My problem with hands-off leadership…

After a conversation with our spiritual formation team at church, I am left with some very strong thoughts regarding leadership in the way of Jesus and in the context of religious history. I feel that in some of the churches that I have been a part of, I have left very frustrated with the tendency of the “official” leadership to be very removed from the relational side of being a leader and raising up leaders after him/her. There tends to be a distance from the “official” or professional church leaders and those who are not.

It comes down to this (and I’ve written on it before: From the Professional Elite to the Spiritual Director). I feel like we in the West have lost, to a great degree, a certain historical model of leadership… that being that each leader has at least one person under him that is being invested in, trained, and encouraged to develop leaders under him. It is based on the notion that our experiences, our wisdom, our growth into holiness, might actually be of some use to someone else. Some call it spiritual friendship, some call it spiritual direction, but it essentially comes down to simple yet radical discipleship. I know that I, and many others like me, ache to be invested in and committed to by even one person older than us. Lives change because of this.

The concept of leadership is a scary one to many… and I think it comes down to our idolization of professional leaders and the neglect of those of us in leadership to make it our intense mission to dismantle this. We no longer think of every person as a leader, we no longer act our our profession of “the priesthood of believers.” Every person in official, or professional leadership, whether it be in Christian community or even some other religion, should be asked, “What person is following your footsteps? What person are you seeking out to encourage into a leader?” For a vision to grow in a deep and significant way, for lives to be changed at the very roots, for a way of living to spread… perhaps a living in the kingdom of God and a heart tuned into the Holy Spirit… there needs to be relationship involved in leadership.

Jesus had twelve… he lived with them and they watched his every move. Many of the historical monastics, gurus, church fathers (Eastern especially) had individuals they were feeding into. We, though, in our current modern times have become privatized, individualistic, and when we leave the office, our work is done for the day. If we can somehow  move beyond this, I believe that there will be a more unified group of people beginning to look like Jesus at very deep levels and that people will begin to see themselves as the leaders they are meant to be… and we will not be alone on our journeys.

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3 thoughts on “My problem with hands-off leadership…”

  1. I’m with you on this. Only question you have to ask is what am I doing to be invested in?

    I had a talk with the pastors of the church I work for several months back and they told me they wanted to invest in me, but I seemed closed off (a know-it-all). I have since tried to change my own attitude and tried to be more teachable and asked questions. It has made a huge difference.

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  2. Andrew, that’s a really good comment. Truly, if I am advocating others to invest in leaders under them, I must be willing to be invested in. I think this is much less difficult, as the initial investing is really a pursuing kind of thing. Seriously, I want to be pursued by an older man (okay that sounds really bad…) who wants to guide me in “paths of righteousness” (to quote the best “pastoring” chapter in the Bible).

    Psalm 23 really does talk about that pursuing thing. I mean, it says God leads us, but it also talk about love and goodness following… I think the Hebrew there means more like pursue, with the intent to overtake… like you would pursue an army. So in this sense, i really do want a leader who will truly show me the way… I shouldn’t have to hunt someone down. But yes, I do have to be teachable.

    I have asked leaders to invest in me many times. Gosh, i have asked people who are incredibly close to me… but only rarely has it been something anyone has come through on. This is the reason for my frustration.

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  3. I understand your frustrations. I have felt the same way. I have just chosen to go and ask questions more often. I know there’s only so much you can do, but I would encourage you to keep asking questions. Be humble and teachable. That can be a difficult thing to do.

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