UMC

Is servant leadership a form of idolatry?

Leadership is a very strong emphasis in the UMC these days. It is one of the Four Focuses of the UMC. There are hundred of books and countless seminars on this subject of being a better leader.

Leadership is a big deal to many organizations and the UMC is no exception.

Some of the conversations in the UMC have understood that when talking about leadership, we are talking about a specific and alternate way of leadership. So the phrase "servant leader" is thrown about when we remember to do so. This is helpful for those who view leadership as being the first to charge solo into battle on a white horse while waving a sword over their head. It is even helpful for those who view the best leaders as those who operate like a CEO or a President.

But even servant leadership is a bit of missing the mark. It still places the emphasis on the individual who is deemed the leader to be the primary actor. If the person is riding horse back into battle or if they are washing feet of their friends, the action is still centered on the leader who is doing all (or most) of the work.

Here is where that view of leadership misses the mark. If we view leadership as a quality that we desire for pastors and lay members of the Church, then is it idolatrous to first focus on the actions of the person we might call the "leader"? Is it not appropriate to first focus on the way in which the Head of the Church (Jesus) is doing and then learn to follow?

What I mean is Christian leadership is not primarily focused on getting people more knowledge so they would know how to act in a situation that comes up. It is not about getting people to dream a dream and get people to "come along". It is not about getting others to be like us or follow us.

Christian leadership is primarily focused on instilling wisdom of the Spirit into people so we would know how to listen to others. It is centered on helping people see the vision that has already been cast by Christ and live into that reality. It is about inviting others to be be like Christ and follow.

Leadership in a Christian context is first and foremost about "follower-ship".

We already have a leader.

Spiritual Entrepreneurship and new churches

Back in 2009 I wrote a bit about Spiritual Entrepreneurship as a concept that I encountered at a conference I was at.

I am not sure what it means to be a spiritual entrepreneur but at the heart of the matter is one who is willing to risk.

Around this time of year, ministers in the UMC are on a bit of an edge as there is a chance that different ministers might be moved to different churches. This creates a number of distractions, which I have come to welcome as best as I can.

For a number of reasons that I do not understand where they all come from, I am commonly asked if I want to start my own church. Words like, entrepreneurial, young, spirited, motivated and creative are used to butter up the person and get them thinking about starting a new church. This is something I have never been interested in at all. The church has a lot of communities to tend to much less ditch the old in order to start a new one just because that is where the new tract homes are being built.

I know that to start a church takes a lot of drive and motivation and grit, but to be honest I do not have those attributes when it comes to starting a new church. I many ways I feel starting new church would be easier than to revitalize an existing church and that is often overlooked.

The UMC is able to move those who are are spiritual entrepreneurials to where ever needed - but it seems those people are asked to start new churches rather than work to revitalize the established communities. What would it look like to move leaders who are willing to risk to established churches? What would it look like to infuse a stale church community with the spiritual entrepreneurship of a leader?

Ultimately what I pray for is that in our efforts to be creative in ministry and start new churches or new models of ministry, I hope that we are not boxed into thinking that spiritual entrepreneurs are best used in non-traditional ways.

Because sometimes (perhaps many times) they are not.