If the church is a community at every level, from her shepherding leadership through her fully-engaged membership, then why do we build structures that destroy community, distort the influence of spiritual leadership, and diminish participation by the many for the voice of a few?
This is a hard post, and you must allow me some room to vent a bit. In my last few years I have had many questions and observations about the nature of the hierarchical, one-leader-at-the-top style of leadership that pervades Christendom. I have many questions, and I invite your input and critique.
Q: Why do we have “Senior” pastors, bishops and other individuals in whom we invest so much power and control, neglecting the communal imperatives of Scripture to appoint “elders” not “an elder” to shepherd the flock? And why do so many “lead” the elders and deacons and staff? It is not about the title, per se, but that too many SP’s are expected to be alone at the top. Is this the best approach?
Why do I hear so often from staff and committed volunteers, “Whatever the pastor wants, he gets, and what he does not want, we don’t do–even if it is the right thing.” Wow…is this the Church that humble, servant Jesus died to build?
The results of this model can be disastrous.
The damage, the bad decisions, the poor theology, the errant stewardship of tens of millions of dollars, the narrow teaching, the inadequate succession plans, and the cancerous nepotism are all so toxic to community. It seems like it is everywhere.
Why do we say, “At his church” or, “He’s built a great church” — really? Has “he” built a church? Why would we ever want that?
Is this part of the reason why our churches are filled with weak disciples, disengaged members, and lackluster servants who have lost heart?
Ephesians 4 says, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God…” but not one pastor. Hmmm. Instead it says he gave some –not one — to be pastors, apostles, prophets, etc. And it does not say, “and one of them is the leader of them all. He can hire and fire, and he should always get his way — it is all about him/her – his teaching, his vision, his values!” It sure seems that way based on the stories I hear.
This may sound harsh but if you could go behind the scenes of too many churches, and hear what many staff and key volunteers say about the hierarchical models they serve in, you might just be shocked at what goes on behind closed doors. Or maybe not.
The stories are riddled with power plays, anger dumps, favoritism (loyalty promotions some call them), lack of confrontation, belittling and berating of staff, treating elders and deacons as political action committees, and firing those who threaten their control (“God has called them elsewhere” is code sometimes for that.)
Hierarchy — not authority — is a deterrent to community in any size church. But I observe that the larger the church or organization the greater the number of layers. And thus more power is given to a few over so many. It can be scary — for the people AND the leader “at the top.”
Your thoughts? Am I off base? Really wrestling with what I hear and see, and what I believe the Bible teaches about leadership in community and for community, not lording it over a community.