Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Open church

Written by: on October 21, 2015

I want to live in a different world. I long for the world that would have been if Adam had said to Eve “Oh, honey—let’s not listen to that snake in the grass. After all, God has shown himself to be completely trustworthy.” Or even if his theological discernment was a little off that day, couldn’t he at least have said “Honey, step aside while I make you some snake skinned cowgirl boots.”?

Unfortunately, Genesis 3 records the silence of Adam. So much for his leadership—what we have instead is Adam and Eve hiding from God, blaming each other, and finally blaming the snake. We have all inherited a fallen state resulting in “hiding and hurting”—broken relationships and a loss of trust. We live in a world where those conditions are woven into the fabric of society. Charlene Li’s excellent book on Open Leadership acknowledges this reality and addresses it in some practical ways; her ideology works because mankind longs for the restoration of openness based on trust. But as we know, complete openness based on trust was last seen in that garden.

It seems to be that the lack of openness in our world is fundamentally a theological issue with social implications; if that’s true, shouldn’t the local church lead in being an example—a paragon of openness and trust? Clearly that’s not the case.

So let’s look at three ideas from her book and apply them a typical local church and see where that leads us. Her first idea is Creating buy-in. Her point is that sharing information creates trust and the more information, especially objective information rather than subjective, promotes more trust.[1] I’ve seen this in the way people speculate about church leadership. There can be mystery to decision-making processes in the church, which creates misunderstanding that leads to speculation. The solution, of course, is an open conversation about governance, including an overview of the roles and responsibilities of various church positions. When the shroud of mystery is removed, buy-in and support are enhanced.

Li provides examples of open leadership making use of social technology. Blogging, for example, can be a great way to engage a broader community; Paul Levy, CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, was her example.[2] I think weekly blogging would be a great practice for a pastor, a mechanism to share ideas and actions. A pastor who shares about the latest board or staff meeting, the newest initiative, the recent effort to bless the city, the new sermon series, would be creating trust via openness. It would also help create a culture in which openness and sharing are expected. A great feature of blogging is that the communication can be two-way. What pastor wouldn’t appreciate some timely feedback on new church initiatives, classes, and perhaps sermons. This kind of blogging could also encourage greater participation in the actions and ideas being discussed.

Third, imagine encouraging a more grass roots involvement in the life and direction of the church. Our church, for example, annually asks ministry leaders, deacons, and elders to write reports. And while that’s better than nothing, I think we can do better.  What if we reported continuously? What if we could encourage a more bottom-up reporting process? Li gave the example of the CNN’s iReport.com that gives ordinary citizens the opportunity to be the reporter. They produce their own news reports.[3] CNN sorts through them and shares the best on their website – an inexpensive way to open up a new channel of reporting and a way to engage and broaden their audience. Why couldn’t the church do something similar? Could millennials, who often feel disconnected from church, use social media as a way to report their walk with God, their service in the community, and their fellowship in the church? Wouldn’t church leadership be able to lead more effectively if they could get such a steady stream of life experience?

I really enjoyed Open Leadership by Charlene Li; it contains many lessons for us in the church.  The author Ms. Li advocates for creating trust based on openness of the leadership.   That seems like great advice that could contribute to the flourishing of God’s kingdom here one earth.

[1] Charlene Li, Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010), 25.

[2] Ibid. 26,

[3] Ibid. 31-32

About the Author

Dave Young

husband, dad, friend, student of culture and a pastor.

7 responses to “Open church”

  1. Jon Spellman says:

    Good post Dave! “What if we could encourage a more bottom-up reporting process?” What if we could? What if we wanted to? I wonder how much of openness is discouraged in our local churches because of leadership insecurity? Do we really want to know what the folks in the field think or do we just want them to line up and do what they’re told?

    • Dave Young says:

      Jon, I want to know what they think and at the same time I want to have them engage in the life of the church in positive ways. It’s one think to be critical of the church (for any one of a million reasons), it’s another to criticize and see the positive. Open communication has to lead toward positive change.

  2. Mary Pandiani says:

    Appreciate how you give three very practical ways for the church to access Li’s expertise. The statement that zings it for me is “her ideology works because mankind longs for the restoration of openness based on trust.” I had a tough summer because of some trust issues that broke down in my position as an adjunct professor with my department chair. The other day we finally had a conversation that essentially addressed what you’ve said – we long for restoration. It means time and energy with intentionality.
    Thanks Dave.

  3. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Dave, At the conference I was just at I met Karen who started a ministry called Iconium Strategies. Their mission is… meeting your need for cutting edge marketing and media solutions through digital strategies. Had I not just read this book, I am not sure I would have been able to get my head around the services they provide and their relevance to ministry. Their services are Film, photography, visual identity, web strategy, social media, marketing planning, digital strategies, proof of concept and strategic planning. I love that you are thinking about how a local church could be tapping into this type of open, fluid presence in the lives, community, and culture we continue to discover ourselves in. !

    • Dave Young says:

      Phil, video has the potential to be a powerfully positive tool in our small church. We’re about to start an effort in filming the stories of our members to use on Sunday to connect with each other better. And to use on social media to let our community know us better. Very exciting, it really just takes people using their gifts.

  4. Travis Biglow says:

    Alright now Dave. Open church is a great idea. I think we are so masked because we dont want to get hurt and we dont want confrontation in church. I am praying that the openness you described could become more actual in our daily church life. It seems like the persecuted early church had to confide in each other for survival and i hope we can get to a place where we confide in each other for furtherance of the kingdom!

  5. Nick Martineau says:

    Dave, I love the examples you gave on how the Church can use Li’s thoughts. Particularly, the “encouraging a more grass roots” approach. Shouldn’t the church be all about the grass roots movement? Just like you we’ve wanted to do more video in or church. As a Leadership Team we knew we couldn’t afford the media staff person so we have started praying for the right person t volunteer and we’ve been making the request known. It’s be amazing to see people step up. The videos aren’t as professional but there’s more ownership and excitement because volunteers are leading the charge.

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