Kent is no Moses, and he knows it.
Gifted as a pastor-teacher, he arrived at his mid-sized Midwestern church believing that God had called him to shepherd this congregation. The people were generally supportive. But Kent was staggering under "vision block." The elders were pushing him to "be more of a leader," "give us a vision," and "take charge."
Kent did not fit that model. He had a hard time generating visionary ideas. He had little difficulty, however, discerning whether visionary ideas others espoused were from God. He listened well to the leaders around him—particularly elders and staff—and was able to synthesize component pieces of God's vision for the church as shared by key players. He then put the pieces together and clearly communicated, biblically and sensitively, what God was doing in the congregation.
"Couldn't God speak through the body?" Kent asked.
But that wasn't the leadership model the elders assumed every church needed. And they told him so.
If only I were a Moses
Most of today's leadership literature focuses on the "visionary leader," the one who determines his church's calling and then communicates that vision to the church. The model is Moses' receiving the Ten Commandments: he went up the mountain, heard from God, and came back down the mountain to communicate the vision and challenge people to follow. It's the "Moses as CEO" model.
Americans value the Moses-style leader. This approach is rooted in the rugged individualism that is so much a part of our culture. The frontier spirit has surely spurred growth and creativity, but in our culture, often at the expense of community. Throughout American history—whether homesteaders who left the cities for a new life in the wilderness, or the Internet culture that asks "Where do you want to go today?"—"we" thinking is usually trumped by the "I" motivations.
While Generation X supposedly lauds community, it will be a long road back. Marketers persist in promoting self-centeredness, entitlement, and dissatisfaction, emphasizing "my needs" rather than "what's important for us." Personal freedoms still overshadow group values. It's easier for individuals to relate to a single leader than to a process-oriented leadership team.
For me, it took extensive training in four other cultures to bring home this reality. And now, after eight years of work with more than 500 teams from 35 denominations and 20 mission agencies in North America, I have found less than 5 percent to have healthy leadership teams. Only now are Americans beginning to realize the limitations of "the Moses model," particularly regarding vision.
Moses' descent with God's plan in hand is truly a great model for about 30 percent of the 2,000 pastors with whom I have worked. These specially gifted leaders have a clear sense of vision from the Lord and can mobilize the congregation to fulfill that vision.
But the other 70 percent struggle to varying degrees with discovering their unique vision on their own. When most pastors go up the mountain, the only tablets they come back with are aspirin!
Because so many stumble trying singlehanded to discover God's intent for their congregation, does this mean God made a mistake in designing less than one-third of church leaders with the gift of visionary leadership?
Moses isn't the only model
Through a pastors' group we were in, Kent came to the realization that he could never be the kind of leader his elders expected. He wept over it. But Kent believed God had designed him to lead his church just as he is.