thinking theologically: church leadership
Preparing the way, as a style of managing Christian organizations, turns ambivalence into creative tension. There is no avoiding the tension between the present age and the kingdom of God that is coming into the present.-Miniding God's Business, p.58How to think theologically about leading a church is difficult, and Anderson has been of immense help. In his book, Minding God's Business, he lays out some considerations that ground leadership practices in theological reflection more robust than most of the average "Next Generation Leadership!" books churned out. The tension of "what next?", -the difficulty of planning and anticipating the future while responsibly stewarding the present, often creates a paralysis in organizations. Groups want to move forward, but not lose their hard won identity. Anderson's ambivalence captures the paralysis that creeps in and makes it easier for churches to simply spin their wheels in place. He proposes a different model of leadership that, "prepares the way," by looking where God has been at work in the past and finding the signs there that point to his continued work in the future. It is a theological explanation of a good visioning process. It is helpful because it assumes a movement forward; the possibility of something new breaking in, in a manner that honors the historical presence of God within the organization. This also highlights the provisional nature of the organization as a response to God's work.
With this move, Anderson creates a kind of eschatalogical hermeneutic of the organization which takes seriously the historical presence of God in a people. To me, this is very challenging and exposes how deeply I assume the world is all there is, how I assume God operates parallel to it, apart from it. It is a much more serious and real way to understand a church or organization, that locates it within God's redemptive history but avoids baptizing everything an organization does as central to God's work in the world. I want to draw a connection here to Torrance's descriptions of what God was doing in Israel, incarnating and culminating in Christ but I need to understand the Church's role in that better as well as the ethical implications the idea of "preparing the way" leadership has, but I need to think it through more carefully. Here's the meat of the Anderson's passage for you:
The problem with ambivalence is that it is destructive to the creative relation between imagination and planning. Ambivalence fears promise as much as it distrusts planning. Where the will of God is caught in ambivalence, it either tends to be capricious (if there are discretionary funds available!) or cowardly. The thrust of our argument is that promises and plans are creatively related and can and ought to work together.
When preparing the way becomes the style of management for christian organizations, discernment is linked with discretion in such a way that the planning process begins with an evaluation of the present in terms of containing a sign of what is to come. The will of God is neither identified with "hunches" nor with projections of the past into the future. The will of God is that which must be discerned in the creative tension between what is and what is to come. Minding God's Business, p.59