Thursday, May 25, 2006

positional, position-less and demonstrated leadership

When some people think of "leadership", they think of a "leadership position." At Horizon Church we have attempted to steer away from positional leadership in favor of a more organic, demonstrated leadership. We have a lot of conversations that describe the difference between "positional leadership" and "demonstrated leadership."

If someone were to ask, "How do I become a Link Group leader at Horizon?" (Link Group is the name we give to our small groups) it would be a weird question to answer. We don't give away a "position" to someone who desires it. Its more that we watch people. We watch and wait and see if they are demonstrating leadership. If they are loving people well, making disciples, including the outsider, etc.. then we might say that they are "leading people toward Christ and Christ-likeness." At this point we acknowledge their leadership and we invite them to be one of the new leaders in the next multiplication of their small group.

So we are working against positional leadership and trying to acknowledge demonstrated leadership. We don't have a Leadership Workshop 101 which trains new leaders. We have relationships. It looks more like a mentoring then a class. It looks more like adopting a culture of leadership then acquiring the skills of leadership. And yet even in the midst of this kind of church environment, we find ourselves with positions.

We have titles like "Link Group leader." This is someone who has demonstrated leadership and has been given the responsibility of pastoring a small group. There are other people in our community who are leading well who are not Link Group leaders. They may lead in a context outside the church or they may just not have a link group of their own to facilitate just yet. Either way, "Link Group leader" is not synonymous with "leader." All Link group leaders must be leaders but not all leaders in our community are Link Group leaders. I think that means that this would qualify as a "position."

Also, we have paid staff. Some of our Link Group leaders get hired to work full-time for Horizon Church. They facilitate Sunday mornings, cast vision and generally are supposed to be leading the other Link Group leaders. So our staff are those who are "leading the Leaders." It is a paid "position."

So we find here an interesting dynamic at work. While we value "demonstrated leadership" rather than "positional leadership," that does not mean we have "position-less leadership." Our leadership model is kind of funny that way. It looks for demonstrated leadership from someone before they are given a "position" or "title." Now, that title is purely based on continued demonstrated leadership. If the demonstration of leadership ceases, then that person ceases to be a Link Group leader. We don't want to say that you are a leader because you have the title of "Link Group leader." What we want to say is that you are leading and so we will, based on that demonstration of leadership, give you this conditional title of "Link Group leader."

So you see that the way we do leadership is not "positional" but it also is not "position-less." It is not against "position" that we resist but "positional leadership."

Monday, May 08, 2006

exposure and contamination

I am thinking through exposure verses contamination these days. I thought about this today as I drove in my car listening to Christian music. I listen to the Christian radio station because I find that I really do praise God as I sing when that radio station is on.

I remember going through a time when I rejected all forms of Christian music. I had grown up listening to Christian music and really enjoyed it. Then I reached a place where I began to realize that there was other, better music out in the world. And a lot of Christians began to mock Christian music. And they were right to do so for the most part. So why do I listen to it now? This is the question I asked myself.

Well, I found myself listening to the Christian radio station more and more. Not because of some external pressure to do so, but because I found my moods, my thinking and my overall attitude much more "God-ward" when I did than when I didn't. I still listen to a variety of music on the radio. But I must confess that my favorite station is the Christian station.

I know this is heresy for all the other post-modern, emergent church-planters out there. I have crossed over to the dark side by admitting this. But I began thinking about why it is that I feel the need to sing worship songs in my car. Somehow it connects me back to the purpose of my very existance. And so rather than sing along to a love song or an "angry at the world" song, I like to sing along to a "praise God for loving me and saving my sorry ass" song.

Part of me thinks that I need to listen because of my own weaknesses. I wonder if exposure to the world must be balanced out with exposure to God. An imbalance of exposure creates contamination. If I am continually exposing myself to the world through its images and subtle lies in advertising, music, movies and culture then I need to also expose myself to the Spirit of God, scripture, the presence of God in prayer, holy community and the like in order not to be contaminated by the world.

Relevance and love for people demand that I am "in" the world. Holiness and love for God demand that I am not "of" the world. If I seclude myself from the world then I lose my ability to reach out to it. I become contaminated in a different way. I become contaminated with inwardness, selfishness, and exclusivity. But if I am exposed only to the world or even mainly to the world, then that is what I will be contaminated by. I will begin to look more like my culture then I do Jesus. Which, I must confess, is probably the case in my life.

I am over exposing myself to the world like an albino in the blistering Carribean sun. I think we all are. I think this is true especially for those who find themselves, relunctantly or not, in the emergent church. This is of course a reaction against Christianity as an exclusive community. But both have their damaging effects.

So now I attempt to rid the contamination by balancing the exposure. One part God, one part world. And maybe listening to Christian music is a part of that.

Jesus was perfect at this anti-contamination via balance of exposure. He could enter more deeply into the world than his disciples could. He had 100% exposure to the light, so darkness was never too dark for him. He could hang out with prostitutes and not lust after them. Could you do the same with porn stars? Could you enter that deeply into the world and not be contaminated by it? Probably not. I couldn't. Why not? Because that kind of exposure to the world would contaminate me. In my life I don't expose myself to God enough for contamination NOT to happen in a situation like that. Jesus could hang out with drinkers and not get drunk. He could hang out with gossips and not spread rumors. He could be with thieves and not clutch his wallet.

I think many young Christians, many emergent, think they are strong enough to be in the world and not be contaminated by it. They think too highly of themselves. Our pride comes before our fall. We have rejected "churchianity" and "christianese" in favor of diving headlong into the world. And maybe this is where Jesus calls us to be. But many of us are not ready to be there. We are over-exposed to the world and under-exposed to the voice, presence and power of God. And so, right and left, we are being contaminated. And instead of spreading the gospel, we are infecting the next generation of disciples with eight parts world, one part God.

So what do we do? Do we run back to our exclusive Christianity, shuting the doors behind us as we go? No. Our only option is to dive headlong into God. To expose ourselves to Him every day, all day. And our hope is that His piercing Light will burn away the darkness that fogs our life.