As has been blog-mentioned already, old friend Robbymac passed through town last week. He called me up Tuesday to arrange lunch, and we dove straight into a conversation that 5 minutes in, we were mentioning Greek word studies. I kid you not. About that point we came to our senses and deferred the remainder of the conversation for half an hour until we were face to face awaiting food in a restaurant. Good friendships are like that… you tend to skip the preamble and dive right in.

It was much the same a few days later when we were arranging to meet shortly… I think my phone timed the conversation at around 11 minutes, during which we must have covered six or eight unrelated subjects that might rightly have waited until we got together. My wife has a friend like this that she works nights with, and sometimes they’ll spend 20 minutes or so on the phone before they go to work… and I just look at her halfway through and say, “You’ll be seeing her in half an hour….” This isn’t to imply that I understand when she does it though.

I’ve known Rob for 19 years now (gulp!), and we’ve lost touch for up to 3 years at a stretch. We might go a year or longer without talking and catching up, but when we have eventually done so, we always tend to dive right in. Email has helped a lot, and blogging even moreso, as it helps keep the relationship current. Anyway, it’s good to spend time with friends.

That was the preamble.

Rob and I spent Friday afternoon deconstructing leadership and authority in the church. This is part of an extended “kicking around” that we’ve been giving the subjects of “spiritual authority” and the teaching on “spiritual covering” as well as the whole anti-heirarchical approach to church, seeking servant leaders who don’t “lord it over” others. It’s also related to the post-charismatic series that Rob is working on right now, as there is a lot of thinking and discussing to be done as the work progresses. Problem on this single issue is that we’re far better at deconstructing than at reconstructing. Reconstructing is much harder work, and once we’d thrown out the leadership structures we’ve known for so long, it’s not easy to build them back up without constructing some of the very things for which we tossed out the old structures.

Some conversational notes and theories:

  • You can’t hold someone accountable unless you have some form of power over them. If they don’t wish to “confess their sins” you can’t make them, and if they choose to lie to cover them, you won’t necessarily know about it. Accountability is voluntary, and it’s only false security that comes from knowing someone is “accountable” to another person.
  • There is a kind of “true accountability” that comes in relationship through mutual submission and honesty. It is a good and healthy thing — but it shouldn’t be seen as “security” that someone in ministry won’t fall.
  • If you’re in leadership or a lay-leader in a church and you’re struggling with some area or sin, keep your mouth shut. Just a lesson learned by observation in some of the churches we’ve seen… if you struggle, they’ll just take you out and put in someone who can keep their mouth shut. They probably struggle too, but nobody knows; leaders should be or appear to be perfect and holy. (Just the cycnical side coming out on that one.)
  • People weren’t made to hold power over other people… this kind of power isn’t the way of the Kingdom Jesus talked about.
  • Does God actually give authority to one person over another? Does he put one person “in charge” of another? Does a person have pastoral authority because of an office and a salary? I think not.
  • Or does authority come by serving? Might a person rather have pastoral “authority” (if that’s the right word) because it came through serving those whom s/he pastors? Might this kind of authority come only as it’s given by individuals… iow, might it be relational instead? These sound more like the Kingdom Jesus talked about.
  • Does “authority” or rather the “right” to speak into another person’s life come by serving them, and by yielding the “right” to them to speak into your life? Hmmm, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ,” you say?
  • Relationships in the church are not meant to have power imbalances. Heirarchies create power imbalances.
  • And then there’s that conversation about leaders and managers…

  • Leaders set vision, direction, create change. Managers create stability. Both are necessary.
  • “Training and releasing leaders” is a myth, a farce, forget it. If you’ve got any leaders in your church, they likely aren’t sitting in your training course, they’re out doing something. Chances are high they’re the ones in the church causing the most trouble. The people in the training course are managers, and they’ll do well at creating stability. While training and mentoring doesn’t hurt, leaders don’t generally need releasing.
  • The fivefold ministries (APEPT) represent a balance of leaders and managers. Apostles and Prophets are leaders, Pastors and Teachers are managers. Evangelists, well, they’re just out inviting everyone else to the party.
  • The fivefold ministries (APEPT) are not heirarchical or authoritative (more here).

These thoughts and notes are just a few highlights from the conversation… stuff we’ve been tossing around a little, ruminating on. Nothing set in stone, all open to comment.

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