I wonder how many church “leaders” feel that their role is to maintain the status quo. I wonder how many church “leaders” are really qualified as leaders. I wonder if the qualifications for elder and deacon offices listed in the new testament, are missing the obvious qualifications of leadership. As if, the author expected us to select natural leaders, and merely wrote out the constraints or “passive” criteria for the job.
I have been elected or called to church office twice in my life, both times have been somewhat terrible experiences, but for different reasons. The first time, I was young, and not very mature spiritually. I was seduced by the call, and was asked then to lead the board, when the then chairman stepped aside unexpectedly very shortly after I started on the board. I really had no idea what the board was respnsible for, nor had I experience as a board member before being asked to be the chair. There was nothing that I could do but try to maintain the status quo. My prayers were that the board and I would not fall down on the job, and that we could keep things going.
The second time I was called was 12 years later in a different church. I was called to a board that was largely apathetic, and not well organized. Our two greatest responsibilities were preparing the church budget, and maintaining the facility. I clearly felt that neither of these responsibilities were particularly suited to my talents and gifts. I served my term, but realized during my term of service, that both boards really only served to maintain the status quo, and that whenever they wanted to change something, they formed a more executive structure focused on the change at hand.
I am not suggesting that all churches are like this, but my my conversations with others lead me to believe that my experiences are less common than one might expect.
The new testament church talks about three officers:
Deacon (Diakono) – Literally servant or minister – Do the bidding of others
Elder, Overseers, Bishops () – in a position of oversight –
Missionaries, Apostles (Apostolos) – those specifically called to be sent out –
With the exception of missionaries, I think that most who are called to the offices of deacon or elder are focused on maintaining the status quo, except where there are problems, where the status quo needs to be restored. When the status quo no longer is effective (you know this when everyone in your church is older than 50, or other sign) changes to the status quo may be necessary. Obviously, or perhaps not so obviously, if we want to prevent that state, we can make more frequent, smaller changes – rather than waiting until there is an obvious problem, then making significant and painful changes. As you might expect, the way to figure out what needs change when is by measuring fruit.
There is no clear precedent or directive in the new testament for how change is to be instituted. While the tree huggers (people who don’t like change) reading this will cheer this statement as a directive to keep things the same forever, institutionalizing the literal implementation of the new testament church – the rest of us recognize that even the new testament church continually changed and adapted to every local culture it invaded, with only the dictates of mission and doctrine as constants.
So who identifies opportunities for change, who decides that change is required, and who leads that change? It seems to me that each church or ministry should maintain in it’s leadership one or more “malcontents” or “troublemakers” whose job it is to suggest opportunities for change, but who do not have the right to unilaterally decide to implement that change. Likewise, each church or ministry should maintain in it’s leadership one or more agents of change whose job it is to champion and implement a change once it has been decided.
That leaves only the decision rights. Every ministry has their own form of governance. Some are more executive (less people make decisions) and others are more congregational (more people make decisions).
Regardless of the participation model, when deciding to implement change, there are benefits to correctly communicating and articulating that change so that it does not come as a surprise. Your community may not be 100% in favor of the change, but if you can articulate rationally the reason for the change, especially the desired outcome of the change, you will do a better job of getting people on board. The smaller, more gradual changes are easier for people than the larger more drastic feeling changes.
In summary – your leadership should not only be maintaining the status quo, they should be evaluating the results (fruit) from the status quo and recommending and implementing changes, in order to continue to produce fruit in accordance with the mission and vision of The Church.