This originally was part of a longer post, which I’ve now split in two. If you haven’t yet, I recommend you first read Part 1.
Small is Beautiful
These days, “small” seems to be the new buzz word – and I generally agree with that focus. When our gatherings become too large, it is impossible for folks to participate in sharing and ministering to each other and freely expressing the life of Christ with one another.
In the New Testament, the imperative to participate – to express the life of Christ in us, among us and through us – extends to our meetings, as well as our throughout-the-week relationships.
I’m not anti-big. There are times when larger gatherings make sense – but not as the main expression of the local Body of Christ, with small groups as mere adjuncts to the big Sunday show or some leader’s grand vision.
Also, if “small” becomes mini one-man shows in someone’s home, community center, jail unit, coffee shop, homeless shelter, work cafeteria or wherever, that misses the whole point.
To keep these problems from happening, we need to restore a proper concept of leadership within the Body of Christ.
Killing the Impulse
I remember how difficult it was to let God burn out of me the leadership impulse to “make it happen” (see Part 1). In fact, a fellowship I started several years ago ultimately failed because of that impulse.
When I started sensing that the Lord’s agenda was for smaller, multi-gifted, participatory fellowships to start emerging in our area, my motives were good. I truly wanted to serve Him and see His Kingdom advance.
The problem was my own past. Over several decades, I’d succeeded in creating different ministries and businesses around my vision and capabilities, and built dynamic teams to further whatever each organization’s “mission” might be.
Outside the Body of Christ, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I felt God’s pleasure in it, and He blessed it. It was a gift He’d given me, and I was very good at it.
But in the Body of Christ, that does NOT cut it anymore – and rightfully so – because that is not what God wants to do these days.
In the Body of Christ, the days of Big Vision, Big Charisma, Big Teams and Big Mission are ending. Some are trying to sustain those things by incorporating “small” into their “big” – but that’s like pouring new wine into old wineskins.
It might work if your goal is to build an organization around your ministry, vision or concepts, but it ain’t gonna work if you want to build healthy churches.
The key to transitioning into God’s agenda is being able to lay aside our agenda – including the impulse to reproduce, then “super size”, our own vision, mission and perceptions of Christ and ideas of “community”.
Christ in me, if authentic, will look different than Christ in you.
Yes, we need to submit to the authority of scripture and all that God has revealed there. But even then, Christ will express Himself differently in one community and its unique cultural context then He will in another community and context.
For Him to be effectively expressed, however, small is important.
Without smaller expressions of the Body of Christ, each part finds it hard to be joined together and fully function by ministering one to another, each according to our own measure of grace and calling as the Lord supplies. See Eph. 4.
(Seeing those smaller fellowships relate together, however, is something that is just now starting to happen in our area – but we aren’t there yet, so stay tuned as we begin learning how to take that next step.)
Breaking the Mold
With the new “small”, is there a role for leadership? Yes!
As local assemblies emerge within existing communities, effective leadership helps create an environment of freedom and security where others come froth to express Christ to each other – in the context of their own culture and social conventions.
Unless our attitude changes, however, that may not be as simple or easy as it sounds. We must be willing to release in others their natural impulse to share the life of Christ with one another, while resisting the impulse to direct it, “cover” it, or fleece it.
If others sense in you the impulse to insure that “ministry” happens, the meeting is “dynamic”, and folks “are feed” so that they will come back, they instinctively will become passive and let you try to make it happen.
Please read that last paragraph again. It is important!
However, when you allow God to burn that impulse out of you, the amazing thing is that folks then start ministering to each other, being dynamic, and having a good time as life flows from them and among them.
At first, it may be awkward – because people are not accustomed to “leaders” who have broken the mold and no longer feel the need to have to make it (whatever “it” is) happen.
Keep it small so folks can truly participate. Sit in a circle so they can see and interaction with each other.
Learn to be secure enough to allow the Holy Spirit to lead, as others share a verse, give a teaching, start a song, lead a prayer, give a testimony, express some spiritual gift, share a need, or whatever else might be God’s agenda for that gathering. See 1 Cor. 14:26-33.
Be an older brother or sister whose maturity, peace and calm brings a sense of security that lets others come forth.
Lead by example and persuasion. Quietly watch over the assembly and protect it. Share when appropriate from your experience and wisdom, but don’t dominate it.
Whether you are helping to start a fellowship, or eventually emerge within a fellowship as one of the elders, this is the essence of New Testament leadership.
And please, please, please…
For God’s sake, give up the need to own it or control it so you can earn your living from it. Really, let that die.
If a local fellowship wants to help you devote yourself to full time ministry, fine. That’s their choice, and it’s not my place to say otherwise.
But first prove yourself, learn to support yourself with the work of your own hands, and let it emerge organically – without burdening them with your upfront needs.
It is easy to assemble people around your vision to meet your own needs. Been there, done it, and even succeeded at it.
But that’s not being the Body of Christ.
Seeing is Believing
As I talk about in Part 1 of this series, the other night two brothers went into the jail with me. They are part of more traditional churches, but have a passion for God and to see lives changed – and were willing to lay aside the impulse to have to “make it happen”.
They trusted me enough to simply go and affirm Christ in and among a group of brothers in the jail, in the context of a very different community and culture from their own.
They set aside the temptation to impose their own measure of Christ on others or to make their own concept of community happen among them.
As a result, they saw men in the jail begin once again to minister to each other, and be the Body of Christ in the community where they live.
Slowly but surely, God is shifting the paradigm of church and leadership. It is becoming organic, and healthy fellowships are beginning to emerge.
All I can say is forget the buzz words and all attempts to impose cookie-cutter visions of Christ and the Church on God’s people.
Instead, go and let the Lord express Himself as He sees fit, in the unique context of diverse communities.
That, my friends, is real “organic” leadership.
~ Jim Wright