Vision and Theology in Church Leadership (Part Three)

Our theology should shape how we lead the church.

Christian theology emphasizes the giftedness of an individual and the importance of crafting a place in the organization accordingly. Put simply, the theological assumption is that churches are constructed according to the leading of the Spirit (1 cor 12.7). Each person bears a unique responsibility for a piece of the whole vision enterprise (which is the point of Ephesians 2.10).

Building on the arguments in Part One and Part Two, the practice of this theology results in what secular leadership academics call “distributed leadership.” You may lead in one thing and I may lead in something else, just as I may follow in one thing and you may follow in something else. Giftedness and competency are more important than position in the organization. The leader’s role is less about giving answers than focusing people on what God is doing in their midst.

How does this differ from governing by consensus?

Consensus leadership attempts to build agreement between followers. Consensus leaders bring people together to figure out what the direction of the organization should look like. The insistence on a unanimous vote is often one indication of this type of leadership.

There are several disadvantages to this:

  • It takes time to build consensus and opportunities can be lost.
  • People are often at different stages of understanding regarding the mission/purpose of the organization, requiring answers to the same questions over and over, while the frustration of others grows.
  • Some people are informed and some are not. “Pooled-ignorance” helps no-one yet those not informed have equal say with those who are.
  • Recalcitrant and difficult people (all churches have some) are given veto power over the mission of God (see Numbers 13.26-31).

In contrast, theologically informed leadership works on discerning what the Spirit is doing with His congregation. Therefore to “get vision and lead,” the pastor must look at the different patterns of Spiritual work in the lives of the people in the congregation. This in turn requires a pastor’s ministry (patterned on that of Jesus and the Spirit) to be highly relational.

So how does that work specifically? What are the general steps a church leader should follow and how are the difficulties of consensus leadership avoided? That is discussed in Part Four.

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