De-Emphasized Leadership Part 2

(Part 1 can be found here.)

Let me offer just one more idea amongst the vast array of options, one that deconstructs leadership without destroying it and one that hopefully reconstructs it while removing some of the ills and abuses of the past.

If we see the Five-Fold Ministry of Ephesians 4:11 as gifts or functions of the church and not offices of the church, then we are allowed to de-emphasis exclusionary titles of leadership in order to focus on the Five-Fold gifts. By this I mean pastors would only be called pastors if they are individuals who actually are nurturing, guiding shepherds. Apostles would be labeled as such because of their idea generation and willingness to start new things. Teachers would be those who can actually, effectively teach truths and ideas. Prophets would be discerners and those whom God speaks to more directly than others. Evangelists would be the storytellers, promoters and those who love to share viewpoints.

What this does then is it removes the goal-oriented nature of striving for a title, a position or role. It validates the working of God’s Spirit in everyones life. There is no ladder climbing here. If someone is gifted to teach, then the church works to create opportunities for them to teach. Prophets are allowed be who God created them to be by giving them encouragement to speak the truth to culture. This approach to leadership can also be used to diminish the distinction between clergy and laity, sacred and secular and men and women. This idea can be empowering to everyone in the church because everyone has a place or can have a place.

Thinking this through I have to admit there are some pitfalls that could derail this kind of de-emphasized leadership. The biggest consideration is maturity.  Anyone who has worked in a church for even a short time knows the dangers of having an immature Christian exercise their gifts in the church. Like an untrained child with a gun, they can be a danger to themselves and to others. Evangelists can be pushy. Apostles can get distracted and lack follow-through. Teachers only see information, details and facts. Prophets can communicate in a way that makes truth distasteful. And Pastors can give until they have nothing else to give.

Also, removing traditional titles can be confused with removing leadership all together.  Throwing out the baby with the bathwater, if you will. But this is not the goal. Even folks who strive for a more organic model of church, know that in an organic garden someone has to decide what gets planted, determine when crops are ready to be picked and to distinguish between plants and weeds. The idea is to describe people by how they are gifted and less by the office they fill or don’t.  And yes, it will take those who are more mature to help those who are less mature to grow and develop.

Interpreting the Five-Fold Ministry as functions and not titles allows a church to empower people to equip the saints and build up the body of Christ. This idea comes out of a desire to see the church be healthy and functional achieving the purposes God has for her. It is not to appeal to culture, to be trendy or to rail against what is older and traditional. It is a call back to the what the church was intended to be.

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