Based on ideas and concepts from UnLeader: Rethinking Leadership…and Why We Must, my book to be released by Beacon Hill Press this September, I have worked up a few thoughts on the flaws in the leadership-centric culture that dominate the contemporary church. I am convinced that we will never see a genuine missional movement, or a fully released priesthood of believers, until we lay down the staff and crowns of leadership and pick up the trowel and basin of servantship.
1. The Flaw of “Your” Lid
We’ve been taught that our ability to lead determines our level of effectiveness. Jesus came as a servant, not a leader. Your servantship lid is what is most important for effectiveness in the Kingdom of God. Everything rises or falls on servantship.
2. The Flaw of “Your” Influence
Let the influence of Jesus seep into and out of you. The degree you decrease will be the degree He will increase in your life. John Maxwell says, “As a leader, having a great vision and a worthy cause is not enough to get people to follow you. First you have to become a better leader; you must get your people to buy into you.” This concept gets it categorically wrong…dangerously and gravely wrong. We need to become better followers and servants of Jesus who point to Him. To focus on getting people to buy into us is beyond a slippery slope. It is a vertical drop.
3. The Flaw of Titles
Plain and simple—Jesus forbade them. Titles delineate fleshly stature and status. If you think you need a title for people to respect you, maybe, you don’t deserve to be respected. The body of Christ is a family. Titles always distinguish one person or group over the other and create boundaries, fences, and doors that need permission or privilege for entry. Titles create psychological and sociological dynamics of hierarchy. If you want to use titles, call each other brother and sister—nothing more.
4. The Flaw of Hierarchy
Jesus said it is the Gentiles (those who are tied to worldly systems) who set up systems of command and control. He then declared, “‘It will not be so among you’” (Matthew 20:25-28). I agree with my former seminary professor Eddie Gibbs, who says, “The controlling style of leadership that is so prevalent among the builder and boomer generations, and that typically determines the church’s corporate culture, must give way to this empowering, connective style if the church is to reinvent itself to meet the missional challenges and opportunities of a new day.”
5. The Flaw of the “Real Leader”
Stop looking for the top dog in the group…and stop striving to be that person. We fail to develop churches of maturity because we ignore the presence and voice of the Lord in the entire body of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers among us (Ephesians 4:11-16). In the kingdom of God we must view Jesus as our leader—the one and only senior shepherd. Men and women can, and should, function in leadership but never be underscored with rank or identity as leaders.
6. The Flaw of Magnetism
We’ve been told that who we are is who we attract. Therefore, we need to be super duper so we will attract super duper people. Really? Who did Jesus attract? Did Jesus look for and attract the best and brightest? This mindset makes who I am the major concern and focus. The concept is that I need to develop a magnetic skill set to such a degree that people will follow me so that ultimately I develop a great church or ministry.
7. The Flaw of “Vision”
The leadership “vision” concept is nowhere to be found in the Gospels or in the rest of the New Testament. We already have a vision and a visionary. Jesus and his kingdom are all we have and all we need. The “vision” myth is just that—a man-made, mesmerizing concept that diverts our attention from the simplicity of living out the gospel of the kingdom of God, being utterly dependent upon his power, and making disciples along the way. That is our vision. This is not to say that individual faith communities and churches do not have unique calls in their particular contexts. They certainly do, and it is important for the members of those local churches to understand those particular God-given marching orders. My point is that the “vision” idea is way beyond overemphasized and grossly hyped, cheered, and idolized.