Equippers as Environmentalists: Re-Imagining Leadership in Today’s Western Church Part IX
After an introduction – Part I, Part II, Part III, and looking at the five mega shifts happening in our Western Culture – Part IV ,Part V, Part VI and Part VII, and Part VIII, now it is time to re-imagine leadership in this context.
RE-IMAGINING LEADERSHIP IN THE WESTERN CONTEXT
We need Environmentalist (s)
Change in culture requires a different approach to leadership. As Eddie Gibbs says, “Yesterday’s solutions and procedures may not provide an adequate or appropriate response to the present challenges. Hence, the biggest hurdles facing long-time leaders may not be in learning new insights and skills, but in unlearning what they consider to be tried and true and what thus provides them with a false sense of security” (Gibbs 2005:35).
While change has always been a part of our world, the types of mega shifts we are experiencing at his time require environmentalists who can engage in the art of bilingual theological reflection, not master programmers programming for a world that is fading. We need environmentalists who are sensitive to the Spirit of God, who have an acute awareness of the culture in which we are called to engage, and the ability to organically shape environments where life emerges in spontaneous ways. We need equippers who live as environmentalists and cultivate the kind of culture that helps to birth contextualized contrast-societies who live as a sign, foretastes, and instruments of God’s coming kingdom.
As I have contemplated the context that we find ourselves, I have drawn much encouragement from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Paul encourages us to embody the good news in such a way where power is distributed rather than centralized, and truth is embodied instead of debated, thereby speaking to a host culture that is skeptical of power and truth.
Watchmen Nee summarized the book of Ephesians in three words: sit, walk, stand. After three chapters of sitting down with God and understanding his plan and purpose from the foundation of the world, Paul teaches us how to walk as a community. In Ephesians chapter four, Paul first addresses our attitudes, then talks about our common creed, and then he describes how God has given the church five different equippers who incarnate various ministries so that the entire body is awakened and moves toward the full stature of Christ in both attitude and mission.
In the United States, it is common for churches to be structured and very hierarchical, with a senior or lead pastor, associate pastors, other staff, and then finally volunteers. Yet how does this structure speak to people who live with appropriate skepticism of power? And how does this kind of structure take seriously new systems science and what we are learning about organic structures?
The Apostle Paul was ahead of his time, for what we see him lay out for us is not a centralized leadership structure and not a completely decentralized leadership structure. Rather, he reveals to us a polycentric structure where leaders interrelate and incarnate the various purposes of Christ in such a way that the entire body is activated to service and the body matures in love. The five equippers are gifted by God to help the congregation move toward Christ and the kingdom that is here and coming. So what would it look like for the five equippers to be environmentalists? We will look at that in the next several posts in this series, including the next post.