leadership and theology pt.2

As promised in this post, here is my follow up response concerning a note I received about a sermon on leadership. If you read the blog from afar, you probably realize that Epic is the name of our church.
Thanks for your note! It was thoughtful, engaging, and above all gracious! Sorry for the delayed response - I took all of Monday off. I appreciate the opportunity to clarify some of the things I said on Sunday, as we probably agree on a great deal. To be clear, the sermon on Sunday was meant as an /apologia/ for our current structure as a church. It was a chance to identify and speak to the disorientation people sometimes feel coming to Epic since we do not have traditional identifiable leadership teams. There is also the issue of Epic’s own history of problems with hierarchy and leadership that I wanted to address as well. My contention was that the trust and emphasis we place on position and role are misplaced, and that the formal structures of leadership are not what leadership really is. In fact, given the biblical rhetoric against the powers and structures of the world, I'm not sure if the formal structures of leadership can ever be what best encompasses leadership.

To answer your summary questions directly, I would say I do indeed believe in particular leadership traits, and I think that the best leadership traits are Christian ones. This for me is an important defining of leadership for it means that an effective tyrant is not a proper leader at all, certainly not a Christian one. It means that Christian leaders must have both goals and methods that are defined by the love of Christ. Leadership that influences without love or action is a compromised version of Christian leadership.

The formal structures and hierarchies of churches labeled “leadership” are not as important to us as the character and empowerment of Christians, for that is what Christian leadership is ultimately, not just a skill set revolving around influence or a title. I believe that a godly person with godly motivations, training in godly methods, exercising God-given gifts, will always result in the best kind of leadership, whether formal or not. That is what I think I see at work in Christ: with no formal leadership role he was able to change everything by the strength of who he was. In doing so, he was leadership exemplified, and our hope is to do the same, really. My thinking on this point has been greatly influenced by Max DuPree, author of “Leading Without Power,” among others.

In this way, 1 Samuel is subtle in its approach to leadership. Israel's demand for a king is a rejection of God's kingship, but the great irony is Samuel acts as the leader in the chapter! He is the one whom the people turn to, who must anoint the king, who intercedes with God, and who speaks God's word to the people, but his power comes in a different way, and he is not invested in keeping it. Like the Israelites, Epic is a church that’s had a difficult relationship to leadership and structures of power. I think there is a word for us that you have identified rightly, that God is our leader and confidence alone, and that we must each take responsibility for our growth!

This of course doesn’t mean we are alone in it. Far from it! I am very excited about the things we are planning as a church to help us grow in these things, and the approach to leadership development the board is considering. I am also very excited for your note and your sincere questions! There’s nothing more wonderful than genuine Christian dialog, people pursuing truth in love together. I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on the matter.

...Thanks so much,


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