why i hate talk of ‘leadership’

In the odd subculture of Irish evangelicalism, the buzzword of the minute is leadership. Its buzz, sadly, is lingering long. The reason the church is in decline? The answer’s not sin, or hypocrisy, or apathy, or lack of discipleship, or obsession with cool, or rampant materialism and greed. It’s all down to a lack of leadership apparently. There are regular conferences on how to encourage church members into leadership, on ‘leadership development’ and on how to manipulate young people into becoming leaders in their communities. The church takes advice on this topic from literally anywhere that will offer it, but seems to be a bitch (in particular) to the business and corporate world, imagining perhaps that if the church can imitate the success of ‘big business’ then it might gain a little cultural cache or social capital.

If you want the church to be respected by the world around it then you’ve lost the plot entirely.

Frankly I consider all this talk of leadership to be bullshit. The church worships a God whose leadership was demonstrated in his willingness to wash the feet of others, eat with prostitutes and ultimately hang on a tree, battered and bloody, begging for an alternative. His leadership was demonstrated in his willingness to place last. His leadership was demonstrated in self-denial, teaching and rich relationships.

Being a human being means that life will be dirty, messy, sad, hard and yes, complicated. Being a Christian does not need to be complicated.  Being a Christian means that in the middle of all the absolute shit, you relentlessly love God and love others, and everything else can go to hell.

Don’t get sucked into conversations about ‘vision’ and ‘strategy’ and any context where your church is referred to as an ‘organization’. Instead get sucked into permanent relationships with saints who will challenge you by their integrity and love you by their presence. Get sucked into the scriptures. Get sucked into repentance, humility and allowing your decisions about your money and career to scare the crap out of you. Get sucked into coming last and if you just can’t help but win everything, at least share your winnings with the losers.


4 Responses to why i hate talk of ‘leadership’

  1. If another well known church could even begin to talk about some of the things you raise here, that would be a good start.

  2. Maybe you could start the conversation

  3. Yes, I can start it but that would mean getting sucked in.

  4. declanjk says:

    Well said, Claire. I came across a man called John Wannamaker in an essay recently. He wrote an article in the early 20th Century entitled “Bringing Business Efficiency into Christian Service”. I think that title sums up everything that’s wrong with this line of ecclesiology.

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