Leadership is a funny thing. In the middle class world that I live in, it seems that everyone has an opinion about what ‘it’ is. From Myers-Briggs to Leadership Profiling we are awash with tools to help us understand what leadership is.
This sunday I had the immense pleasure of listening to Chick Yuill. He’s a great teacher and actually uses the bible when he speaks (believe me that is not a forgone conclusion!). He was speaking on leadership. I heard one thing he said more than any other. That being, that leaders should “wait on tables”.
What did he mean? Well it comes from the book of Acts where Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit and waited on tables, literally served people. Stephen ended up being the first Christian Martyr. He was recognised as a man full of the Spirit and yet when work was to be done, he was always around.
That is not always the case is it? I even speak of myself a little there.
Last Saturday, I was round at a friends house helping with demolishing an old shed and making umpteen trips to the tip to dispose of the waste wood. This ended up taking all day. This friend had invited a few other people around to help and it was a great atmosphere and a good chance to get to know people. As always I was thinking about the day and had the startling thought that for me I found this expression of Church more meaningful than sitting through endless services, that never change and with 3 children, it’s difficult even paying attention sometimes!
Let me ask a question, did God ever intend for the Church to be dominated primarily by a service and then people who are understood as leaders, who lead those services? Did he intend it to become a professional institution where people attend, consume and then go away? I don’t think he did. I think he meant it to be a community of people.
I think that is why I felt closer to God demolishing the shed than I mostly do in a Church Service. In that, there is true community and God inhabits that community. In those situations, there are opportunities for people to move close to God through conversation and companionship. Sure we need worship, sure we need prayer, but within the context I have just described, not outside of it.
Returning to serving leaders. Should the service a leader exemplifies be to build that community? To lead it in innovative ways of service, worship and connection, affecting the world outside of itself? I think yes. It is sometimes the way in Church that leaders (at any level) are never seen doing the ‘plebby’ things. You know like demolishing sheds or cleaning the loos. For me, that spells trouble, deep trouble. So deep in fact, because it is an engrained attitude of the heart, a disconnection from people and reality that kills the serving community that the Church should be.
It pains me that in times gone by I have accepted lies about what serving leadership is. Feelings of importance, pride. They usually manifest themselves as “not having enough time” or “you can’t have an appointment”. For me, the fact is that I was maybe busy, busying my own “career” so to speak. I’ll probably get into trouble for writing this, but well there you go. Some of my ‘bad’ habits in that respect I learned within Church leadership not outside of it. Only after leaving that position and taking on another challenge, have I had the vantage point to look back and understand the positives and negatives of that experience.
Do you want to know what happened with the shed? Well a few people thought they could replace the shed that was demolished, so they organised a collection. Lots of people gave to it, and some will come together to put it up. Everyone together, no ranking, no hierarchy, no feelings of importance. Just a group of people with different gifts, coming together to make something happen. You see I think that is the way God intended it to be.