Leadership in small missional communities…

It is an old theme- I was just re reading this old post here about Todd Bentley and all the madness around his leadership. There appears to be a similar storm gathering around Mark Discoll’s leadership of Mars Hill. Leadership, power, control- these are things that seem to be perpetual struggles for we humans as we seek to work out collective faith.

Last weekend we were speaking to a group of people about developing small missional communities, and of course we had to say something about leadership. Our small community (Aoradh) still has no ‘leader’. This is in part because we have simply deferred resolution of the issue, and also because we have sort of fallen into a different kind of process of decision making.

read something the other day that seemed to describe what we do (or what we try to do) really well. Mark Stavlund, who is part of a community called ‘The common table‘ was describing a kind of process that he called ‘negative space’, that he described as follows;

individuals see a need for something, and say so.  As these voices start to harmonize, the leadership team– whose main purpose is to be attentive to the church and to protect its heart– will take notice and begin to clarify the need.  They will work to define it; to understand its parameters.  There might be a need for a different format for organizing the Sunday workflow, or a new way of doing service projects, or a financial concern, or an entirely new program of ministry.  But instead of leading some kind of charge, the leadership team will pull back a bit and simply organize the conversation that is brewing about the new thing or the reform that is needed…

It is a lot of work, and a lot of mess.  But it also generates a lot of creativity and ownership.  Supplying solutions in this way organically integrates the best people in the right places.  The people who step up are almost invariably the right ones for the jobs, and the solutions they find are amazingly exciting and durable. The hardest lesson for those of us with worrying tendencies or those who feel some sense of responsibility for all organizational systems to work flawlessly is that we need to sit with our discomfort and simply wait.  We’re learning that in church, sometimes the best thing to do when faced with an important need is to do nothing.

This is not necessarily about the absence of leadership, but is certainly about the laying down of power and control. There seems to me to be something of Jesus about this.