Incarnational Humility: Thinking About Leadership

Incarnational Humility: Thinking about leadership

Leadership is not like riding a bicycle. All leadership is contextual.

‘Leadership’ itself is a relatively new term. It scarcely appeared in American discourse before the Second World War, and gradually made its way into the churches from the 1960s onwards. It is a particularly American term, and its language is soaked in U.S. world-view vocabulary, especially the “Success narrative.” The word does not exist in many other languages.

De-Westernizing leadership

  • Church planters – not too young and not too old!
  • We often have to un-train church planters from learnt leadership.
  • “Principles” do not translate. CP is more art than science:
  • Account for seasonal difference. Leadership in winter is different than leadership in summer.

Towards contextual leadership:

  • Biblical terminology:
  • When everyone is a new believer. Diff between I tim 3 and Titus 1 list of eldership qualifications.
  • Which metaphor for church? Flock&shepherds, family& elders, household and paterfamilias (patron), 
  • Sacrifice some sacred cows on the altar of contextual leadership
  • Scaffolding

I look on foreign missionaries as the scaffolding round a rising building; the sooner it can be dispensed with the better – or rather, the sooner it can be transferred to other places, to serve the same temporary purpose. Hudson Taylor

  • Underleading

Roland Allen, writing a century ago, understood that “the besetting sin of European missionaries is the love of administration.” 

“They may not administer it at all to our satisfaction, but I fail to see what our satisfaction has to do with the matter”.

In another book, The Ministry of the Spirit, Allen unpacks this idea some more;

The continued presence of a foreigner seems to produce an evil effect. The native genius is cramped by his presence, and cannot work with him. The Christians tend to sit still and let him do everything for them and to deny all responsibility… A visit of two or three months stirs up the Church, long continued residence stifles it.

Sow the seed and entrust it to the Master Gardener. Lay the foundation and entrust it to the Master Builder. There is a place for evangelising and teaching, discipling and pastoring. There are initial battles to be fought and won. There are leaders to be trained and an example to be lived. It is a fierce battle to see the church planted, her foundation strong, her core gathered and her leaders leading. In some unreached contexts, this could take a generation. In church planting movements, the catalytic agents are very quickly in a peripheral coaching role. The point here is not to rush, neither to overstay. The church planter must know when he has laid the foundation, when he has sown well the seed, and must not overstay. We entrust local communities to the grace of God, to the Holy Spirit, and to local leaders. Paradoxically, with cross-cultural leadership the saying “less is more” definitely seems to be true. Paul stayed a shorter time than we often do, and the churches he planted lasted longer. If your arriving was important, your departing is even more so!

What should elders, apostles, evangelists, influence, hospitality, teaching look like in this context?