Open Source Activists
A shift is occurring among the new generation of church leaders. We are thinking and leading differently than the generation that preceded us, but I didn't recognize the extent of this shift until a worship service one Sunday morning a few years ago.
I was sitting in the front row with the senior pastor. He was increasingly uncomfortable with the sound mix in the room and the way the worship was being led. He got out of his seat and walked to the back of the room to adjust everything from the lights and sound to the length of the songs. At one point he actually signaled the worship leaders on the platform that it was time to end a set. He then asked me to go back to the sound booth to make another adjustment.
I froze. I just could not do it.
The founding pastor's expectation that I be involved in everything—even acoustics—was part of a leadership paradigm that had left me weary. It assumed I was supposed to have some degree of control over every part of the church, supposed to have the answer to whatever problem arose. One day, I had a string of meetings that kept me from my office most of the day. Upon my return I met five people whose jobs had come to a halt because they needed me. They all had the information and the skills necessary to do their work, but they lacked the authority—the necessary space—to lead.
This kind of organizational environment expects leaders to know and control virtually everything in the life of the community. Of course we included volunteers in our work. We gathered them into "task forces" focused on a particular issue. We wanted them to feel ownership for the ministry, but we also wanted the task force to meet with a pastor or elder to get a clear picture of the vision and then execute the plan as instructed.
As the source of vision and the leader of task forces, I was increasingly the center of attention and I was increasingly uncomfortable with who I was becoming. This highly centralized and hierarchical view of leadership also left me exhausted. I was tired of trying to convince people to care about stuff, tired of cajoling leaders to give one more night out, one more dollar, or one more skill to the church and its vision.
So when the senior pastor asked me to adjust the sound in the worship service I literally stopped in my tracks. I thought to myself, I cannot keep doing this. So I quit. I quit trying to convince people to do what I wanted. I quit pretending to have all the answers. I quit the "task force" leadership model I had been taught.
From force to source
Over the last few decades, a generation of significant pastors and leaders has encouraged us to raise the bar of leadership within the church. They have drawn heavily from corporate and secular models, and they have elevated the values of excellence and efficiency. But my generation has grown skeptical of these values and the leadership principles that produced them. They are increasingly seen as too corporate, too controlling, and the source of too much consumerism within the church.