Says:

    Sam, Nick — glad you’ve found them helpful.
    Gez — good to see you here! I have read parts of their stuff and found it pretty helpful.

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

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