Curt Pringle is the mayor of Anaheim, California, the sixth-largest city in the state. When his term expires later this year, he will have left his mark on the city like no other mayor in the history of Orange County. He is also a member of our church who understands what it means to "seek the peace of the city," as Jeremiah commanded the exiles in Babylon.
Through Curt's leadership, Anaheim has built a new downtown with mixed-use buildings, residential properties, businesses, cafes, parks, and walkable streets. The transformation has been remarkable.
People like Curt Pringle have helped me understand what leadership is supposed to look like in the church. I don't think there is any topic I have struggled with more than leadership: What's the nature, the design, the goal of leadership? What does biblical leadership look like? How do I measure my progress as a leader?
I have read dozens of books on the topic, and each one leaves me more confused because they usually present conflicting models. Some say leadership is all about servanthood. Others present a hierarchical model with a clear chain of command. Still others, a leader-less model. All have their strengths. But I've come to see that they share a common weakness—these models mostly focus on building up the church for its own sake. They lack a vision of the church as a "sent people."
In contrast to the in-house focus of many leadership models, Jesus said, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15). This means our mission is much broader than taking care of the needs of our congregation, as important as that may be. To proclaim the gospel to the "whole creation" means the realms of business, law, education, media, politics, and the arts are all parts of our mission. As people in our congregations engage these fields, they are called to bring the good news into them. The goal: to bring reconciliation to all areas of life so that each functions in a way that honors the Creator. This is what it means to seek the peace (shalom) of the city in which we live.
Lesslie Newbigin once observed that the church has two main functions: First, it is to proclaim the whole counsel of God each week, which means weekly worship, discipleship, community building, and forming a healthy institution. But second, down in the proverbial church basement, we are to be training secret agents of the kingdom to be shalom-makers in every area of life. Like Daniel and his three friends, our people should be able to think and act Christianly in their vocations, but also taught to strive for excellence in those professions.
When taken together they will be, in the words of James Hunter, a "faithful presence" wherever they are. In this way, we equip our people to seek the shalom of the city right where God has placed them—in their neighborhoods, jobs, and civic institutions.
What then is my task as a leader in the church? I believe it is threefold: I am (1) to inspire believers to be ambassadors of reconciliation to the "whole creation," (2) to equip them to have influence in whatever sphere God has put them, and (3) to help them see that the goal is shalom, the peace of the city. As Hunter says so well, "The practice of faithful presence generates relationships and institutions that are fundamentally covenantal in character, the ends of which are the fostering of meaning, purpose, truth, beauty, belonging, and fairness—not just for Christians but for everyone."
The responsibility for this training falls squarely on the shoulders of the God-ordained leaders of the church. Are we inspiring, equipping, and training members to be faithfully present in their communities, to be seeking the shalom of the city? At the end of the day, is the city more whole because our church has been present in it?