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Church leadership is important for lay and clergy

Church leadership is important. Whether clergy or lay people, it’s important that congregations have people who are willing to help a church organize and implement its mission and vision. It’s important that there are people willing to take on responsibilities and be accountable to a congregation. It’s important that there are people committed to seeing “the big picture” of what their congregation might be or what it needs to do. Church leadership is important.

Conference Comments by Conference Minister Mike Denton

The problem is that we’ve also made leadership into a false god. I’ve heard it—and I bet you’ve heard it too—when someone diagnoses a problem in a church with the phrase, “It all comes down to leadership.” This is not true. It’s never that simple. Some of “the problem” might be people in leadership, but I’ve never seen a situation where  it “all” comes down to leadership—rarely even most of it.

More often than not, when a leader becomes an identified problem, it’s because the community missed some steps. The community expected that the clergy person would help them find their mission and vision once they arrived instead of taking the time first to discern their own mission and vision and find someone who could help them live into it. Other times, the church invited someone into their community to do a task that, although clear, was unrealistic based on the human and financial capital they had available—growing the church, bringing in more young families, becoming relevant to their community.

Sometimes the congregation asks their leaders to change everything without recognizing what they might need to change in themselves. Too often the critique of the leader is actually a misplaced critique of the church. Frequently, the congregation is not taking responsibility to take the energy they’re putting into complaining into transforming their community.

Even when it’s clear that the behavior of a leader is problematic, that problem rarely emerges in a vacuum. We tend to put up with a problematic behavior or a behavior that’s not compatible with our values when it gets the results we want. We might not have systems within our congregation to share ongoing, healthy, supportive evaluation of local church leadership. We might have more of a consumer culture in our congregation that sees members as the consumers and leaders and “the help.” All of these things can help create and enable negative behaviors.

Church leadership is important. However, it doesn’t save churches as much as it reflects something back to churches about who they are and who they might be.

Church leadership is important as a part of a faith community. However, leadership is not more important, more powerful or more connected to God than the community as a whole. I know you’ve read before but take a few moments to read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

I recently had the experience of spending time with a chiropractor after some excruciating back pain seemingly came out of nowhere. I couldn’t figure out what I had done. In the first visit, they poked, prodded and took a whole bunch of x-rays. When I met with my doctor she was able to point out several problem areas in my back and let me know that it looked to her as though the current pain in my back had been coming for years. Sure, I’d had a few pains here and there but I’d ignored them when they seemed to go away. The story she showed me on the x-ray was of a body that had been adjusting to this problem or that problem for years and had finally run out of ways to adjust.

Now, I needed to work on healing as well as changing the ways I stood, held things and listened to my body. The sharp pain was only the presenting issue. What had gotten me to this point had been going on for years.

Sometimes, at the point there’s a problem, we treat leaders like an invading virus or bacteria that needs to be removed in order for the body to be healthy. Rarely is that analogy is apt. Leaders are a part of the body, the whole body. The whole body is called to love God and God’s people. The whole body is called to health. The whole body has to be open to being lead by the Spirit’s calling. The whole body has to keep Sabbath.  All parts of the body have to do their part for the sake of the whole body.

All parts of the body determine where and when adjustments in the body need to be made, which means that the whole body helps determine the actions of any one part of the body.

Together, dear Siblings in Christ, we are the Body of Christ. We are beloved. We are strong. We are resurrected. We are whole.

If we choose to be.


Copyright © June 2016 Pacific NW UCC News


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