In the 42 months of this blog’s existence, it’s been rather evident that I’m not a fan of the theology of most mega-churches or their wannabes. This is a position I’ve arrived at – having spent years in the American mega-church world as a media consultant (not including about 18 months with a Canadian megachurch clone, part of that time as a senior staff member). I’ve come to believe the mega-church has more to do with western consumerism and the celebration of the individual than it has to do with both a biblical and an historical understanding of the church as gathered community.
These past few days I’ve followed tweets from folk who have attended a recent summit of leaders. The well-marketed brand of American megavangelism that puts these conferences on is noted for its conflation of good business practices and church leadership – something I believe is profoundly erroneous and has led to huge issues in the church. I wrote this in the comment section of one of my posts on this topic, last summer,
As an occasional business person (I’ve been self-employed for most of the past twenty-six years), I love Jim Collins. It DOES drive me crazy, however, that I see well-worn copies of his book Good to Great on most pastors’ desks – with them trying to “get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off.” And I know way too many sociopaths in shepherds clothing who use BHAGs to keep their money making machines moving forward.
I believe that the church, the living, breathing Body of Christ is more an organism than an organization. The health of that (organism) is in its relationships – both within and without. Where management models can aid in the health of the organism, they can have some efficacy – but when the management models control the life of the church, they actually kill that life. I would suggest that there are a lot of “Dead Churches Walking” in the Western World.
My Allelon compatriot, Len Hjalmarson, attended one of the satellite sites for the summitting leaders. He comments,
* we are still enamored with leadership as a concept, yet the word is almost absent from the NT. If the questions we ask are more formed by our culture than by the Scripture, won’t the answers be similarly formed?
* the fundamental leadership paradigm at (redacted) is “heroic,” focused around individuals and their gifts and passions. The alternative lens – that leadership is a characteristic of living systems and a process in all healthy communities – is almost non-existent. Yet so long as we use a single lens, we limit what we can see and discover.
(As an aside, in my post from two years ago, What Lens? I comment on the particular lens I think guides much mega-church leadership – and it is the lens of the King. I believe the proper lens is that of the Cross. There’s great discussion in the comments on that post.)
Len does go on to make some positive comments about the event and concludes with these paragraphs,
In the end, all disciplines are composed of practices that take us to places we can’t reach directly. We do the scales so that one day we can play Bach or Mozart; we lift weights and run so that one day we can compete in a marathon. But these represent individual ends and the kingdom is a place we must reach as communities of faith. This is one reason that I think a missional order and a rule of life are ancient places we must recover. They move us beyond individual measures and practices and beyond individualist, or inward-looking lenses, for discovering leadership. And they provide a context, a covenant community, which is the soil that must exist in order for any practice to help us toward an authentic expression of kingdom life.
UPDATE: Although the caps key is broken on her computer, Kathy Escobar offers this today in Lessons from Egypt. It just seems to fit,
i have developed a strong aversion to unhealthy power that probably won’t ever go away. i don’t believe christ-followers are supposed to be addicted to power. i don’t believe in perpetuating power-laden systems that create hero-worship and an “us-them” culture. i don’t think that gifts & talents are supposed to be controlled by a few chosen people who happen to get a paycheck from the church. i think that true leadership comes from below, that the last will be first and the first will be last. the church was always supposed to be about relationship instead of structure, love instead of control, freedom instead of bondage, mercy instead of sacrifice.
NB: The business guy @ the summit image is licensed from iStockphoto and is used by permission.