Jonathan Brink put out the call for a synchroblog on leadership, to coincide with the Federal election over in the US. Given that I’m not exactly in that context, I thought that I’d ignore the context to a certain degree, and just take the opportunity to spew out some thoughts on what leadership starts looking like in the post-modern missionary context.

For starters, I think that it’s fair to say that the church model of having one person or a small group of people, authoritatively setting the agenda for “what we do” and “how we do it” is headed for obsolescence. It’s not a match with the relationally-centered, cynical post-modern mindset. The post-modern mind tends to be deeply skeptical of single points of truth, believing that every person has a bias, each is sub-consciously effected by the sliver of the world that they live in, and will only start to believe what they are being told when they feel they understand where some of those preferences and biases have come from.

So the easiest solution naturally seems to be to reject the concept of leaders and leadership, and instead opt for some kind of mob rule. But of course, this is completely unsustainable. Communities gather and grow together because they share something, whether that is a shared interest, a shared need, or shared goals. Without leadership, community either becomes a hostage of the loudest voices or else it loses all sense of purpose. There will always be leadership in churches and communities: an absence of leadership gets filled – just not always positively.

What then, does good leadership look like in the context of a relational, participatory community necessary to take seriously the post-modern culture we are hurtling towards? The role of the leader must become about building a community who are clear on “Who we want to be” a long way before being defined by “what we do”. And that must be a consistent and clear message – it’s first and foremost about how you act, how you lead your own life, how you interact and the priorities you have in your own life that has the opportunity to lead others.

And that’s the scariest part. A culture that has rejected positional authority as a barometer for reliability, will not believe leaders whose message they cannot see. Though the church has been frightened of post-modernity, we could discover that post-modernity will force the church to rediscover the need to incarnate the message we preach, if we are to survive at all.


This post is part of a Synchroblog on Leadership.  The following blogs took part in the experiment:

Jonathan Brink – Letter To The President

Adam Gonnerman – Aspiring to the Episcopate

Kai – Leadership – Is Servant Leadership a Broken Model?

Sally Coleman – In the world but not of it- servant leadership for the 21st Century Church

Alan Knox – Submission is given not taken

Joe Miller – Elders Lead a Healthy Family: The Future

Cobus van Wyngaard – Empowering leadership

Steve Hayes – Servant leadership

Geoff Matheson – Leadership

John Smulo – Australian Leadership Lessons

Helen Mildenhall – Leadership

Tyler Savage – Moral Leadership – Is it what we need?

Bryan Riley – Leading is to Listen and Obey

Susan Barnes – Give someone else a turn!

Liz Dyer – A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Polls…

Lionel Woods – Why Diverse Leadership is Good for America

Julie Clawson – Leadership Expectations

Ellen Haroutunian – A New Kind Of Leadership

Matt Stone – Converting Leadership

Steve Bradley – Lording or Leading?

Adam Myers – Two types of Leadership

Bethany Stedman – A Leadership Mosaic

Kathy Escobar – I’m Pretty Sure This Book Won’t Make It On The Bestseller List

Fuzzy Orthodoxy – Self Leadership

Sonja Andrews – Leadership In An Age of Cholera

Tara Hull – Leadership & Being A Single Mom

Glen Hager – Election Day Ponderings On Leadership

Beth Patterson – Leadership:Being The River

Bill Ellis – Spiritual Leadership And The Rehumanizing Of Our World

Liz Dyer – A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Polls

22 Replies to “Leadership”

  1. I find it interesting that you perceive this conversation as one related to current cultural thinking.

    I’ve been on the “christian scene” sine the late 70’s. I remember saying the same things and I remember the older guys either rejecting the notion or telling me to stop thinking I was onto something new. The latter was correct but I didn’t accept either answer, I thought I had found the root of the problem. Here I am 30 years later telling you the latter.

    You are correct in your conclusion that we need proper leadership but incorrect in the reasoning. The truth regarding proper leadership is in the Bible and it hasn’t changed (at least in the last 30 years), i.e., it is not a function of the current weltgeist.

    I caution you because insisting on change based on the suppositions you made will ultimately result in yet another failed model. Christ’s model is one that will sustain through generations.

  2. “It’s not a match with the relationally-centered, cynical post-modern mindset.” I don’t think it’s a match for the model that we see in Scripture either. However, it is a perfect match for the modern cultural leadership that we see in politics and business. I think many leaders have decided that Jesus was wrong when he said, “It is not to be so among you.”


  3. geoff, yeah, this next generation will not tolerate what we many have tolerated and one or even a few leaders making all the decisions won’t work either. there’s something that has shifted that is hard to put our finger on but i see it in my day to day for sure & i think it is the desire for Jesus in the flesh, that talking about something just doesn’t matter that much. it’s in the real life, hearts reflected through actions. thanks for these thoughts.

    1. I think you’re right Bryan – it’s absolutely good news. But it’s a scary thing to need to do, to put yourself out there as a (deeply flawed) example for people to follow!

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