Thursday, January 19, 2006

there is a need [intro]

i have been toying with this idea for a blog for a while, and i truly feel the time has come to get it out and get it going.

the idea behind this blog is simple - to teach what it means to be a servant - and not to be a leader. leaders are killing our churches. even if they are paid, or not paid, people who think they are leaders in a community of faith are killing churches. it is my personal conviction that jesus never calls anyone into leadership, but he does call us into servanthood - and to show you how this is so going against christian culture, and general culture, the word "servanthood" comes up as a misspelling in all spell checks - and that is sad.

let me start my republishing an article i wrote some time back, and then over time i will post idea on each topic.

Quantum Servanthood:knowing how to lead in chaos
by John O’Keefe  
“It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.” REM

Whether we like it or not we have moved from “Ozzie to Ozzy;” we have moved from the Nelsons to the Osbournes; from Harriet to Sharon, from Ricky to Kelly. We have moved from the modern to the postmodern/emerging; from the linier/absolute to the non-linier/subjective; from science/evidence to spirit/feelings; from intellect/truth to experience/real; from order/dictated to chaos/reality. You need to keep in mind that it is not that we are in the process of a shift; we have shifted; the changes are not coming, they are here, now, today. Because of this shift, it stands to reason that what worked in the 20C just won’t work in the 21C. Why you ask? The answer is simple, we think differently, we act differently, and we view the world differently, mainly because we are different. In a postmodern/emerging conversation we process information much differently, and because of that we respond to situations differently. This is because in much of our lives we have a different starting point; this not right or wrong, good or bad, it simply is. Please keep in mind that we are not “anti-modern” as some claim; it is that we are just not modern. So, it is not that we are “against,” we are just “not.” It truly does not matter what you call this shift in thinking, postmodern, emerging, hyper-modern, or anything else – the reality is a shift happened, and now as a church we need to learn to minister, outreach and “lead” in it.

Some could spend years telling us that this view is wrong, but it will fall upon deaf ears; we desire conversation, not dictation; do not give us directions, give us a map and let us plan the route we need to take. The heart, mind and soul of a postmodern/emerging person are just different, very different from that of a modern person. To reach us for Christ, you need to know the operating system postmodern/emerging people operate under. Keep in mind, we are emerging from the cocoon of the modern world to explore this new postmodern world with wings; we have become “the butterfly effect.” 

“Leadership” in the 21st century
I believe current leadership skills will not do much for the emerging church in the 21C. Now that I have totally alienated the entire “modern church leadership crowd,” here is why I believe current leadership skills are obsolete. Current leadership (“modern” leadership, if you will) tends to [and are based on] the military/industrial model. Most, if not all, of what is believed to make a “good leader” is based on industry, capitalism and profit motives; success of a modern leader is measured in numbers, market share, profit, size and structure of the organization. Modern leadership is very mechanical, “in charge,” rigid and “sharp.” Many in the church strive to give modern leadership principles a “Christian edge” by searching for scripture to “back-up” their point of view. Yet, in reality, is this is impossible. Modern leadership principles do not start in scripture (though they do strive to “make” scripture fit), they start in the world of business and in American culture. To be honest, I find that this starting point does not serve the church well; in fact it does not “serve” the church at all.

Without going into great detail and sounding negative about leadership in the current church, let me point out several major areas where I believe current “leadership” fails; my desire over the coming months is not to dwell on the “negative” but rather to focus on the “positives” on a new, emerging leadership style that is developing in emerging churches.

First, it encourages people to play with the data to accomplish the desired results. When success is based on “numbers” then numbers must be “high” for success to be achieved. For example, I personally know of a church that proclaimed “we are growing with 90% new Christians.” Cool, but what does that mean? The church believes that you must be “baptized by immersion as an adult confessed believer” to be a “true Christian” anyone coming from a tradition that baptized him or her as a infant is seen as a “new Christian,” no matter how long that person has been going to church, and believes in their heart that Jesus is Lord. Because we desire to play the number game, we need to find a way to “count” people who come from other traditions as “new members.” By leaving certain info in, and other info out, you bias any decision in favor of your point, 'what do you want it to be?' Playing with statistics can prove we do not have a homeless problem, a housing problem, or an environmental problem but in reality we know we have these problems.

Second, it does not account for the most important variable, people. Being “passive aggressive” means that people do not truly count, other things count more; cash, building, capital equipment, image, programs and “things” mean more then the person seeking to be served. The hardest variable in any decision is people. Built into the matrix of a modern leadership is the idea that when you are looking at a decision to be made, economic realities take the lead, and people take the end. Many times, churches have decided not to “do a ministry” because the “cost” would be too much, never mind the importance of helping people. the current church sees “cash over cause.”

Third, it centers on the unknowable bottom line. This is related closely to the first and second point in that “numbers matter” and “the bottom-line” is important – an in this point the “numbers” center on the almighty dollar. Many churches define it, as being “good stewards of God’s money,” but is it? Current church leadership focuses on the bottom line, not in the real sense of “making money” but being so tight that they refuse to spend a single penny – in many cases it is not “making” money that modern church leaders spend time on, but and “keeping” as much of it as possible. In a postmodern/emerging matrix “money” is not a driving force. I am not suggesting that postmodern leaders are not concerned with how they spend the money given, I am saying that they do not see this as a major point – causing major headaches for ministries – because they place people above money – the cost of something is seldom an issue if it can help a person heal or have a better life in Christ.

Fourth, “programs” become the driving force in ministry. Given the fact that “numbers” are important, “programs” become a needed reality for the current church because they are a way to “create numbers.” I remember once having an idea about building relationships in the church. The idea was to tell people, “we will be meeting in the park at this time, join us if you can.” The idea was simple – let people know when and were we would meet. Soon, the leaders of the church caught wind and thought it was a great idea also – they instructed me (love that, a key point in modern leadership is to tell others what to do) to “develop the program.” When I explained there was no “program” and that I was uncomfortable with making it a “program” I was removed from the responsibility and another person was place in charge of the “event.” What was supposed to be a simple little gathering in the park (a project), soon turned into a huge program designed from start to finish with logo and all; it even had a cool “planned outcome;” increase membership, increase the Sunday offering.

Fifth, church “leaders” have moved beyond serving and see themselves as “self-important” and in need of others to serve them. This last problem I see in the current church is one that I desire to focus on, and that is the idea of “servant-leader.” I have to admit that I am not a big fan of the idea of “servant-leader” because with all the pastors I know who tout it as “the leadership style of the church” I know of none that are servants first and “leaders” last.

I remember once sitting in my office when a woman came in, sat in a chair, looked me dead in the eye, and started crying. You should have seen the frenzy in the office; people running all over the place to find out what happened and what they could do to help her. When we finally got her settled down, she said, “I just walked in your office – right past the secretaries, right past the other pastors, right past your assistant and right into your office. They all said “hi” but no one stopped me from walking in. In my old church that would have never happened; I could have never seen the Senior Pastor, never mind just walking in without an appointment.” This disconnection to the people they serve keeps them at a distance from those they need to be on par with. They believe, for whatever reason, that their time is of great value, of more value then a woman who needs their help because her husband is beating her, or of a teen who is being abused and hurt and is about to end his life because of the pain in his life. What modern church leaders do not realizes is that there is a shift in the role of a pastor in the church. Modern church leaders miss the understanding of being connected, assessable, relational, family and community.

“Quantum Servanthood” in the 21C
Well, with all that being said, and its one thing to point out the flaws of the current system of “leadership, “ that’s easy. We need to ask, what makes a “postmodern/emerging” system different? What is the foundation of “postmodern/emerging” servanthood? Why do I see servanthood and being defined as “quantum servanthood?”

To start with, let me say that I believe a “leader” in the 21C needs to be more servants, poets, artists, creative thinkers and far less “boss leader” to truly reach the postmodern/emerging mind for Christ. I love the paradox of the term “quantum.” In general, quantum means “a share or portion; a large quantity or bulk.” And yet in physics it means, “the smallest quantity of radiant energy.” It is, at both times, the smallest and the largest, I love that. What “quantum servanthood” says to me is, being a servant is both something we do on a personal level and on a community level; that we serve Christ and each other. I love the idea that in a “quantum” reality we can be, when we are in true service to others, a small quantity of the “radiant energy” that is Christ in us all. I work under the belief that Jesus never called anyone to “leadership.” Jesus called us to servanthood; “So Jesus got them together to settle things down. He said, "You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It's not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.” (Matthew 20:25-27); also, “And don't let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them--Christ. "Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty. (Matthew 23:10-12).

Here is a little fun thing to do, type the words “servanthood” or “servantship” into a word document, it will come-up “redlined” because in USAmerica there is no such thing as “servanthood” or “servantship” because we do not see being a servant as being anything of value, but for Christ service is where all value is placed. The idea behind true servanthood is a heart that is willing to go last, a theology that says “I am not as important as the people God gave me to watch over” and a heart that is willing to trust that God will bless a “good and faithful servant.” What I believe as being a servant in the 21C, is very different then the modern church leader. I believe that a postmodern/emerging servants is:  

Visual:  “Come and you will see” are the words Jesus shares. Attractors:  Andrew went and got his brother Simon Peter to bring to Jesus.
Connective:  Jesus knew the lives of his disciples.
Chaotic: They do not know the absolute results, but they go anyway.
A Catalyst: A catalyst transforms things, without being changed in the process.
Be a Multiplier:  Addition is not the way, and subtraction is unacceptable.
A Guide: They walk along side, and not push from behind
A Story Teller:  They know the story, and they know the community
A Solver:  conflict breeds conflict.
All this has one very important underlying factor – all leadership in the 21C is organic. Over time I would like to explore these areas as being an idea of “quantum leadership” in the emerging church. Keep in mind that I have no desire in making them the “definitive” set of qualities but rather a starting point for discussion. Over the next few months my desire it to expand upon these and then offer them as a collection to be downloaded and printed. My original thought was to “write a book” but finding a publisher that would be willing to take a book that discounts current leadership models is very hard (if you know of one, let me know).   


At 6:22 PM, Blogger Truth Scout said...

Good stuff. How about a magazine called "Servanthood" to replace the one called "Leadership". Modern leadership has led us away from Christ and sacrificial love. Perhaps servanthood can restore us.


At 11:15 PM, Blogger spamthewunderdog said...

Hey John, very groovy stuff man. As far as a publisher is concerned, give these guys a look see:

At 5:48 AM, Blogger dthomas96 said...

The conversations that I have with "emergents" the one thing that always gets pointed out, is that I shouldn't make generalized statements... but that is exactly what most of the emergent literature/blogs have done. How can you blanket all of the tens of millions of people in America with derogatory remarks about their spiritual condition?

I understand that there are churches who focus on the bottom line--I've worked in those as well--,but for each one of those churches I could name a few more who are truly concerned about the Gospel. There are fundamental disagreements among/between conservatives and post-modern/emerging/liberals (ie whether Paul is relevant, the bible inerrant, the miraculous just a metaphor...)

but if the claim is that the "church emerging" cannot be categorized, then why does this movement insist on placing the traditional church in a box?


At 9:38 AM, Blogger Ben Dubow said...

The problem with what you suggesting is that it is unbiblical. Your critique is with bad leadership, not leadership per se.

Leadership is a spiritual gift. Leaders serve the church by leading. Obviously, one hopes this by leading well, humbly, through servanthood and prayer... but still leading.

We shoudl be careful that we not negate and of the spiritual gifts simply because they have not always been used well.

At 10:11 AM, Blogger s.o said...

I think the idea is vastly meaningful. In church organizations I have been involved with, I have literally felt this dynamic of "leadership" vs. "servanthood." Clearly the terms are blury, but our ministry positions are pointing us in certian directions. I think it is easy to get caught up in the "leadership" mantra.
Therefore, I really like the "quantum servanthood" idea.
Please keep it up, elaborate, and continue the discussion.


At 9:44 PM, Blogger lori said...

I hear you. I really do. I've been in the churches you describe and bristled under all the number keeping, program development etc that you describe. The probem isn't that these churches have leadership- it's that they have poor leadership. Leadership isn't something that can simply be removed from an organization. Not if it is to survive. Leadership is Biblical. God used people throughout Scripture to lead and carry out His plans. Men and women. But, Jesus was clear that the type of leadership that the Lord prescribes is the kind that serves and doesn't "lord it over" those we lead.
Leadership should look different in this post-modern world.(Not because post-mods require different styles- but because Jesus said so.) But, leadership has been changing in the secular/corporate world as well. Even management expert Jim Collins admits that the Great leaders are leaders that look like Jesus- a strong will combined with a large amount of humility and "others focus".
I have had the privilege of serving with some true servant/leaders- I've also served with some real ego guys that did a lot of damage. There are always plenty of both.

One last thing- Brian McLaren wrote a great article for rev magazine (2000) about leadership in the post-modern world. He used as a leadership model a young girl we all know and admire. Her name is Dorothy and she led a team to a place called Oz by casting a vision, inviting them to be a part, walking side-by-side with those she led, encouraging them along the way, and never losing her laser focus on where they were headed and why. She was "one of them" not really superior to them, but just a little more clear & determined about where they needed to go.
I think she's a great role model for any pastor that wants to know what servant/leadership looks like in the 21st century.


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