There is a post-modern tension in the church when people look at community on the one hand and leadership on the other. It’s like watching people watch a tennis match. They look back and forth, and begin to be troubled by the seeming necessity to pick one and abandon the other.
Community is fluid. It is mutual submission and love. It is not controlling or power hungry. It is spontaneous and organic and beautiful.
Leadership is structured. It is wisdom and responsibility. It is not fearful or timid. It is intentional and heirarchical and beautiful.
Quite a quandary, indeed… so long as we’re trying to line up organic community with hierarchical leadership onto the same plane–that of relationships.
But Community and Leadership do not belong on the same plane. Community is indeed a function of relationships. God has called us all to submit to one another in love. Husbands to wives, wives to husbands, pastors to parishioners and parishioners to pastors. They will know we are Christians by our love for one another. And this commandment of love does not shift and change with positions, promotions and power. It is an interconnected web of equality.
So what about Leadership? The fact is that leadership does not belong on the plane of Relationships, it belongs on the plane of Objectives. Tasks. Roles.
Becoming a leader should not change the nature of your relationship to others. It should change the nature of your relationship to the task at hand. Naturally, that will affect the context of your relationships to others, but not the nature of them, which is love and mutual submission.
There is no leadership position which mandates, or permits, controlling others. And there is certainly no rationale for abuse or power-mongering.
I can sense some of your misgivings, and I’ll address them here:
Guidance – Since Jesus is the true shepherd, and we are his sheep, we are called to follow him alone. Paul says that no one should identify themselves as followers of this person or that person… only Christ. So be a guide to others is, once again, a responsibility to represent the guidance of Christ, and not to be controllers of others.
Discipline – Similar to guidance. When someone in a church requires discipline, the leader’s responsibility is on the plane of infraction and correction. When the leader and the wayward member can come together on that plane to each exercise their own roles (the leader to administer discipline, and the member to receive it graciously) then they have behaved as equals in Christ.
Can you see how this frees us up to accept our God-given roles without becoming arrogant, or resentful, toward one another? We can rejoice in the fluidity of community and the structure of leadership without constantly being pulled back and forth.
Now the trick is… doing it.