On the anniversary of John Lennon’s death, on the day that Celine Dion appeared on CNN to sing Imagine (yikes!), Bill Kinnon came out with a provocative post More Disciples, Fewer Leaders Please. The whole post is worth reading.
Bill quotes Chris Wright. This is a brilliant quote and it deserves a lot of attention and thought:
I wouldn’t start out with training leaders, I’d start out with making disciples.
I don’t know what I can say to this except “Amen.” It’s brilliant and I think it’s exactly right.
Bill also quotes Scot McKnight, who says:
…leadership too often places the pastor or some person in the front and having others be guided (and following) that person, and that, I dare say, distorts the entire gospel. Jesus was willing to say that his followers didn’t have a rabbi of their own, didn’t have a human father in a position of ultimate authority, and they didn’t have an instructor who was their teacher. They had one rabbi and one instructor, and his name was Jesus, and he was Messiah. They had one father, and he was Creator of all. They were to see themselves as brothers, not leaders. That’s straight from the lips of Jesus.
Again, a lot of truth here. And yet…
There’s no doubt we’re a little too fascinated with leadership. Leadership is important, as I’m about to argue, but it’s not everything. I think Bill and the others are right to argue that we need a greater focus on discipleship than we do on leadership in our churches.
But one of the commenters gets it right:
I think sound leadership is crucial and always present in healthy churches. It’s sometimes hard to notice leadership until you find yourself somewhere where it’s very bad, or where there is none. I’ve seen churches that are dominated by a charismatic leader who holds the key to everything in the church. But I’ve also seen churches so eager to “democratize” all their practices, that no one is willing to make a decision or take responsibility for it.
I think much of our modern-day distaste for the word “authority” colors our perception of the role of leadership in the church. But I think the Bible explicitly and implicitly acknowledges how crucial leadership is.
All through Scripture we see leaders. One of the primary themes is that of shepherd, which is a rich leadership metaphor we need to take seriously. The question is not whether or not we need leaders. The question is what type of leader we need.
I’m all for reacting against leadership fads. But let’s not imagine that there are no leaders. Let’s instead begin to explore what a biblical leader is to do – and most of all to be.