Leading a Church

Here's an important question for you to answer if you attend a church in any capacity: What does it mean to "lead a church?" The more I have stepped back to examine churches and their leaders, the clearer it has become to me that there is an epidemic of festering misconception of what it means to be a leader who claims to follow Christ. In The Myth of Christian Authority, I outlined an aspect of this confusion which is especially pernicious: insisting on obedience of church members in direct opposition to Luke 22:25-26.

In addition, though, there are additional disturbing aspects of the way that most of those in positions of oversight in churches that are rampant, the most prevalent of which is codependency.

Many churches rely on providing "support" to their members and others in their community as a source of identity. As Thom S. Rainer mentions in his article "The Most Common Factor in Declining Churches," churches have become more and more insular with the focus on the members and no outward focus. However, he doesn't go far enough in his analysis. Digging deeper, it is clear that the underlying issue is an unwillingness to allow the laity to shine and step into the fullness of their gifts, talents, and skills. Instead of growing members into their full selves, church leaders work to make them comfortable and "happy." This is what Rainer outlines as a focus within, but the underlying reason is that the people in the church are not allowed to be all that they were created to be. They are kept passive and content through the organization catering to their desires and whims, believing that it exists for them.

It doesn't.

At least, not in the way they are led to believe.

Romans 12:6-8 makes clear the purpose of the church: to encourage everyone to step into their gifts and calling, to develop the skill to align with their gifts, and to, in a nutshell, become all that they were created to be. When people are allowed and encouraged to shine, they focus outwardly since there aren’t enough ways to exercise those gifts internally to keep them fully engaged.

The moment the entire body is encouraged to step into that reality, the church cannot possibly look within; there is too much energy and drive as a result of full engagement.

Of course, it requires a recognition that the leaders are not in control. No human is. So, it's messy, but it's supposed to be! It's part of the growth for everyone to let go. But, it's scary and forces the leaders to let go of the illusion that they are dictating the future. It's an attractive illusion, though, and allows the leaders to feel important and powerful. But it's a lie.

So, if you are a leader, set the people free!

If you are a member of a church, expect to be guided into the fullness of who you are. If your leaders aren't doing that, be clear that you expect it. Call them to their bigger selves. Don't compromise on this, though. You are the one who is responsible and accountable for being all you were made to be. Anything or anyone keeping you from that is an obstacle to overcome. You don't need to be obnoxious about it, but be insistent.

Be free. Love yourself.