Working Together

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Not everybody has the same idea about leadership. I see the different views on the local, conference, and general-church level: Two different expectations about how the church should be led. The one view recognizes the wisdom generated in the church and looks to boards to set the course…this view sees the pastor as the implementer of the decisions of the board. Since it’s a participatory system, it will be slower and process-oriented. This model shares much with the congregational model and is sometimes commandeered by a strong “follower.”

The second view empowers the community to recognize God’s anointing on the leader via the voting or appointment process and then looks to boards or committees to implement the vision of the leader. This makes the organization more agile and decisions are quickly made, but subjects the congregation to the possibility of a “rogue” leader or an incompetent leader. This model shares much with the episcopal model and is sometimes commandeered by a strong clergy leader. (The fact that my photo is next to “rogue or incompetent leader” should not be read as a caption, it’s only coincidental!!)

So what’s the right way? The Free Methodist way is one of mutual submission. Sound like a train wreck? Not really. Mutual submission means all our leaders (Bishops, superintendents, pastors) are regularly re-affirmed (or un-affirmed!) by the selection of the church body. While they are in office they are expected to lead by discerning God’s voice and articulating the vision for the church, without a plebiscite on every issue. That’s why we describe our system as a “modified episcopal” system. It’s not congregational, it’s not episcopal, it’s the best of both worlds!

Since this is a relationally based leadership model, it takes people of good will to make it work. As noted above, any system can be derailed by people who are driven by less noble motives. When it works, a relationally-based leadership system is a thing of beauty and everyone enjoys their part. I’ve been privileged to see it work more often than not. In fact, since our system appeals to peoples’ higher nature and their maturity, I believe we all tend to rise to the elevated level of our system.