Over the past 20 years I have been an active participant of a number of churches, Christian organisations and theological colleges. I have met some wonderful people, and am thankful to their leadership and their desire to serve God.
But at times I come across leaders, whose style, ethos and practice are, I am afraid, shaped by the values of this world rather than the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. I don’t think it is a healthy trend.
Recently Tim Gombis wrote a series of blog posts that are particularly insightful, and I think it is worth re-blogging here. In the following I will list the links to those posts, as well as some quotable quotes there.
Whether you are a pastor, an elder of a church, a board member in a Christian organisation, a Christian school teacher or principal, or a professor/lecturer in a seminary/theological college, I think Gombis’ thoughts are helpful as you ponder your leadership in your context.
The cross of Jesus Christ is central to the Christian faith, and it shapes and determines everything about being Christian. Cruciformity – or, being “cross-shaped” — means having our lives and church community dynamics oriented by the cross-shaped life of Jesus.
Cruciformity is a powerful reality because it is the only way to gain access to the resurrection power of God. When we shape our lives according to the life of Jesus, we experience his presence by the Spirit, and God floods our lives, relationships, and communities with resurrection power.
When I talk to people training for Christian leadership about cruciformity, however, I discover the assumption that it isn’t easily practiced in ministry. Many assume that cruciformity may be good for ordinary Christian people, but it won’t work in leadership situations.
I wonder if this is because our imaginations are shaped by worldly conceptions of leadership and of power. We assume that at some point cruciform leadership would fail. It wouldn’t be up to the challenges of “real world” situations where power must be wielded over others.
Cross-shaped Leadership, Part 2
Worldly leadership: A desire to increase in prestige, status, and influence and a willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve these things, even if it means neglecting or hurting people who do not appear to be means of one’s own personal advancement.
Jesus-shaped leadership: An unrelenting commitment to the delivery of the love and grace of God into the lives of others (or, the life of another), and taking the initiative to see to it that this happens.
Cross-shaped Leadership, Part 3
Cross-shaped leadership constantly adjusts to God’s agenda. This is significantly different from worldly forms of leadership, which are oriented by the leader’s agenda.
Worldly leadership is leader-determined. It’s all about “my dream,” or “my vision for this church.” Churches with charismatic leaders are often compelling communities for a time, but they seldom manifest cruciformity.
Cross-shaped Leadership, Part 4
Cruciform leaders do not view people as the means to achieve other goals. The people to whom we minister are the goal. The whole point of Jesus-shaped leadership is to take the initiative to see that God’s grace and love arrive into the lives of others.
Christian leaders are servants of others on behalf of God, so people are the point—not my goals, plans, vision, or ambitions.
We talk about “results,” or we want our ministries to be “effective.” We look for ministry strategies that “work.”
When we talk like this, we reveal that we are envisioning something bigger than or beyond the people to whom we minister. We subtly become the servants of that other thing and we look at the people as the means to get somewhere else.
This is one way that pastors’ hearts function as idol factories.
When we set our hearts on certain goals and ends, we can become very frustrated at our people when they don’t perform the way we want them to. When we’re not seeing the results we expected, we put pressure on people, demanding more from them.
Cross-shaped Leadership, Part 5
Worldly leaders are captivated by a craving for more and more influence. Cruciform leaders, on the other hand, are content with current responsibilities given by God and seek to grow in faithfulness.
In any and every case, cruciform leaders are focused on faithfulness to the task. This involves self-sacrificially serving others, getting to know those to whom we minister. Cruciform leaders take the initiative to cultivate relationships of mutuality and authenticity shaped and oriented by the love and grace of God.
Cross-shaped Leadership, Part 6
Cruciform leadership is marked by a determination to live authentically and relate honestly. Jesus-shaped, cruciform leaders don’t hide their weaknesses, inadequacies, and failures. They aren’t self-promoting, they don’t seek power, and they don’t trumpet their strengths.
Worldly leadership, on the other hand, is consumed with image-consciousness. Worldly leaders manipulate situations in order to put the best face on things. They try to control how people see them and what others think of them.
Cross-shaped Leadership, Part 7
Cruciform leaders have ultimate aims to bless others, to give them life, to see to it that God’s goodness, love, and grace are always arriving into others’ lives.
Worldly leaders, on the other hand, have selfish ends and will use others to achieve those ends. Other people, therefore, are means to my own ends, and others are valuable to me only insofar as they serve my purposes.
Seeking to resolve a broken relationship is a well-motivated desire, but it’s possible to approach such situations manipulatively. We might find ourselves plotting and planning how we’ll graciously expose the other’s fault; we anticipate responses and prepare counter-arguments.