This morning in class we were talking about Peter's words to elders in his first letter, and the conversation evolved into a discussion of leadership and leaders in today's culture. The general consensus was that the expectations of elders by both ourselves and congregations are largely shaped by the surrounding culture. I reflected later on the conversation and tried to put the leadership aspect of being a shepherd/overseer into a missional context.
At the risk of being overly simplistic I think that church leadership can be classified into 3 general types - leading by proclamation, leading by example, and leading through relationship. These are not hard categories and are not mutually exclusive. I think that a group of elders must function within each of these types as circumstances require or allow.
By proclamation I mean that the elders function as decision makers. I am not talking about leadership style or process - autocratic, democratic, consensus building, etc. - but about the idea that leadership must at times make and communicate decisions.
By example I mean that not only do our personal lives exhibit those qualities that Paul described to Timothy, but that our lives and actions - our serving, our attendance, our giving, our behavior toward one another, our personal spiritual disciplines - are also consistent with the decisions we make and the expectations we have for the congregation.
By relationship I mean that we actually get to know our "sheep". This is the thing that takes the most effort, time, and personal commitment, and consequently, for me personally, often gets the least attention. I don't think I am unique in this respect, although I know that there are others who do a far better job in this area, including most of the guys I presently serve with.
As I think about this in a missional context, it seems to me that the process of developing and nurturing relationships within the body most closely parallels the missional process. If that is true, the balance among the three types of leadership I have suggested would need to be heavier on the relationship side.
Just reflecting...more to come.