I thought it might be worthwhile visiting this graphic I drew a few years back. At the time, I’d been doing a lot of reading/writing/thinking about the shape of church leadership, particularly under the influence of writers like Frank Viola, Alan Hirsch, Neil Cole et al. In the end, I had grown so tired and weary of hierarchical leadership that I resigned my commission as a Salvation Army officer, a very top heavy, top down organisation [ducks]. I didn’t want to command anything any more. I didn’t want to get in the way of the ministry of the people of God OR the ministry of Christ in his church.
What has changed? Nothing really. I’ve said many times before that I’d love to be the last, or second last, generation of hierarchical leadership in churches. When I look at the New Testament, I see flat structures with a servant leadership, equipping the ministry of others. That’s where the diagram comes in. Let me explain it.
You’ll see circles of 12 or so coloured dots with a cross in the middle. These are small base communities of Jesus followers, the number isn’t important, but this is not a massive crowd. Their main mode of meeting is in extended family size groups. The leader is none other than Christ. When they gather, they gather around him under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The two white dots are, for want of a better or less pretentious word, apostles. That is, those who have the call, gifting and heart to venture out and draw small communities together and teach them how to function with Christ at the centre. In this scenario, these people might receive some form of payment from the groups to facilitate them in that work, but largely, there are no staff, no programmes, not buildings and low fuss all round.
I believe this is a very biblical pattern. And certainly whilst we see the emergence of an ‘eldership’ in the New Testament, it was very much that…a group of older folks who kept an eye out, an eye cast over the fellowship and who brought their wisdom and Fatherhood/Motherhood. No degrees, no gurus, no power games, no magic hands to conjure communion, no other task than to father/mother whilst each and every member fulfilled their function under Christ.
Oh boy, this is my ultimate dream. Little colonies of the Kingdom in every place, gathered for prayer, encouragement, building up…models of new creation, new community, new hope. These would be lots of flavours, for sure…mine might be Celtic flavoured, others might be evangelical flavoured, others may be liturgical in focus or whatever, doesn’t matter. Relationship to Christ, to each other and the world is what is important. Its about getting the churchy crap out the way in the main. I guess its trying to reimagine how things could be.
Everyone can do this. And, there are people who can help you get started and encourage you on the way. It is part of the hope behind http://pcgcommunity.wordpress.com and the new Celtic Community I’m launching here in the North East in September, http://clanncommunity.wordpress.com If we stopped moaning about church and its failings and were truer to our convictions we might get somewhere (speaking mainly to myself there!) How can you reimagine church where you are?