Right touch leadership

Monday, 19 November, 2012

Graham Cray's monthly e-xpressions column.

One of the most encouraging features of the growth of fresh expressions in many different denominations has been the emergence of large numbers of lay leaders, most of whom had not previously offered to lead in their churches. Something about the missional and pioneering nature of this work inspires Christians who had not been inspired by previous opportunities to serve in their churches. Many have discovered a calling to missional leadership.

Fresh expressions are usually led by teams, or will need to develop a team if they are to flourish. But what qualities of leadership are required of the individual or group who accept the responsibility to lead the fresh expression, not just to help in it? Do we lead from the front setting the direction and modelling the way ahead, from the back encouraging others to take initiatives, or even from the middle, going with the flow? Of course the answer is 'it all depends', on the issue and the circumstances at the time. Fresh expressions of church need 'right touch' leadership, the right thing for the moment. But a number of principles will ensure that the leadership is appropriate.

Fresh expressions are both birthed and sustained, through discernment, and obedience to the missionary Spirit who is always ahead of us. So prayer and attentiveness to the leading of the Spirit must be central. Whenever you are not sure, stop and pray. Even more important whenever you are very sure, stop and pray! In creation the Spirit brought order out of chaos. In mission the Spirit often led in surprising directions. In a fresh expression the Spirit will help create a pattern of  service, worship and community which forms the lives of its members, but will also press upon you the urgency of reaching out to others.

Be a vision bearer. Help the fresh expression to remain true to its founding vision and values. Above all accept the responsibility to keep it missional, rather than settle into a pattern of life that is self serving. If possible ensure that serving others, beyond its own membership, is a regular and constitutive part of belonging to the fresh expression.

Don't mistake leadership for control. Hold it lightly, encouraging others to exercise gifts you do not have, and create space for those who develop gifts similar to your own. Invest in people so can one day do better than you, because they build on what you have established. Always be on the look out for the next generation of leadership, rather than always trying to fill vacancies. There is only one person in overall control of a fresh expression of church. He is called Jesus and he is present through the Holy Spirit.

Have the courage to challenge inappropriate behaviour by team members, if it is damaging the ministry of the fresh expression, but never forget how patient God is with you.

Above all, set an example. One of Jesus' strongest challenges was to those who

tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.
Matthew 23.4

We never expect people to do what we are not prepared to do ourselves. In the New Testament authority in leadership comes by the power of personal and corporate example, rooted in the example of Christ.

Following the missionary SpiritFollowing the missionary Spirit

Archbishop Rowan has provided just this sort of example and leadership to the Fresh Expressions movement. Many have already booked to hear him give a keynote address in what will be one of his final public appearances before he leaves office at the end of the year.

As fresh expressions of church have become a vital and numerically significant part of the Church's mission and ministry, we are delighted to have a final opportunity to be inspired by the Archbishop - who has championed the work from the very beginning - and to commit ourselves again to the re-evangelisation of our nation. We have only just begun.

Places for the conference on 22nd November at HTB Brompton Road, London, SW7 1JA, cost £15 (including lunch and refreshments). Book online now to ensure your place.

+Graham Cray


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
We use spam protection. View privacy policy.