leadership and Ephesians 4

This past week I wandered down Pasadena way and took advantage of one of the perks of Fuller alumniship. Every year for the rest of my life I can audit two classes for free. Earlier in the year I audited The Pursuit of Wholeness, which was a bit of a disappointment as it was more The Pursuit of Pop Psychology..

My last week wasn’t a disappointment at all. Entirely the opposite really. It was an appointment. Wait, a second, that doesn’t sound right. Though it would seem an appointment should be the word used to describe the opposite of disappointment, doesn’t it? English is crazy. Anyhow. It was a great time.

There was a season in my life in which I thought it would be impossible for me to use those words to ever describe any kind of ministry training or class. I’d come to the end of the road and can quickly recognize rehashed models. It wasn’t that they are always boring. More like exhausting. The ten steps to perfect success or the five Priorities or whatever other list they come up with generally makes me slump in my seat and fold in on myself. So much of this, like my class earlier in the year, has less to do with the Bible and a lot more to do with pop organizational principles, many of which are old even for pop organizational principles.

But something odd happened in Alan Hirsch’s class this past week. It was relaxing. Not that it was light or simplistic. Not at all. In a way it requires a lot. But the lot it requires somehow seems open and free to the possibilities of the Spirit’s creation. “I can do this,” I said to myself. Which isn’t a comment on capability, it’s a comment on willingness and emotional/spiritual excitement. I decided I wasn’t going to go back into ministry leadership stuff just to do it. I had to recover the passion and the hope and the freedom, all of which were burned out of me in my last experiences.

The class was basically based on Hirsch’s The Forgotten Ways, though Alan Hirsch in person is a lot more personable than his text. I asked a lot of questions and others did as well, making the class immensely conversational. What is nice about a class like that, too, is almost everyone is coming from a unique direction with practical experience and questions, each adding a great deal to the overall discussion.

Towards the end we were asked to discuss what we got out of the week. For me this isn’t a specific thing. Rather, oddly enough, it’s a reforming of my inner motivation. I’ve studied a lot of church growth and Emerging church and missional church stuff. While much of Emerging church thought arises from frustration with standard forms of church my frustrations have come in and with Emerging type churches. I was burned by those types of communities that were formed as supposed answers. So, I go into those discussions with a bit of cynicism. But I came out feeling relaxed, like I said, and motivated to participate in some interesting conversations which I had after the class with various friends new and old. If I end up going back to Pasadena in this next year it seems there might be something churchy in the works, and I really can credit Alan Hirsch for helping me see that possibility again.

Part of the discussion talked about the models of leadership that Hirsch sees in Ephesians 4. The list of gifts in this passage, he says, are the bare minimum of what is needed in a ministry setting. However, historically the church has over-emphasized some and de-emphasized, or rejected, others. This has led to malformed communities, unbalanced and missing the mark. Only when all the different perspectives are found will the church be balanced. Which is a nice thing to hear. Especially for me who on a personality test (“16PF“) came up with traits that were, in almost every case opposite of what the presenter said were ideal for a church pastor. Alas, I thought. I wrote about this in mid-2001. It may in fact be because of my weaknesses that God will use me in a profound way, and it may be my own perspective on the world will give me a unique role in ministerial work. “It is important,” I wrote, “that I do not let these tests discourage my pursuits, but rather let them shape some of my own understanding of the specifics of how and where I am called. God has designed me and God has seemed to lead me, so I must continue to trust that he knows what he is doing in making me the way I am and pushing me in the direction which he has.”

While I did not let the tests discourage me I sure got discouraged by others who only saw ministry through a very narrow lens. They wanted a particular type, a particular focus, a particular model of minister and didn’t know what to do if a person didn’t fit into that form. This led to a lot of butting of heads and an immense amount of discouragement by me and the many others who didn’t fit the narrow parameters. Thus the church fell into increasing hierarchy and a sharp division developed between staff and congregation, a fact many on the staff attributed to consumerism, not realizing the consumerism was chiefly, though certainly not exclusively, was pursued by those in leadership. Consumerism using religious words is still consumerism.

So, it was nice to see a church development leader not only allow but even encourage a broad range of personalities and styles, saying these differences are essential. I don’t have to become someone else if I am to be in ministry. This wasn’t a temptation for me to do, as much as it was a temptation for others to try to do to me, and the results of that shot me out of church ministry for a number of years.

Where do I fit then? Well, according to the wee assessment on Hirsch’s site I scored a 23 on Prophet, a 20 on Teacher, a 14 on Pastor/Shepherd, a 12 on Apostle, and a 5 on evangelist. Which means I’m terrible if you want me to bring in new people, but very good if you want those brought in to grow and develop as individuals and as a community. This matches my own self-perception as I’m generally content in a teaching role, though this can quickly turn into the more intense Prophetic role according to circumstances, a role that basically becomes increasingly intense and demanding. My teaching side is likely more commonly seen, the Prophetic side is definitely stronger and intense. I think I’ve mostly learned to process one through the other, except during times of intense spirituality. This also very much is reflected in my post-ministry life the last couple of years. I didn’t become an entrepreneur, or a salesman, or feel content to work in any field as long as I kept up a consistent community. I left it all and wanted to write, and wanted to write in a way that expressed depth and led me to the other side of my persistent questions. Basically I instinctively followed the Prophetic/Teaching role by needing to give up a lot in order to write, write, write. Without a church ministry I sought other ways of expression to the Body and this pushed me.

What does this mean? Well, according to the assesment these are the characteristics of a Prophet:

• Questions what has become normative
• Disturbs common thinking and practices
• Agitates for positive change
• Desires learning for purposes to influence
• Discerns the message of Truth
• Seeks to ensure an authentic response to Truth
• Core issue in one’s relationship with God
• Urgency felt now, in the moment, “this must happen.”
• Comfortable dismantling for future victory
• Deep compassion for the cause of the people

The characteristics of a Teacher:

• Communicator of Truth
• Philosopher of ideas and principles
• Translator of great complexities
• Systematizer for solutions
• Guides others through wisdom and understanding
• Encourages exploration in thinking toward solutions
• Core issue is understanding
• Have a curiosity to know more and to explain this knowledge
• Strong desire for people to understand teachings and wisdom of God
• Willing to take the time for people to understand for themselves

Reading these I recognize myself, and if I can find a role within a community to be free in these I think I would find ministry quite invigorating once again.

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