Its been great fun to meet so many of you at Capetown! Many great conversations, often filled with threads that I know will be woven into a greater fabric over this three year period. Each of you adds color and life and helps to create that tapestry.
This morning at breakfast I had two conversations that converged around leadership and taxonomies (or frameworks) for understanding leadership in the context of church systems. The second conversation opened a different space, and led to reflections on the life cycle of communities. There have been many different lenses on that subject over the years, from Scott Pecks observations on pseudo-community, to the recognition, growing out of James Fowler’s work, that communities have qualities similar to individuals, and can be observed passing through adolescence to maturity, and from there toward decline and sometimes death.
While that doesn’t sound very hopeful, it at least offers a way to understand the stages of life common to communal reality. And then it also opens the possibility of diagnosis when a community, like an individual, gets stuck in a certain stage, or doesn’t engage with tasks appropriate to its location in the life-cycle.
That led me to thinking about my own church context, and the reality that in the elder years my community is learning about grief and loss. Individually, some have lost spouses and said goodbye to children, but now some are realizing that it may come time to say goodbye to the building (104 years old), and that leads to another kind of grieving and anticipation. I don’t think we are very good at grief in Western culture; better at rallying the troops with a new “vision,” often a BHAG of one kind or another, or some other path of denial.
So one kind of leadership is really important in the latter stages of the life of a community, given certain necessary tasks. But while my wife and I are talking about transition and grief, and also preaching on those subjects, at the same time we are trying to cast a vision for the fields around us, which are white for the harvest. If we have to hold a funeral of some kind, we also hope to preside at some kind of birth celebration. And that will require another kind of leadership. (See this post looking at Roxburgh and Romanuk’s typology for leadership offered in The Missional Leader).
All this seems to ask an awful lot of a leader. We have to be pastors, prophets, poets — and sometimes on the same day! Well, it’s probably beyond any of us. But that’s why God also created consultants, professors, counselors and others. That’s why it’s important that we have these people in our network, or can reach out through friends to that larger network. Being part of a program and process like the one you are all entering now allows you to become embedded more richly in that network. We will become a learning community together, and realize another dimension of that promise Paul offers in Ephesians 4 – growing up in every way into him who is the head, into Chris…joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly..”