Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Keys to 21st Century Church Leadership

I have felt for a long time like the things I am learning here in my present crucible of ministry are lessons so valuable that they need to be shared with others. I have had thoughts of writing a book perhaps, or of somehow going out and sharing my ideas, but it always seemed like a monumental task - one that was relatively unattainable. Or it was an elephant that was so big that I know you're supposed to eat it one bite at a time, but where do you start?

However, early this morning it seems like the seed of an idea began to crystalize in my mind - there is not one key to church leadership in the 21st century, there are several. What if I began to write and document those keys here as a way to try and help my own mind begin to crystalize these ideas further? Perhaps it is a whole series of short, reader friendly books that a person could get and read in byte-size chunks? Maybe that is something that better fits our 21st century minds anyway as we constantly switch from one byte of information to another at the speed of light?

So in an attempt to allow the crystalization process to begin, I offer this initial post.

Honoring the Past
Much has already been written and communicated about us living in the postmodern world right now. Everyone seems to agree that we aren't in the modern realm anymore, but we don't really know what is actually coming next, so we are living in the post-modern world - the world right after modernity, but before . . . ? Since that is true, we have to understand that one of the keys to postmodern church leadership is honoring the past.

We live in a world where many of the modern people who helped create what exists today, are still here! Too many times we forget that we are standing on the shoulders of the giants who have come before us and that many of those giants, are still here! The people who have built our churches and laid foundations of leadership in our lives, are still here!

Those of us who are in the new era of postmodern leadership often act as if we know exactly what needs to happen as we move forward into the days ahead, and in many ways that is very true. But often we forget that we are here today because others have blazed a trail before us. These leaders have successfully navigated the church through the era of modernity so well, that we are now able to help lead the Bride of Christ into this new era.

Good, holistic, healthy leadership in the 21st century recognizes that past and is willing to honor and celebrate it. In fact, I think we could actually say that we must be willing to embrace it in many ways. We don't need to buy into the modern mindset or thinking because it won't help us in the new world, but we do need to understand that if we want to get where we are going, we must be willing to honor the past as we go. Here's why:
  • There is still viable ministry left among these giants. If we are willing to embrace them and allow them some of the same space and freedom to worship and live in relationship with God that we so desperately want, we will discover there is wonderful vibrancy there. And since I am getting older and grayer myself, one of the things I hope happens in my life is that the leaders I am trying to help raise up will help me finish well when they are the new leaders.
  • There are still people in this modern world who don't know Jesus. In our rush to get moving into postmodernity, we can't forget that God so loved the whole world. Sure it may be true that generally they don't have as long to live, but since when did God ever care about that? I could be dead from a car crash this afternoon, but that doesn't stop God from still reaching to me with his love and grace.
  • These modern giants have a heart for God's Church. They would not have invested the blood, sweat and tears they did over the years, if their hearts weren't in it. And that hasn't changed. A passion to see God's Church not just survive, but thrive, still burns deep within many of them! If we are willing to honor them, and embrace that passion, we can actually tap into it as a source of great power and encouragement for us.
  • There's a lot of bankroll in their pockets. Now that may seem crass at first, but sometimes the truth can sting. One of the characteristics of the postmodern worldview which seems to get a lot of attention is how passionate they can be toward their causes, so if you can get them on board with your cause, you've got some great champions. The problem is, sometimes their causes are so niche focused, that if your deal doesn't hit them just in the right spot, they are really not that generous of spirit. Not so with the giants of our past. It's true that everyone is willing to give of their resources to something they believe in (and we aren't just talking about money here). But I think the modern world helped to create a more general atmosphere of generosity. We would do well to not only tap into that generosity as we move forward, but to learn from it and discover how to help it spread in the postmodern world too.
So there it is. My first cognitive dump to try and unload all of these thoughts swirling around in my head and my heart.

Is it finished?


But it's begun.