It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything that is my own. This is primarily due, I think, to the vast amount of processing I’ve been doing myself. Personal journaling and lots of thinking. One thing that has been on my mind lately is the extent that spiritual leadership goes to here in the west.
Ultimately, what I long to be is a spiritual leader, a guide… a shepherd. When I think of spiritual leadership and how it has taken shape in much of our world, especially in the East, I see leaders who have earned their leadership by “walking through the fire.” They have done the work… they have proved themselves to have wisdom, insight, and an ear for the spirit. Some of them end up blind, crippled… far from the flashy appearance we see from many of our leaders here in the West. They have sacrificed greatly for what they now have. People choose to follow them because their lives are changed.
My understanding of spiritual leadership comes mostly from within the Christian tradition, so I will focus there. When I look of the evangelical side of things, I see a strong passion for theology and “heady” stuff. It seems to me that as long as a pastor has had the seminary training, as long as he knows his Greek and his Hebrew, as long as he can give an extensive interpretation for the “right” way to read the Bible… he is ok in his church’s eyes. It comes down to education, seminary, and the ability to give complicated answers. He is the “professional” truth-teller.
Within the mainline tradition, there is less an emphasis on right doctrine and much more of a passion for polity, or “how we do stuff.” The structure is much more important than making sure that we all agree on the right theology. It seems that often a minister|leader in a mainline church just has to be a good upholder of the practices. If he/she can hold a good Sunday morning service, everyone is happy. As long as a minister sticks within the traditional structure no one will get upset. Even better if there is a good measure of energy within the structure of the church.
Holding both of these sides together is the authority that is given via titles, education, degrees, and higher authorities. As long as you earn it by going through the system, you may be deemed as one who has authority. Doctorate, Masters of Divinity, PhD, ordained… with a score card that has one (or all) of these, who can question the authority of the person in charge?
There must be something more than this. The question remains as to what it looks like and who, of those looking for some kind of leadership, desire something more? Is there a place in our individualized western world, that loves success and title, for a different kind of leader? I hope so… I really do.