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9 aberrant forms of church leadership

Christian leadership can go wrong in so many different ways – moral failure, destructive relationships, bad theology, etc. But, many people fail at leadership because they started out with a bad model of leadership in the first place.

Michael Jensen addresses this problem and offers 9 forms of aberrant church leadership that we need to avoid. You’ll need to read his post to see what he thinks about each of these, but here are the 9 forms of leadership he addresses.

  1. The Narcissist. The easiest way to spot a narcissist is when they are confronted by criticism.
  2. The Control Freak. The control freak will always want to live in a world in which they are able to be omniscient and omnipotent.
  3. The Wimp. The weak and indecisive leader is often imprisoned by the awareness of their own weakness and so becomes the opposite: authoritarian.
  4. The ‘I don’t do windows’ leader. This leader has isolated their leadership role to one particular gift and doesn’t stray much from it.
  5. The Macho. This leader has a reading of complementarianism that anchors it in a particular reading of maleness and femaleness, and is unaware how culturally bound it is.
  6. The Member of the Guild. The aim of this Christian leader is to match it with his or her peers from college (or wherever).
  7. The Self-legislator. The self-legislator is a child of the revolution.
  8. The Change-averter. The change-averter is deeply conservative and will put the breaks on any change whatsoever as a point of principle.
  9. The Pragmatist. Whatever works is the bottom line here.

What do you think? Which of these nine do you think is the greatest problem of Christian leadership today? Or, do you think Jensen’s missed something and you would argue for a different problem as even more fundamental?

What would you do if you had to throw away all of your books?

Some of you have probably already heard about Brian Fulthorp’s distressing situation. If not, the short version is that his house was infected with toxic mold and, as a result, he’s had to throw out his entire library. Brian pastors a small church near the Grand Canyon and is working on becoming a missionary with the Assemblies of God to continue is ministry in the area. So, as you can imagine, resources for replacing an entire library like this are somewhat limited.

A number of people have asked Brian how they could help with his situation, so he has posted a list of the most important books he’s lost. Please go check it out and see if you can send anything from your own library or, if possible, even order a book or two from Amazon for him. Joel Watts has also suggested checking out Brain’s Amazon  wishlist to find additional resources that might help.

Let’s see what we can do to help out.

Steampunk David and Goliath

Nothing like a little steampunk to bring a different perspective to a well-known story.

click to embiggen

HT 22 Words

More Gospel-Centered Resources

Justin Taylor points out that you can now download the audio from the recent Gospel-Centered Life conference. I haven’t listened to any of them yet, but I’m particularly intrigued to hear with Michael Horton had to say.

Here are the presentations:

“This is when you know we’re going to hell.”

This was too much fun to pass up. I’m not sure what profitable use this could possibly be in your ministry, but I’m sure you could come up with something if you really tried. Thanks to Jim West for posting this and providing us all with an enjoyable (and devastating) two minutes.

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Gollum saves the day

I’m a big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. But, one thing always confused me. Why did he call the last book The Return of the King? If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, you know that the title refers to the fact that the kingdom of Gondor has been without its rightful king for a very long time. And, the true king of Gondor, Aragorn, has not yet returned to claim the kingdom as his inheritance. So, from the title, you presume that the heart of the book will be the return of Aragorn to reestablish the kingdom of Gondor.

And, in one of the story’s climactic scenes, that’s exactly what happens. A huge army of vicious, ugly orcs has invaded Gondor and looks certain to destroy its capital city, slaughtering all of the Gondorians (Gondorites? Gondorans? Gondor-people?) along the way. At the last possible second, Aragorn and his companions arrive on a fleet of black-sailed ships. Leaping from the side of the ship, Aragorn stares down the waiting orcs before unleashing his own army of ghost-soldiers (it’s complicated) to destroy the opposing army and save the besieged humans.

The king has returned.

Big deal.

The story isn’t even close to being over. Indeed, there’s an even larger orc-army just waiting to be unleashed on the humans. And, they haven’t faced the evil overlord, Sauron, who is behind all of this in the first place.

So, the good news is…the king is back. The bad news is…you’re about to be eaten by an orc anyway.

The story doesn’t seem to find its true resolution until the Ring of Power, which Sauron needs to sustain his awesome evilness, is destroyed by being tossed into the depths of a powerful volcano. Actually, it doesn’t really get tossed into the volcano. Technically, one of the more interesting characters in the story, Gollum, steals the ring and while triumphantly dancing around with glee, he falls into the fiery volcano with the ring clutched in his greedy little hands. (The moral of the story, of course, is that one should never dance near open volcanoes.) And, once the ring is destroyed, Sauron dies and his orc armies are finally vanquished.

So, the real hero of the story is…Gollum. After all, he’s the one who destroys the ring and defeats Sauron. The evil one is defeated. Victory is won. Let’s go home.

So, why does Tolkien call this book The Return of the King? Why not Gollum Saves the Day? Wouldn’t that be a more fitting description of the book’s real climax? Not for Tolkien. Killing Sauron isn’t really the point. Sauron needs to be defeated, of course. But, that’s just one part of a much larger story—the restoration of the kingdom. That’s why Tolkien continues the story even after Sauron dies, telling us about Aragorn getting married, establishing his kingdom, and ruling for a nice, long time. That’s the good news. Killing bad guys is one thing. But unless the king returns and establishes the kingdom, things still won’t be the way they’re supposed to be. It’s only when the kingdom comes that you have all the blessings of the kingdom: peace, justice, prosperity, pretty elf-wife—shalom.

The good news is about the return of the king.

Flotsam and jetsam (on hiatus)

I hate to say it, but I’m going to have to put flotsam and jetsam on hiatus for a little while.  For the next few weeks, I really need to put some additional time into working on the Gospel book (which, by the way, still doesn’t have a title other than “Gospel book”) and prepping for my Jonathan Edwards seminar this summer. Mornings are the best time for me to do that, but that’s also when I’ve been putting the flotsam and jetsam posts together. I may try to switch things around and do some evening editions of flotsam and jetsam so that I don’t have to stop them entirely, but we’ll see how that goes.

And, so I don’t leave you entirely without something to reflect upon this morning, here’s an interesting graphic of God’s power over time.

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HT James McGrath via Facebook

Children asking awesomely awkward questions about Jesus

Apparently this is from the show Outnumbered, which I know absolutely nothing about except that it has some terrificly obnoxious kids asking some weird questions about Jesus. (HT 22 Words)

My favorite comes right at the end: “What would Jesus do if he were attacked by a polar bear?”

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQak6ng0RXQ&feature=player_embedded

A call for renewal in the Presbyterian Church (USA)

A number of pastors in the Presbyterian Church (USA) have joined together to issue a call for renewal in the denomination. Scot McKnight posted the letter this morning on his blog, and it has sparked some interesting discussion. The letter itself offers an outline for denominational renewal in general, though some of it is specific to its Presbyterian context.

I’ve posted the full text of the letter below (minus signatories). What do you think? Are “denominations” worth renewing? Can they be renewed like this? Is the letter missing anything necessary for such a renewal?

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A Letter to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

February 2, 2011

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

To say the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is deathly ill is not editorializing but acknowledging reality.  Over the past year, a group of PC(USA) pastors has become convinced that to remain locked in unending controversy will only continue a slow demise, dishonor our calling, and offer a poor legacy to those we hope will follow us. We recently met in Phoenix, and have grown in number and commitment. We humbly share responsibility for the failure of our common life, and are no better as pastors nor more righteous than anyone on other sides of tough issues.

Our denomination has been in steady decline for 45 years, now literally half the size of a generation ago.  Most congregations see far more funerals than infant baptisms because we are an aging denomination. Only 1,500 of our 5,439 smallest churches have an installed pastor, putting their future viability as congregations in doubt. Even many larger congregations, which grew well for decades, have hit a season of plateau or decline.  Our governing bodies reflect these trends, losing financial strength, staffing, and viability as presbyteries, synods, and national offices.

How we got to this place is less important than how to move forward. We are determined to get past rancorous, draining internal disputes that paralyze our common life and ministry. We believe the PC(USA) will not survive without drastic intervention, and stand ready to DO something different, to thrive as the Body of Christ. We call others of like mind to envision a new future for congregations that share our Presbyterian, Reformed, Evangelical heritage. If the denomination has the ability and will to move in this new direction, we will rejoice.  Regardless, a group of us will change course, forming a new way for our congregations to relate.  We hate the appearance of schism – but the PC(USA) is divided already. Our proposal only acknowledges the fractured denomination we have become.

Homosexual ordination has been the flashpoint of controversy for the last 35 years.  Yet, that issue – with endless, contentious “yes” and “no” votes – masks deeper, more important divisions within the PC(USA).  Our divisions revolve around differing understandings of Scripture, authority, Christology, the extent of salvation amidst creeping universalism, and a broader set of moral issues. Outside of presbytery meetings, we mostly exist in separate worlds, with opposing sides reading different books and journals, attending different conferences, and supporting different causes. There is no longer common understanding of what is meant by being “Reformed.”  Indeed, many sense that the only unity we have left is contained in the property clause and the pension plan; some feel like withholding per capita is a club used against them, while others feel locked into institutional captivity by property. While everyone wearies of battles over ordination, these battles divert us from a host of issues that affect the way our congregations fail to attract either young believers or those outside the faith. Thus, we age, shrink, and become increasingly irrelevant.  Is it time to acknowledge that traditional denominations like the PC(USA) have served in their day but now must be radically transformed?

We need something new, characterized by:

  1. A clear, concise theological core to which we subscribe, within classic biblical, Reformed/Evangelical traditions, and a pledge to live according to those beliefs, regardless of cultural pressures to conform;
  2. A commitment to nurture leadership in local congregations, which we believe is a primary expression of the Kingdom of God.  We will identify, develop, and train a new generation of leaders – clergy and laity;
  3. A passion to share in the larger mission of the people of God around the world, especially among the least, the lost, and the left behind;
  4. A dream of multiplying healthy, missional communities throughout North America;
  5. A pattern of fellowship reflecting the realities of our scattered life and joint mission, with regular gatherings locally, regionally, and nationally to excite our ability to dream together.

Our values include:

  1. A minimalist structure, replacing bureaucracy and most rules with relational networks of common purpose;
  2. Property and assets under stewardship of the local Session.  Dues/Gifts for common administration should only allow and enable continued affiliation among these congregations;
  3. Rather than large institutions, joint ventures with specialized ministries as congregations deem helpful [PC(USA) World Mission may be a source of joint support, aspects of the Board of Pensions, Presbyterian Foundation, Presbyterian Global Fellowship, Presbyterians for Renewal conferences, Outreach Foundation, etc.];
  4. An atmosphere of support for congregations both within and outside of the PC(USA).

We invite like-minded pastors and elders to a gathering on August 25-27 in Minneapolis to explore joining this movement and help shape its character.  Our purpose is to LIVE INTO new patterns as they are created, modeling a way of faith: the worship, supportive fellowship, sharing of best practices, and accessible theology that brings unity and the Spirit’s vitality.

OUR PROPOSAL:

  1. A Fellowship: The most immediate change we intend is creating a new way of relating in common faith, a Fellowship (name to be determined). The primary purpose of this Fellowship will be the encouragement of local congregations to live out the Good News proclaimed by our Savior, increasing the impact of the Kingdom of Heaven.   This Fellowship will exist within current presbyteries for the time being, but energies and resources will flow in new directions.  It is an intermediate tool to bring together like-minded congregations and pastors, to enable us to build a future different than our fractured present.
  2. New Synod/Presbyteries: In the near future we will need “middle bodies” that offer freedom to express historical, biblical values amid ordination changes in the PC(USA).  More importantly, we long for presbytery-like bodies with theological and missional consensus rather than fundamental disagreement over so many core issues.  We need new processes that identify and support the next generation of leadership differently than the current model, which unintentionally weeds out the entrepreneurial persons we so desperately need in our congregations.  Many current functions should be removed; some, like curriculum and mission relationships, have become less centralized already.  We will work with the Middle Governing Bodies Commission since changes to The Book of Order will be needed to step fully into this reality.
  3. Possible New Reformed Body: Congregations and presbyteries that remain in a denomination that fundamentally changes will become an insurmountable problem for many. Some members of the Fellowship will need an entity apart from the current PC(USA). It is likely that a new body will need to be created, beyond the boundary of the current PC(USA), while remaining in correspondence with its congregations.  The wall between these partner Reformed bodies will be permeable, allowing congregations and pastors to be members in the Fellowship regardless of denominational affiliation.  All kinds of possibilities exist, and much will depend on how supportive the PC(USA) can be in allowing something new to flourish.
  4. Possible Reconfiguration of the PC(USA): We intend to continue conversations within the PC(USA), and have met with both Louisville’s leadership and that of the Covenant Network in the past few months.  We believe the denomination no longer provides a viable future and perceive that the Covenant Network also sees a broken system.  We hope to work together to see if some new alignment might serve the whole Church.

Any model that includes an entity outside the PC(USA) does mean fewer remaining congregations, pastors, and elders to fight the challenges of the current PC(USA).  Votes will swing in directions that had not been desirable before.  For many this outcome simply acknowledges that fighting is not the way we choose to proceed; our goal is not institutional survival but effective faithfulness as full participants in the worldwide Church.  We hope to discover and model what a new “Reformed body” looks like in the coming years, and we invite you to join us, stepping faithfully, boldly, and joyfully into the work for which God has called us.