Ed B & “We Know More Than Our Pastors”

kinnon —  April 9, 2005 — 12 Comments

Ed links to this document from Tim Bednar.

(A) new generation of creators do not want to  work on “the pastor’s vision”. They expect pastors to instead help them realize their vision. I am advocating something more radical that the popular spiritual gifts-based, volunteer recruiting practices refined by WillowCreek and SaddleBack where leaders retain absolute control." pg 45

"Congregations want access to the raw and uncensored bits that make up the church in  order to use it in their conversation. They do not want to control the church or  eliminate pastors; they want to be co-creators. In this new era of participation,  congregations still recognize the unique spiritual gifts and calling of clergy. They just no  longer accept that they are the sole creative source or that they should function as  gatekeepers."  pg 46

Cluetrain, meet the church! Church get on the Cluetrain!



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

12 responses to Ed B & “We Know More Than Our Pastors”

  1. Thanks for the link.
    It is correct that people increasingly want a congregation wide vision for their church. I have conducted a number of these processes over the years. The ones where the pastor really got behind them ended up energizing a large percentage of the membership. It is a way to expand the leadership base of the church.
    When it is “our” vision that God has given to us, instead of “his or her” vision, then you have the beginnings of a transformation of the congregation.
    When a systematic process of identifying what “our” vision is is initiated, then the vision doesn’t have to be sold. It just has to be implemented. And that begins with the moment the process starts. The process for how you create “our” vision models in real time how the congregation will work to achieve “our” vision.
    It is a great thing to see. However, it does take leadership to make it happen. Without passionate support from the pastor/s and the board, it won’t happen. You’ll have a document, but there will be no impetus to make it happen. And the sad result is all those energetic people ready and willing to serve will start looking for a church where this can happen.

  2. The problem is that too many senior church leaders believe that they are the “Man of God.” Only they recieve the vision. As one leader told me, “anything else is di-vision.” When logic won’t explain control then perhaps a cliché might?

    Churches have a wealth of gifting on their staffs and in their pews. Jesus’ Servant Leader call (Matt 20:25-28) releases His vision into the Church – out of the lives of those assembled believers.

    I love this quote from Steve Berlin Johnson, that Tim Bednar uses (pg 16) –

    “In his classic novel Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut explains how the world is divided into two types of social organizations: the karass and the granfalloon. A karass is a spontaneously forming group, joined by unpredictable links, that actually gets stuff done? as Vonnegut describes it, “a team that do[es] God’s Will without ever discovering what they are doing.” A granfalloon, on the other hand, is a “false karass,” a bureaucratic structure that looks like a team but is “meaningless in terms of the ways God gets things done.””

    Perhaps my propensity as a believer is to be a karassmatic!

  3. Bill,
    You are right that there is a culture that breeds an egocentric ministerial vision. I think though that it is more complicated than it just being pastoral megalomania.
    If we take a long view, we can see a long term shift taking place. By long, I mean, taking generations. As one pastor told me years ago, “the ministry used to be high prestige, low stress, now it is low prestige and high stress.” There is some truth to this too, but it is not the whole story.
    What is affecting a lot of this change are the following.
    1. Changes in how businesses function. There is much more collaboration happening as organizational hierarchies are flattened out. So, people are more used to speaking their mind, and participating in decision-making. And they bring that experience and expectation to their church life.
    2. Changes in the role of pastor that have still wait theological imprimatur and biblical validation beyond simply noting what that servant leadership is a biblical model. Many pastors are functioning in a more collaborative manner. But the theory and culture of pastoral ministry is still pretty much the same as it was when my great, great grandfather pastored two churches in the mid-19th century. The pastor rules, the people follow.
    3. Changes in the place of loyalty by parishioners. It is is a buyers market for churches. The more pastors and churches change to a more contemporary leadership style, the more they will find people who are loyal and committed to active involvement will join their church.
    This is the real ironic aspect of the church today. The more a pastor fights against the traditional role of the pastor, the more likely his congregation will grow in participation and contribution by members.
    This is really an important discussion. I hope others will join in.

  4. A pastor friend of mine with a real heart to see his people involved and heard responds:

    “I actually thinks that it is the responsibility of the pastor to be a gatekeeper – but I think a good pastor will always be listening to reports of new pastures and will be wanting to expand the boundaries in many and varied ways. If there’s no gatekeeper – then orthodoxy, cohesion and community can all be threatened. Of course the sad fact is, I suspect, that many pastors are just too scared of really hearing from, engaging with, listening to and learning from their congregations.”

    My friend’s point is well taken and I need to be careful that I am not seen as advocating anarchy in the church – I’m not. I do believe in the pastoral role and believe that leadership is important. It’s the practice of that leadership that I have concerns about. Servant Leaders and Controlling Leaders are polar opposites.

    Boomers who have avoided churches in droves are THE anti-authoritarian generation and their children have enherited a lot of the attitude towards “The Man”, however civic minded they may be. The top down, sit in the pews, shut up and be fed model of church leadership doesn’t cut it.

    Leaders do need to lead – but from a position of being in the midst of their people, listening to their voices, hearing their dreams and championing their God-given visions – within the boundaries of orthodoxy and community as my friend put it.

  5. My thoughts on this discussion are that as Ed says, the business world is seemingly moving more and more towards the collegial, authentic leadership model. Is the church world going to have missed the opportunity to be role models in team leadership that actually works?

    There is the constant dichotomy of living in community, as opposed to getting a job done. Perhaps the problem comes in learning to work to get a job done, while leaving “personal” disagreements at the doorstep. The business world leaves the option of compartmentalizing one’s life. Christianity calls us to integration. And yet, as a leader in the business community said to me recently, its hard to have an authentic soul in a company, without individual authenticity in leadership roles.

    Also, as the body of Christ in the world, should the local church not want to be as multi-faceted as possible so that as the apostle Paul says, and I paraphrase wildly, we could be more things to more people? Isn’t it more a question of different perspectives on how to accomplish the vision ….. and a built in forum for discussion and input. The story of the 5 blind men and the elephant comes to mind.

  6. Thanks, Bill, for allowing me the chance to chime in on this issue. I appreciate all the remarks that have been made thus far and would be in wholehearted agreement. I think the Church is sick, which comes as no surprise to you. It has a virus that is passed down from generation to generation, and it has infected the people AND the leaders. “Father Knows Best” was a tv show in the 50’s, but it is replayed over and over again in churches all across the world every week. Paternalism, so celebrated in the life and death of Pope John Paul II, is alive and well, and is the style of choice not only of the leaders but of the followers. During the Pope’s funeral, the cameras focused on one 18-year-old who said between tears, “How will I get along without him?”

    I think the Church is in need of a Reformation similar to the one that Luther led. We cannot make minor adjustments to a flawed system, nor can we put new wine in the old wineskins. What am I calling for here? I’m not sure yet, but I think that the purpose message that I have espoused since 1991 will have a role to play.

    Purpose puts people in touch with headquarters, so to speak. God directs and the people and the Church must then respond to the initiative of the Spirit in each person’s life. But that would create chaos, you say? Well, for the Church yes, but for God, hardly! I think the answer is “The Purpose-Driven Life,” but it can’t be the people or the pastor driving the purpose. It must be the Spirit.

    So what would all this look like? I don’t think we know because we’ve never seen it in action. How did the Spirit reach the Gentiles? Was it a Crusade? A missions trip? Did the apostles meet and approve, or at least to pray for the endeavor? No, it was the Spirit orchestrating a meeting between Peter and Cornelius. The early Church grew without any Sanhedrin or central authority. Judaism died because it had both.

    At any rate, I read back over what I’ve written, and it all sounds so radical. But I think if we want to go where we’ve never been, then we must do what we’ve never done. And what we’ve never done so far is to find a way for pastors and elders to get out of the way so that God can direct His church. It must begin with me having a personal leadership philosophy and then walking it out, one day and action at a time.

    I don’t think anyone is saved today unless they call on the name of the Lord, are baptized, receive the Holy Spirit, have a passport, a website and their own nonprofit organization. 🙂 That is the modern equipment that will enable anyone to fulfill the priesthood of the believer. And the Church should help every person have these, even if they have to pay for it themselves.

  7. I’ve posted a lengthy comment here – link to edbrenegar.typepad.com.

    Imbri is correct that within the business world there is a lot of compartmentalization. That is why I believe what the church is a a social institution and as an contemporary organization is different that any other organization. It isn’t strictly a business, nor just a local community non-profit. It isn’t a club or member association. It is more. And though no one would call me a charismatic in the modern sense of the term, I do believe that it is the linkage causes by Christ’s Spirit that makes the church unique. What is that uniqueness in action? Well, that is the fun part? It has not all been played out. The future is still an open book.

  8. Visit Ed’s Polis blog here:
    link to edbrenegar.typepad.com
    The link is truncated in the previous post.

    I’l have more comments on this later today. Have some business to attend to, right now.

  9. Here’s the complete address.
    link to edbrenegar.typepad.com

  10. I hope you’ve gone to Ed’s site and read his post. There’s a lot of good stuff in it.

    My greatest concern for the church is in the Pastor/CEO model, where the CEO perspective is one of control – the CEO leads the Board, rather than serving the board – and all the stakeholders in the organization.

    Ed makes this point:
    “I’ve seen churches where the pastor functioned as CEO, and all the decisions related to the governance of the church were essentially made prior to board meetings.  The church ran smoothly until a new pastor took over who was more collaborative, and was not able to lead his board to become a decision-making board.

    This is not an issue that just affects churches.  It also affects every type of business.  When the governing board abdicates authority to a single individual, they have begun to fail to as a body.

    This does not mean that there are not examples where it has worked, but in my experience, these are exceptions that do not disprove the rule.”

    I really appreciate Peter Drucker’s Leader to Leader site (www.leadertoleader.org). The article, “Leadership Cults and Culture” by Anne Deering, Robert Dilts, and Julian Russell addresses the issues created when the CEO is the “one powerful individual who makes the decisions and determines the direction” exclusively for the organization.

    “To create an aligned organization and a culture that is able to act, leaders must both embody their values and be successful in finding ways to build coalitions for change. Integrity and a sense of fairness are the glue that binds the organization together.

    In a cult, the success of the group or organization is based primarily on the personality of the leader. The leader is the principal source of the organization’s vision, mission, and values. Thus the organization succeeds almost entirely because of the leader’s energy and charisma.

    Cults are frequently based on the perception of fundamental inequality between people. They are founded upon a hierarchy in which people at the top are regarded as inherently better than those at other levels. As a result, people other than the leader are viewed as dispensable entities that can be easily replaced. The leader’s welfare and interests come before those of the community.

    In a culture of leadership, the success of the organization is based on the combined energy and efforts of many people aligned toward a common vision. The organization’s actions and plans are determined by the desire and efforts of people at all levels of the organization, and the credit for success is spread to many contributors. The interests of the community are paramount.”
    link to leadertoleader.org

    Let me stress that I am not suggesting that Pastors who rule their congregations from a misunderstood King/CEO model are leading cults. However, the damage that can be done by good men and women who become addicted to the power of their office can be immense.

    Jesus stresses again in Matt 20:25 – 28 that those who want to become first in the Kingdom shall be last and the last first.

    (“Jesus) said, “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served–and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.” MSG

    The upside down nature of Leadership in the Kingdom of God appears to the rational man to be nonsense. How can you lead from a position of apparent weakness and transparency – humility rather than hubris. (Strangely enough, most of the Level 5 Leadership in Collins’ Good to Great are unassuming and humble people with great strength of character.)

    I love Matthew Henry’s commentary on this passage:
    “Pride is a sin that most easily besets us; it is sinful ambition to outdo others in pomp and grandeur. To put down the vanity and ambition of their request, Christ leads them to the thoughts of their sufferings. It is a bitter cup that is to be drunk of; a cup of trembling, but not the cup of the wicked….”

    And then:
    “Those who are commonly most confident, are those least acquainted with the cross. Nothing makes more mischief among brethren, than desire for greatness. And we never find Christ’s disciples quarrelling, that something of this was at the bottom of it. That man who labours most diligently, and suffers most patiently, seeking to do good to his brethren, and to promote the salvation of souls, most resembles Christ, and will be most honoured by him to all eternity.”

    There is a perverse desire in the heart of every person to be recognized. We want the applause of the adoring masses – to be recognized for our gifting. I no less than any other. But the reality is that our gifting does not honour us but rather the Giver of the gifts – the One who knew us before the foundations of the earth. We pervert those gifts when we use them to control others and exalt ourselves.

    I have a number of very good friends who love me enough to correct me when I stray off the path into vanity and self-promotion. They are not afraid to give me a good swift kick in the hind region – if that is what is necessary to create a course correction on this Pilgrim’s progress. As hard as this is sometimes, these friends are more precious than platinum.

    It is critical for leaders to see those with whom they serve as indispensible for the mission to which they collectively have all been called. Each one of us sees in part and knows in part – we are not given the complete picture by the Lord. Why would we not want to know what others are seeing, hearing, sensing and longing for? To do otherwise as a leader is to willfully choose to walk in partial if not near complete blindness – where we stumble and fall.

  11. From my good friend Lloyd in South Africa:

    What impacts me profoundly is that Christ acted in the context of a system, from a source outside of that system, and towards a destination beyond any system then or even presently known.
    I find that we tend to operate in a system, from reference points in that system, towards a destination that is defined in and of the same system.
    No matter how I try, I find this contradiction living largely in me. I also see it everywhere else. Sort of like a sincere fellowship of folly(?). In our sincere quest for truth and understanding do we not unwittingly tend to polute the very “gene pool” we are trying to purify?

    Jesus confused everyone. Even his own faithful disciples were no less confused than his most ardent opponents.
    What I think distinguished his life in action was the overwhelming presence of the “source outside of that system” that simultaneously confounded his present context and validated the authority and authenticity of all he was and did. It simultaneously confronted the present “system” and turned it so on its head that the only rational response from the system was to eliminate him.
    Jesus was a teacher but was seemingly far less preoccupied with definitions and calibrations of truth than we are in our quest for understanding, shift and significance. “If you don’t believe or understand, at least take note and respond to the presence of the miraculous” was Jesus’ simple response.
    He spoke and acted from the “external source” and faced the push-back.
    He was not without followers and converts, but even they were almost entirely confused. His last instructions were for his disciples not to do anything until the presence of the promised Spirit (“external source”) had come to stay.
    Their cofusion continued, but the disciples received this gift and the Kingdom advanced in power.

    Perhaps we lack a vibrant, living connection with the source outside of our system (God), as well as the living, clear vision of the destination beyond present reality?

    My pain and frustration is that even the most passionate and sincere participants in the quest for truth and meaning tend to define “church” and church life by evolving business development trends and contemporary societal evolution. (Romans 12:2 ?)
    We tend to talk about…. rather than walk towards – letting our understanding of what is and was shape the picture and definition of our destination. I think we tend to contain and define rather than let the organic germination process explode outward –
    I long for the city whose maker is God – letting this vision – a gift, by faith, shape the present and expose what is and was for what it really is.

  12. I wrote that paper over a year ago and I’m amazed that it still is being downloaded and read. Now that I’m podcasting, I should take the time to update it.


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