Saturday, April 30, 2005

Is Congregationalism a Democracy?

Paul Alexander has written an interesting article on the 9marks.org website about church governance. Paul S. (a reader of my blog) asked what form of church governance do I plan to pursue when I graduate from seminary.

My initial answer was: "I think the issues is much less about the form of governance, and more about good leaders leading well. Too many people are put in places of leadership, or take leadership roles with little understanding of how to actually lead. Good leadership in bad systems still find ways to make it work. Bad leaders in good systems just ruin good systems."

The truth is that we do not often have much say (at least initially) into what type of governance structure we are willing to work with. There are a limited number of structures, and the right people can make all the difference. The church I am currently serving at is a real mess as far as governance is concerned. I have been working with the senior pastor on this (as well as many other issues) and I think they are starting to turn things around. The difficult thing is that there is something like 12 or 13 years of poor overall leadership to counter. There were periods of time where a pastor was strong, but the overall structure was poor, and not filled with the right people, or at least not the right people with the proper training. All too frequently we draft/elect/beg someone into a leadership position in a church, and then do nothing to prepare them for success. It's trial by fire, learn as you go, we'll forgive you because we have to type of experience. This is killing the church. We need to train people into their jobs. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it might put some burden on the church staff initially. Eventually you work toward the goal being lay leadership training other lay leadership, but sometimes you have to do the work up front as the pastor to get the ball rolling. I am passionate about leadership, and I believe that rarely does good leadership happen by accident.

I think until churches begin to put more of an emphasis and priority on this, the church will continue to suffer. I am not saying churches should be run like businesses. But I do think we can improve greatly in this area, and improving these processes and practices will indeed serve toward Kingdom expansion.

One thing I have comitted myself to is attending the Willow Creek Association's Leadership Summit every year (I'm signed up for Eagle Brook Church satellite site). I picked up on this through my previous church (Northridge Baptist Church, Mitchell, SD). Each year the church staff, with a group of deacons as well as some elders and general church members attend this together. It's a time of great thinking, bonding, and spiritual renewal. I am constantly impressed by how much better I feel equiped to serve a local church after attending. I have purchased the DVD's of the conference each of the past two years, and watch them frequently. Certainly there are sessions that are better than others, and there are, speakers that I'm not always completely fond of, but the vast majority is pure leadership gold. I cannot speak too highly of this experience, and sincerely suggest that if you can, GO!!!! I get the benefit of student price, but it's worth every penny of the full price. If you can't go, get the DVD's and watch them as a staff/church leadership team.

2 comments:

Paul Schafer said...

Chris,
With you desire to be affiliated with Willow Creek Association, how do you come to terms with their Egalitarian stance and your Complementarian stance in leadership?

mrclm said...

I don't know if I have a desire to be associated specificially with Willow Creek, but I appreciate what they are doing with the Leadership Summit. I'm not a Willow disciple, but I have examined a lot of their materials, and found some really great stuff, and some stuff I don't think is as good. The cautions with the Leadership Summit wold be that you need to keep Biblical leadership in view when listening to all the speakers. Some of the speakers are not Christians (and they usually make a disclaimer to this effect)but that doesn't preclude them from knowing how to lead people. You also need to operate as church and not as a business, so there are some other ways in which you need to keep Biblical leadership in mind when viewing/attending the WCA Leadership Summit stuff.

Additionally, on the note of Complementarian vs. Egalitarian - I don't know how it factors into the equation of whether or not to learn about leadership from them. In the couple of years I've been going, there have been women presenting, but no women pastors. At the end of the day though, we need to know that complimentarianism is a secondary issue, as I have heard stated by many who I interact with from the CBMW. I believe in it, I believe in advancing it, but that doesn't mean I abandon those who don't agree with me on the issue. I think we can still learn from those we don't always agree with, while keeping our disagreement points in mind so we aren't sacrificing what we do believe.