When Leadership in ChurchWorld Looks Just Like Leadership in the Secular Culture

by Winn Griffin on July 12, 2015

Original Post from Facebook with Comments


When Leadership in ChurchWorld Looks Just Like Leadership in the Secular CultureHere are two words to remember when talking about leadership: position and hierarchy. These terms reign supreme in ChurchWorld. How does one know? The terms afforded to leaders tell the story. Terms like Senior Pastor, Associate Senior Pastor, Associate Pastor, Elder, Prophet, Bishop, and Apostle. These are all titles accommodated to support the clergy profession. In the common currency of language, they represent both hierarchical and positional concepts.

Each of the words in the list above already have a current meaning for us when we say or use them. As an example, Senior Pastor usually conveys the man or woman who is the leader of a local church at the corner of walk and don’t walk. It is proudly displayed on church communications, church signs, church ads, business cards to name a few prominent places the term appears. As long as we keep using these terms to talk about folks in church leadership, the more they keep the status quo meaning in our own mindsets.

What do we do? First, we must allow ourselves to have other thoughts, hopefully more biblical ones about the words that identify leaders in ChurchWorld. In short, we need to un-learn the current ways in which we think about church leadership and, in the process, re-language or re-define the current meanings of those words. Remember, it’s always an uphill battle to adopt a new language for the new story that we live in because our present system of language is so impregnated with unhelpful and unbiblical concepts. When our old language meanings are replaced, the new concepts have an opportunity to find life.

Second, we start thinking verbs instead of nouns. Nouns most likely came from verbs, not the other way around. Someone decided that when a person was pastoring that s/he should then be called pastor. The shortcut then became a position in the long history of the church and finds a concrete concept in our present language. When someone speaks and says, “Hi, I’m Philip, I’m the Senior Pastor at Kardia Community Church. The listener does not hear, “Hi, I’m Philip, I function with many others at Kardia Community who are pastoring.

The mindset needs to be function vs. position. The idea of a Senior Pastor is purely out of step with the concept of pastoring found in Scripture. Don’t you find it interesting that of all the functions that Paul mentions in Ephesian 4.11 that the one that has become dominant is “pastor” and the others are left in the dust? Even there, the word is “pastors,” not singular pastor.

We have a long and wrongheaded pattern that needs to be overhauled. Top down, chain-of-command, are concepts that have become petrified in ChurchWorld. The institutional church needs a revival of actions that displaces the hierarchical operation of ChurchWorld.

I believe that the whole love affair with terms like Senior Pastor is absurd along with all the other positions that have found root in ChurchWorld. Why not just be honest and call a Senior Pastor by the title Senior Manager? One reason that could be forwarded is that Senior Pastor sounds more spiritual while Senior Manager sounds more corporate? Precisely!

ChurchWorld leaders are the Gentiles of Matthew 20! When the mother of James and John came and begged Jesus to position her sons, Jesus clearly rebuked such a request in his reply. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The line “Not so with you” should give anyone practicing hierarchy a pause in the way they think about or operate in ChurchWorld positions.

Here’s the problem, those living in the ChurchWorld bubble are the ones who continually perpetuate this misguided way of thinking and usually can’t see for themselves that they defend the status quo. Recently, I was having a conversation about a subject in which my conversation partner made an unfavorable statement about another person as support to make his point. I asked him if his statement also reflected his own thought patterns about himself. “No!” was the answer.

So, those functioning as Senior Pastors, et. al., are usually not in a position of seeing in their own lives the kind of misguided idea about leadership they are pursuing.

Listen up those of you that call yourself Senior Pastors. You need to think about how your Gentilic leadership style is stifling the growth of the body of which you claim to be the pastor. Hear the word of Jesus, “you should not be doing that.” Find a way to repent and change your mind and then start changing the structure of the church of which you claim to be pastor.

Listen up congregants. Stop using the word pastor to refer to the person who calls him or herself that at your local church. Find out their first name if you don’t know it and only refer to them by that name. Go a step further and correct the self-named pastor when you hear them calling him or herself with the title Senior Pastor or Pastor.

These are baby steps to change. The reframing of a name is only the tip of the iceberg. That is only the beginning of what needs to happen, which is a complete overall of the structure of ChurchWorld. Plans are made for all kinds of projects in ChurchWorld, why not a planned structural demolition? If that seems beyond the impossible, then start with any new churches that are planted by taking a long and hard look at the systemically bad structure that is birthed in new churches. Why do we keep producing a product that is more deficient than what could be produced? It calls for diligent study and a mindset that will allow you to see afresh a way to move forward. Here’s a good starting place, Jesus in the ONLY head/leader of the church. Don’t just give lip service to that statement, find a way to begin functioning in light of it.

Winn Griffin

Winn Griffin’s participation in the church spans about 60 years, ministering in four different denominations, serving on the staff of three mega churches, and functioning as a pastor in four churches. He has a BA, MA, and two Doctor of Ministry degrees. In addition, he has authored two books and eight eBooks. Winn writes extensively on ChurchWorld.org to help diagnose systemic problems so that ChurchWorld leaders and congregants may become more aware and realign their churches to its only mission: to be the agent of the kingdom of God for the sake of others. He is married to Donna Faith and they have two adult children and live in Washington State. » Read Winn’s Full Bio

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