In the spring issue of Leadership journal, Brian Hofmeister wrote an article titled "The Dirt on Organic." Hofmeister shared his experience as the pastor of a network of small, minimally structured, churches. While he celebrated the rich community and evangelistic vigor of his organic churches, Hofmeister was also honest about the struggles he faced. In the end he left his organic experiment for a more traditionally-structured church with paid fulltime pastors. Neil Cole, also a Leadership journal contributor and the author of The Organic Church, was written this response to Hofmeister's article.
The issue Brian struggled with appears to be about finding qualified leaders in a fast growing work with conversion growth. Every missionary must face this and the solution is not to import seasoned leaders from other cultures into new works and thus create an unhealthy dependency. This will result in the establishing of a church culture rather than releasing a catalytic movement within a culture. The solution is to grow leaders from within the soil itself. Does this take time? Yes. It takes longer than a year. There are a few barriers that often prevent us from raising these leaders, and Brian apparently hit these barriers and chose not to continue.
Here is a diagnosis of the issues Hofmeister faced:
Recruitment of mature leaders. Recruitment of leaders for ministry is an epidemic problem in the Western Church. We all have more ministries than we have leaders. But recruitment is not the solution—in my opinion it is part of the problem. Recruitment is a consumer orientation that expects others to grow the leaders so we can benefit from them. When everyone is shopping for leaders and no one is farming we will soon have a serious demand and very little supply. If everyone buys bananas at the store and no one grows them at the farm, bananas will become very valuable and rare…even the lesser quality ones. This is the sort of leadership vacuum we face today in the Western Church.
In our organic church movement, we see our entire leadership farm system as starting with lost and broken people, not already saved and committed folks. We believe that many of our greatest heroes of the future woke up this morning with a hangover in the wrong person's bed. That broken life, transformed by the power of the gospel, actually will become the energy of a movement when released to affect others. To try and coral that energy and consume it with Bible study lessons by older Christians who are far removed from a changed life is to lose all the inertia of a movement. We need mentors who will release and empower rather than hold people back and create dependency.
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