Monday, February 24, 2014

"Good Servants, Not Good Bosses"

I'm almost done with my doctoral program, which I tend to jokingly describe as an Advanced Degree in Churchiness.

There's a kernel of truth to that, though, as for the last three years I've been engaged in a program on Leadership Excellence in congregations.  Over that time, I've increasingly come to view church leadership as something of a paradox.  Our culture loves leadership.  We're big into leadership, and building leaders, and creating leaders.  

Because being the leader is a power position, and it's the place we all want to be.

But in a community of folks following Jesus?  There are no power positions, at least not as our CEO-fetishizing culture conceptualizes them.  Wealth and glory and power...oh, and more wealth...are the fruits of leadership in the for-profit sector.  In the church?  They cannot be.  In fact, it's exactly the inverse.  You can lead, and you can have influence and the capacity to create change, but the sole purpose of that influence is to teach folks to be better disciples.

Meaning, it's not about being in charge.  It's not about climbing the ladder.  There is no ladder, people.  All there is out there are children of God who need a little bit of encouragement and support finding their way to faith and grace.

Our ethic, our raison d'etre?  It's radically different than the business world. Our bottom line ain't the same, kids. 

That is super extra double plus true for leadership.

This Christian leadership reality was part of a sharply loving little speech recently given by Pope Francis, who may run a somewhat large congregation, but still seems to get the ethic that needs to define it.   

First, he challenged his new batch of cardinals to remember that they're not part of a royal court, and to be wary of the temptation to get into politicking.  And second, he offered the reminder that no matter how far you get up into the church, how "important" you become, the task of Christians is to be "good servants, not good bosses."

This wasn't just a whack o' the pastoral staff on the behinds of guys in fancy robes and towering hats.  It also messes with we homo sapiens sapiens a little.  We like the other way of thinking.  We like aspiring to power, to control, to being Charles in Charge.  That status feels worth pressing towards, worth striving for, a gold ring worth seizing after we clamber over the corpses of the weaker ones.  We want celebrity, acclaim, to have fameandfortuneandeverythingthatgoeswithit.  That's our yearning, and our hunger.

Being a servant?  Being there just to help out, to try to strengthen and support others?  Meh.  

Our egos recoil, particularly if that's the destination.