Mutual Movemental Leadership

Re-imagining New Scaffolding

In planting a missional-incarnational church you will collide with the big question “How do we do leadership in this new but old way of being the church?” Re-imagining and reconstructing leadership scaffolding are essential for being a movemental church in Post-Christianity, but it can be hard to find templates. I confess that my own history in leadership was baptized in isolated Bible verses and fortune 500 culture; it was overly-individualized and overly-professionalized in its approach.

I began to ask the question how does leadership function in a land where old maps no longer work? 

The challenge was to pare back my zealous leadership efficiency in order to resurrect a mutual missional leadership that is fluid, communal, sustainable and built to equip the People of God. Without being exhaustive, what follows is the basic principles for cultivating a leading community. Naturally when I speak of a more inclusive and participatory leadership, pragmatic types see chaos and anarchy. My experience has been the opposite. It is not romantic or without it’s struggles but it is a framework that pushes to the surface the value of mutuality rather than hierarchy.  

1. Communal before Clergy

Jazz bands give us a helpful metaphor for a more communal leadership. They are typically represented by five parts or sections, rhythm (base, guitar, piano, drums), woodwind (clarinet, saxophone), brass (trombone, trumpet, tuba), string (violin, Cello) and vocalists.

Jazz bands give us a helpful metaphor for a more communal leadership. ~ Dan White Jr Click To Tweet

As each of the parts play in harmony, our souls are moved. Just as the jazz band tends to have different instruments that play different parts of the band, Christ has gifted different leaders to the church (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelist, Shepherds and Teachers), so that we might create something beautiful. To spot the band members we must have eyes to see the five-fold intelligence’s in others.

Establish a mosaic of voices even if it causes things to slow down a bit. Speed is not the value, mutuality is.

The movement of the Kingdom was not intended to revolve around one gifted solo artist, propped up on a stage as a magnetic communicator. Here the 5-Fold of Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher is essential for organizing a communal elder/staff team. It is also wide open for both women and men to gather around the table to offer their voices. A leadership team structured around the 5-fold creates holistic ministry rather than personality driven ministry.

2. Submissional before Sergeants

When people awaken to their 5-fold, have grown in maturity, are living missionally, and have developed a track record of trust, they may be ready to move into mutual leadership, at this point invite them to lead with you and others. Find a role or environment that permits and releases them into their 5-Fold, inside or outside the church walls.

As they are in mutual leadership with you, seek to prop up their voice, and actively submit to their promptings and guidance. Together we have the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. There is no chain of command, no louder voice. Sure, our personal passions and strengths lean towards emphasizing certain areas, but we practice equality and mutual submission in valuing each other’s opinions, experiences and perspectives. Authentic consensus is valued over compliance. The work of agreement is exhausting at times but it cultivates ownership.

There is no chain of command, no louder voice. Together we have the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. ~ Dan White Jr Click To Tweet

One of the ways the five-fold works within mutual leadership, is that when you are planning and meeting as a team, engage in putting on different hats with the 5-fold, what Edward de Bono has called “thinking hats”. This is a good way to practice listening and thinking from a perspective different than we do intuitively, and has the opportunity to bring unity and maturity to the whole jazz band. Circle around the room and ask the Apostle how they see this decision from an Apostolic perspective, ask the Prophet how they see this decision from a prophetic perspective, ask the Evangelistic how they see this from a evangelistic perspective, ask the Shepherd how they see this from a Shepherding perspective, and ask the Teacher how they see this from a Teaching perspective.

Maybe this sounds laborious but I can attest it creates a robust creativity and synergy for mission. This leadership space can feel like a pressure cooker but learning to share power might be the most transformative work that takes place in a leading community.

3. Disciplers before Deciders

Leaders are first disciplers because we are all called to apprentice others as we apprentice under Jesus. A leadership team cannot make good decisions unless they are inhabiting the sacred, complicated space of being entrenched relationally with others on the journey of discipleship. This means an active calendar of sitting still with a small band of people to navigate inner-life, family, mission and community. Leadership is not primarily about making decisions. Our first responsibility is developing people, empowering their inherent priesthood and inviting them to follow the words and ways of Jesus, as we seek to do the same.

Leadership is not primarily about making decisions. Our first responsibility is developing people. ~ Dan White Jr Click To Tweet

Our ability to influence is built on continued, transparent, relational proximity instead of church structured programs with us at the helm. Discipleship is the central task of all leaderships, it is what keeps us rooted and movemental. When leadership drifts into titles, stage time, and merely running programs it naturally become hierarchical.

4. Consultive before Concrete

Be available, accessible, in direct dialogue breaking bread together. Spend unhurried time meeting with people, discussing the movements of the community before forming a concrete position on an issue. Hold forums, dinners, coffee-talks to receive consultation from the larger communities. Ask the poor how they feel, ask children how they feel, ask marginalized voices how they feel. Let feedback weigh heavily on the Leading Community.  Believe that the Holy Spirit is in them just as much as it is in you. Don’t treat this like a hoop to jump through. Embrace this for what it is: listening to the voice of the Spirit through others. Don’t expect people to feel like they have permission to give input, unless you create space for it: listening prayer, brainstorm sessions, discernment labs, etc.

5. Accountability before Autonomy

Leadership status can become the source of the lie that says “I don’t need accountability because of who I am.” Resist this impulse by covenanting to a yearly rhythm of life together that orients around three parts of identity: communion with God, community with each other, and co-mission in the neighborhood. This is the glue that keeps a mutual team together. This is much more than a doctrinal statement or code of conduct. It is covenantal and accountability to a way of living together, for each other, under God.

1. Commit to orienting around community by working towards vulnerability, truth-speak, pointed encouragement, and weekly shared meals.

2. Cultivate silence, sabbath, and a contemplative life in communion with the Father, Son, and Spirit.

3. Champion each other toward daily, weekly, monthly mission to a particular people and place.

Skills do not qualify leaders, the character of our life does. This accountability to the “way we are human” requires the constant self-evaluation among the leading core.

About the Author
Dan White Jr.

Dan White Jr.

Dan co-planted Axiom, a faith community in Syracuse, NY with the compelling commitments of tight-knit community, locally-rooted presence, and life-forming discipleship. He works as a consultant and missional coach with the V3 Movement. He also co-founded The Praxis Gathering. Dan is the author of Love Over Fear: Facing Monsters, Befriending Enemies, and Healing Our Polarized World ,Subterranean , and co-author of The Church as Movement winner of InterVarsity Press Book of the Year 2017. Dan is married to Tonya, dad to Daniel and Ari, and can be found enjoying conversations at Salt City Coffee.

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