Take Me To My Leader

January 31, 2005 — Leave a comment

I was looking over my last post, and was shocked by something I had written in the heat of trying to get out of Perk Central and to the church. I wrote:

My church will probably never be very hip (after all, I’m their leader!). Yet can we change to carry out God’s mission in the world.

What jumped out at me was the phrase, “I’m their leader.” How bleepin arrogant does that sound. Like I really have any control over a congregation’s identity? And who made me “The Leader” anyway?

I struggle with this whole leadership thing. On the one hand, I know practically that any community, any organization, needs identified leaders to help discern and clarify the mission and work of the organization. In the Methodist tradition that I hang out it, we talk about the ordained as “set apart for the tasks of proclaiming the word of God, supervising the administration of the sacraments, and providing leadership for the ordering of the ministries of a congregation.” I have been in communities that try to function from consensus, and know that consensus governance is time consuming, laborious, are rarely successful. Communities need leaders to help them carry out the work of ministry and like it or not, that is the role that I find myself in.

One the other hand, as a child of the 1960’s, I struggle with authority. Rigid hierarchies make me nervous (even though I am part of an Episcopal form of church governance) and I bristle at those church leaders who stand from on high and make pronouncements to the peons below. I don’t have any special revelation from God, no special phone line to the source of truth. I’m just a guy, like any other guy, struggling on the road to faith, who for some reason the church has allowed to stand up front and offer feeble advice along the way. I don’t really want to be the leader — I just wanted to be “one of the guys,” and opionated one for sure, but someone who is basically just another guy on God’s highway.

But, no matter how much I try to deny it, I still find myself in the leader role. I can say until I’m blue in the face that I want decisions to arise from the community, that I want to model a democratic instead of authoritarian leadership style, that I believe in servant leadership, and I want to divest myself of pastoral power, and yet, because of the office, the title, the pulpit, and the salary, I’m still identified as the leader. The goal for me is to keep it all in perspective, to continue to suggest that I am a leader among many, that I truly want to share power. It is also to be a reminder to all of us here that there is only one leader, and it ain’t someone who has a fancy title, who went to seminary, and who wears a cloth stole instead of a wooden crossbeam. If I have any role as leader, it’s to always point up and keep God in the conversation. It’s God who will change the culture. The best I can hope for is to prick their interest along the way.

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