Leadership Debate

Ok – the discussion on men kept getting sidetracked into a discussion on the roles of men and women in leadership, so it looks like its time to look at that thorny issue.

Bull said:

I put it to you that if we made eldership truly about being a servant … we’d have really good elders. We could make Deacons the leadership then … and there were women deacons so there is no problem with that is there?

This is a point that has often occurred to me. Most of the debates I hear about leadership are really about who should make the decisions or who should be allowed to teach. For this particular thread, I’d like to look at the decision aspect of leadership, since these days most of the leaders in churches are really those who are in charge of the administration.

We have a trend where we see megachurches frequently becoming corporate entities with board members rather than traditional elders. Senior pastors set a vision, which the rest of the leadership supports; those attending home groups etc support the leader of their group in the outworking of that senior pastor’s vision. At least that’s how some churches do it. Others expect that congregation members will ‘submit’ to what their leaders ask them to do, and we’ve recently had a look at that teaching in another thread. In that thread, the example was given of a senior pastor teaching congregation members to submit to those who ‘rule over them’. In other churches, the leader is more of a facilitator, who also has responsibility for teaching that supports people in their daily ongoing walks and making a call on the church’s direction, but may not push the line of the congregation getting behind that vision so strongly that it takes over from the congregations other callings in life.

So, the leadership debate seems to me to be about who can rule over others and to what extent that ‘rule’ should go – if it is there.

Whereas what Bull stated, is that eldership – a form of leadership? – is about servanthood, rather than ruling over others. Jesus himself said that we shouldn’t seek to rule over others, and the greatest among us is he who serves the most. Is preaching and ‘ruling over’ others a form of servanthood?

Perhaps the debate about women in leadership would be less of an issue if the church was based around servanthood, because who would object to a woman being a good example of a servant? Who would object to a woman organising things if it is an act of administrative service that bears the needs of others in mind, rather than an exercise of power or a seeking for glory? Who would object to any man doing these things either?

What is male about being the kind of leader that serves? What kind of male leaders do we see the most of in churches?

If one takes the traditional view that women should not lead, then perhaps if women are actually served by the men that do lead, there is no problem? Or if we take a more contemporary view that women do lead – then if they are genuinely serving and not getting caught up in a more ‘alpha’ style of leadership, where is the problem with that?

Both views on women in leadership can be argued from scripture. I agree with a comment in the reference that Heretic recently gave that we can’t take issue with people for genuinely seeking to understand scripture even where we have opposite views on what it says. The debate doesn’t involve the authority of the Bible; it involves the interpretation of the Bible.

Heretic’s link is worth a read if you have time.

To me, the issue could be addressed more helpfully if the issues regarding what actually construes leadership were addressed first. If a leader is seeking to serve, they will listen, and not coerce people or leave them out in the cold without hearing their views. They won’t do it for power or glory. Regardless of views of men or women in leadership, which cover a broad spectrum, the type of leader is most important.

Are leaders only ‘alpha’ males? How ought it to work? Where we’ve seen good leaders, what have they done well?

4 thoughts on “Leadership Debate

  1. I read the article by Rev Sam Wells, and pretty much agree with his points (even though I hate speakers who talk about quadrants or squares and I usually switch off when someone brings one of those out)

    At our church which is a fairly trad Anglican, there are quite a few of the facilitator and epitome type leaders. Most of them are women and they just have a passion and a gifting for a particular area of ministry. The spokesman role is filled by the Rev but I guess the difference between a trad church and a pente one is that the spokesman changes every few years. With some pente churches the spokesman started the church, owns it in all but name and will continue to be at the helm until he hands it over to his first-born.

    I think that rotating the spokesperson every few years is imperative so that one person dosent become too closely identified with the movement (or with God), and to prevent the temptations of power.

  2. very good point Wazza … it’s too easy for the temptations of Nepotism.

    It’s who you know not Who you know that seems to count too often.

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