I was called to ministry in the mid nineties. I grew up in the tail end of the church growth era, respectfully was the 70’s and 80’s. By the nineties, churches were forming a different kind of model. The church health movement began to soar with guys like Rick Warren and Bill Hybles promoting a different way to do church. By the early 2000’s the emergent church movement was trying to take off, lead by guys like Dan Kimball and Leonard Sweet. Thankfully that didn’t seem to go too far. This time ultimately led to where we are now with a more missional movement era.
The missional movement era, focuses on church planting, revitalization, and is requiring a new paradigm of how church practices are done. Over the last 10 years I have heard often from church leaders one after the other, “seminary didn’t prepare me for this”. I guess on some level that is true. When churches functioned primarily as vendors of religious services for a Christian culture, the primary toolbox for leaders was teaching, leading Christian services, and pastoral care.
In this changing world we need to add a new set of leadership tools. Fast forward to 2020, the leadership style you learned or the way you were trained to lead a church is inadequate for today’s world. In order to lead a church in these challenging times, more voices are going to have to be in the conversation. Leadership begins with listening. We need to be sensitive to lead with a learners resolve.
Another critical step in charting what’s next for the leader is to have more wisdom in the decision making. The day of the pastor making unilateral decisions because he has the title of pastor needs to end. For Christian trained leaders, perhaps the most encouraging realization is that uncharted territory does not make our experience, education and expertise irrelevant; just incomplete. A growing leader must realize that today’s problems are often yesterdays solutions. You don’t have to have all the answers, but do you know where to get the answers? Wisdom from others is required to lead in this next era.
Perhaps the most powerful lesson to learn in uncharted territory is that Leadership requires and results in transformation of the whole organization starting with the leaders. If we want the church and organization we serve to thrive, then we must focus on what God needs to do in us first. When He give us the makeover, He does so, in order to use us in his mission. Leader, you need to focus on how you need to grow in technical competence, relational growth, and adaptive capacity. I have heard far to often during COVID, that things will never be the same again. Perhaps that is true, that is exactly what transformation is. It is an ending of one thing and a rebirth or rebuild of another.
A new era is upon us. Don’t focus whether your church is dying, keep your focus on being transformed into the leader God can use to transform his people for his mission. The most important thing to remember is that God is taking us into uncharted territory to transform us. The great discovery in following Christ into His mission is that we find ourselves! And the beautiful paradox is that the more committed we are to our own transformation, the better leader we will be. It’s true you were not trained for this, but you are relied upon to lead through this uncharted territory.