Thursday, November 10, 2011

Crisis Of Leadership

It is no small secret the mainline, denominational church in America is in serious decline. Most of the major denominations are now wrestling with the how to remain in existence, not just for the long term, but in the next five years. Consultants have been hired and paid, studies and reports have been released, and all the cash and effort have produced the results that many have known by painful experience, the cause of the decline is found in the area of leadership. Much ink has been and will be continued to be consumed talking about issues like discipleship and evangelism. Books have been written and are being written about how to bolster a children's ministry or how to engage this population or that population. Some have turned to the Emerging Church, or the Missional Church models to find a way out. These are all good things that have been happening and are happening, yet the statistics still point in the same direction. The issue is leadership.

John Maxwell is often quoted as saying, "Everything rises and falls on leadership," the church is no exception to this. When the local congregation I serve is struggling it is more often than not due to a leadership issue with me. During this time of crisis in the church there is a need for strong leadership to come forward and lead, the problem is we have a crisis in leadership. Sure we have all the people in leadership positions, and for the most part they are wonderful people, they just are not very good leaders. They might even be fantastic managers, but they are not good leaders. Talk is on the rise about developing leaders but at least in my tribe, the UMC, talk is all we are experiencing. There are small pockets working to develop leaders but overall there is little progress being made.

Over the past few months I have wondered why something so important get so little attention. When I have asked those in position of leadership I am assured that leadership development is a top priority and things are in the works to address it, however there are many struggles facing the church. Many of you reading this have traveled life longer than I, however, it is clear to be that if something is called a top priority, yet there is no effort in that area it is not a priority. All the other things which are allowed to pull attention away from leadership will continue to get in the way if effective leadership is not applied. That which we spend out time, energy and other resources on is what will grow. When we focus on the fires they will grow. When we focus on the financial woes, they will grow. When we focus on the lose of what was, the lose will grow. If we were to focus on leadership, then it would grow. If we were to focus on mission, it would grow. But it all takes leadership to create a clear focus.

So what are we to do? Edgar Shine would remind us that once a culture is in place, the culture determines who leads. In the mainline church the culture is well in place and the choice for leaders are not leading. Actually, they are managing very well to maintain the status quo. More than just a present day buzz word the status quo is a powerful force which is never neutral. Only courageous leadership will break the cycle.

As for the rest of us who do not lead denominations, or judicatories, what can we do? If you are a leader, then lead. Work at becoming a better leader, develop the leaders around you, and lead the people God has given you care over. A symptom of poor leadership is waiting for someone else to provide leadership. If those who hold a position of leadership will not lead, waiting for them to provide leadership will being about a certain death.

So, search the Scriptures, find the examples of leaders in the Bible who did just that, lead. Allow your life and character to be shaped by the compelling love of Christ. Lead, seeking the justice of God, offering the hope of Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. A crisis as severe as we are experiencing will not be solved by distracted management, it will be solved by leaders who take action. So lead in your life, family, your workplace and your church. Do not wait for someone else to lead.

Let us set our hearts of Christ and follow the path of life that leads to the Kingdom of God being experienced by all the people of creation.

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