after the funky little christmas morning service at [p]ilgrim church i talked with [b]ill spencer, [p]ilgrim's pastor of encouragement and resident provocateur, about this and that. he mentioned that e. kerr, a student of his and a friend of mine, had recently left his position at a local church because he finally grew weary of the autocratic, patriarchal style of the congregation's lead pastor. the revelation that one of our most innovative christian minds left the area for pennsylvania, really pissed me off. thus, i continued the conversation by mentioning the inverse relationship i have observed between shared leadership and growth.*
bill quickly agreed with my (admittedly) ad hoc assessment. he said that on a number of occasions people have left their congregation because he refused to be the sole, spectacular leader who provided most of the teaching, imposed his vision and designed/adapted/employed the institution to fulfill his vision. there is little question that bill has the ability to be the type of leader these people want, for he speaks incredibly well, his enthusiasm is infectious and he's even written a number of books. however, he thinks that exchanging [p]ilgrim's shared leadership structure for a sole, autocratic leader would be foolish.
as i reflect on our conversation, i am left with a couple of questions:
1. why do the masses long to be led by a single individual?
2. why are those who are called and equipped to be pastors attracted to this model?
a. what psychological needs does such a position fulfill?
b. should their attraction be attributed to tradition or a particular understanding of mission?
3. is it possible for shared leadership structures to overcome the inversion i have observed?
a. if the answer is yes, what are the steps to such success?
b. if the answer is no, are leaders of shared leadership congregations being to some degree unfaithful to Christ's commission?
if you have any responses or thoughts you would like to share, please do so. moreover, please note that these ecclesiological musings are not a harangue against or an accusation of the congregational model or other traditional forms of church. i'm just trying to understand the ever-evolving ecclesiology of the non-institutional church.
*a shared leadership structure seems to lead to less numerical growth. i haven't done any rigorous study in this area, but i suspect that shared ecclesiastical leadership leads to a diverse understanding of mission, a theology that is shaded with a bit more ambiguity and a composite, as opposed to a unitary, vision. since numerical growth is not my sole focus, i think this is a good thing. however, if i were more narrowly focused on saving souls or evangelizing in the traditional sense, i'd probably rethink our shared leadership structure.
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