Leadership systems often operate reactively. Though few would admit it, leadership cultures often operate to serve the church by “protecting it” from what they fear the most. This is a reactive, fear-based way of approaching church leadership. This way of leading isn’t of God, because it’s rooted in fear. This model bears two children in congregational life: unicorn hunting and ambush.
The Blind Side
We may use terms like “accountability” as a rationale, but the irony of such systems is they inevitably leave those holding others accountable without accountability. While spending time insuring the church against, say, an “autocratic minister,” the church creates an autocratic eldership. By guarding against an autocratic eldership, the church creates inappropriate power for committees. These are the games anxiety plays with us.
The Unicorn Hunt
In Churches of Christ, for instance, the leadership paradigm is built to guard against the autocratic minister. Yet, I’ve never seen one. If one were to be found in Churches of Christ, they would be a unicorn indeed. However, there are many examples of dysfunctional autocracy among those given authority to, ironically, protect the church against the autocratic ministers. Yet, few churches adapt to protect themselves from this problem, which has proven to be far more crippling. In fighting they, potentially, create a new one they don’t recognize.
Churches that prevail over time create leadership paradigms based on the paradigm’s ability to help the church best carry out God’s objectives. They are not built to “guard” against anything. This isn’t to say there is no such thing as healthy accountability. Of course there is. It just isn’t healthy accountability if it’s spawned by anxiety. That’s when “accountability” is really just “control.”
Churches would do better to provide processes to insure non-burdensome “accountability” for all in leadership. This might reduce the power games, the nuclear explosions, and the damaged lives. It would certainly cut down on the blind sides and unicorn hunts–and free up a surge of energy for mission.
What might some of those processes be? If you have some ideas, I’d love to hear them.
Thoughts? Who is your church fighting against?