What does pastoral leadership look like in a post-Christian world? What changes should be made? Should development be revamped? Or perhaps things should stay the same?
One thing is for certain. We live in an age where “pastor” means little to non-churchgoers. The vocation is often deemed archaic and perhaps even nefarious. For good reason too. The shift in cultural perception has a lot to do with how we’ve managed our own house.
The Bad News
The church institution produces a lot of unhealthy leaders (essentially male leaders). It should make us think twice about what’s going on with the system that builds, forms, and offers a mechanism for bad leaders to hide within its structures. This post won’t unpack all of the issues, but there is one worth noting.
So many problems stem out of the reliance of power-imbalance. Cataclysmic failure as a result of the misuse of power, along with the systems that prop them up, are too common. Thankfully, the explosive reach of social media has empowered victims to recognize and call out abusers.
Nonetheless, any system that forms church leaders should re-assess assumptions surrounding power.
Authority and the Lack Thereof
Pastors have long inherited positional authority in the day to day lives of Americans. Authority and trust were culturally given to the role and not necessarily the leader. Congregations, and at one time neighbourhoods and towns, listened to the words of the pastor almost by default. After all, when people searched for answers to life’s questions, they sought the church.
But that’s all changing.
The pastor and the church no longer enjoy blind positional authority. Which means increasingly people are not interested in what any pastor has to say.
Christians might listen, but even then, unless you’re a celebrity or the local pastor, your reach doesn’t extend very far. Influence is even eroding for denominational leaders such as bishops and superintendents.
In a post-Christian context, the religious “nones” also hold a fresh dose of skepticism for any leader in power. This is a generational shift as well.
In my context, I realized almost immediately that, “what the pastor says,” means little. I can’t mobilize people unto mission, vision, or even events by making statements and expecting people to follow.
That’s not because I lack the ability to play a traditional “dominant” role. Rather, there is little cultural memory of the relationship between pastor and congregation (I’m not saying it was healthy in past). Nor do they care to blindly follow that positional authority figure without a really good reason.
How Then to Lead
If you want to know how to lead, first look to Jesus.
What authority did Jesus have? All authority was given to him by the Father. But did he lead authoritatively? Did his disciples drop all they had to follow him because of his commands? I suppose some did, but they wouldn’t have stayed long unless there was something more. Years of venturing together as family was the more the disciples needed before taking on their own call with passion.If you want to know how to lead, first look to Jesus. – Rohadi Click To Tweet
The feature to Christ-like leadership and one that serves well in post-Christian context is simply relationship.
One of the values of V3 includes having a vision worth dying for. However, deep commitment like this doesn’t come easily. For those who have planted before, you know that telling people what to do and believe won’t work, and in the oft chance it does, it won’t have staying power.
Rather, it’s the life-on-life formation (discipleship) that creates reciprocal trust and respect that turns casual churchgoers into full fledged owners of community, vision, and values.
If there’s any authority to hold it’s only that which is given through friendship.
As we move forward as leaders of the church participating in the unfolding hope that is to come in neighborhoods and cities, we need to rely on healthier structures that form leaders and churches. Inherited authority is rare and prone to abuse. We can only lead from a place of humility and relationship. It’s a posture that not only reflects Christ, but is also seen as a value to a world that knows little about past church culture.
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