Flipping a Church Step 1: Model Thought, Word, Deed
This post is a continuation of “The Missional Church: The Comet That Kills the Dinosaur or the Knight in Shining Armor”
“Everything rises or falls on leadership.” John Maxwell wasn’t the first one to intimate it, but he made the statement famous in this generation. In the fairly recent past, leadership was considered more of a directive task: evaluate, make decisions, implement decisions through delegation, evaluate, repeat. Though that leadership style served the corporate world relatively well, in most churches it created as many problems as it solved.
The rise of the servant leader mantra hasn’t impacted the church as powerfully as proponents had once hoped. All too often it has been misapplied from the beginning. Leading from the midst though high-touch can certainly captivate, motivate, and inspire. However, servant leadership efforts have tended to go one of two ways: (1) In many settings, SL became synonymous with passivity and pastoral care, neither of which will grow a church; (2) In other settings, SL was used as just another church growth tool that was evaluated, adopted, adapted, and implemented. Many (most?) spiritual wanderers can look right through the programs and into the heart of those serving. If it’s less than authentic …
Today’s emerging leaders seem to understand that leadership is about influence rather than dictums and delegation. And though they know servant leadership well, they also understand it has to be married to transparency, authenticity, and integrity.
With that said, the first thing a leader must do to flip a church is to model faith faithfully. Although that may seem like a Duh! statement, in churches in need of flipping, this will be one of the most difficult to achieve. Especially in well-established churches, life-long Christians too often fall into life patterns that reflect the culture more than the faith. Good spiritual habits are hard to reinstill and attempts to establish, or reestablish, them are often met with apathy.
The most effective way to re-inspire adult spiritual formation is for leaders to conspicuously model the spiritual disciplines and by leading a thoroughly Christ-centered life. You may remember that Paul continually reminded his readers that he was doing his part to model the faith – including his openness about his past and even his present (“I am the worst sinner of sinners” and “Even when I try to do right, I fail”). There’s an old saying that one bad apple spoils the whole barrel, but Jesus was pretty sure it was supposed to be the other way around. We’re the light and the salt that’s supposed to be making a difference in culture. We’re the ones who are to “rub off” on others. The only way that happens is when we live a life so exciting and fulfilling that it’s worth emulating.
When we’re honest, we acknowledge that the church has a pretty lousy reputation in our culture. Unfortunately, much of that reputation is deserved. The number one cited reason for not participating in a church is hypocrisy – and why not? The word “Christian” literally means “little Christ.” If that’s who we claim to be, but then act like the devil at work, home, or play then why are we surprised when culture pushes back?
What the world needs now isn’t a fresh wind of pristine orthodoxy, but a re-commitment to Christian behavior. Churches committed to becoming missional begin here.