“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” – Ephesians 4.11-12
I recently reminded our Elders that we have been called by the Holy Spirit and by the voice of this congregation to be its leaders. It is the yoke that our leaders have welcomed upon ourselves whether they thought they were ready for it or not. If one thought they were not worthy, that would put them in good company with virtually every leader within Scripture. If they thought they were a good choice that probably means something different. Leadership is not an easy business.
As I reflect on the events of the past few months, it has become more and more apparent to me that I need to work on my leadership. Part of what a good leader does is equip strong leaders around them. To be honest, Presbyterians aren’t particularly good at equipping. There is an assumption within our polity that good, well-trained leaders simply exist in our congregations, we just need to talk them into leading.
On some level, I assume this comes from a classist perspective Presbyterian leadership has of itself. Presbyterians have the highest educational standards for our clergy. Ruling Elders in large congregations are typically highly educated and with higher educations comes greater opportunities to be exposed to leadership training or good leaders. While this kind of works in major metro areas, it doesn’t take seriously the reality of the majority of congregations. I have often mentioned the Session at my previous congregation all had graduate or terminal degrees save one man. He was an entrepreneur who had sold a multimillion dollar company. Two others had Ph.D.’s, two were lawyers, one was an engineer who designed the propulsion systems for battleships, one was a dentist, and the clerk was the President of the school board. Now, even with all the intellectual firepower collected in one place those elders often made poor strategic decisions which hampered their ministry. They could have learned to lead better.
Which leads us to our Session here at FPC. No one here has a doctorate or terminal degree. Many of us are simply people of faith who have been called to lead. We haven’t gone through any fancy leadership development programs or training. That said, we can learn to lead better too. It is essential to remember that Christ did not call doctors and lawyers as disciples. He didn’t call folks with masters degrees in organizational leadership. He called simple folks: fisherman, tax collectors, political dissents. He called them to follow and learn.
I was asked recently, what does transformation mean as it regards this congregation. I talked through the areas of transformation we have already moved through. This is the season where we transform our leadership. We won’t do it through learning any fancy tricks or tips. We will do it by conforming our lives to Christ and becoming present in the Spirit as he was. Our Session is currently working through a leadership book by Rabbi Edwin Freidman. I have worked through this book all five interns I have mentored into professional ministry. For Freidman, leadership is about emotional presence modeled off our best mentors. What better mentor can we have than Christ, himself! May we all, formal leader or not, recognize the greatest mentor of all time and follow him alone!
In Christ’s Service,