“Liquid Modernity,” “Chaordic Age,” “Post-post—Modernity,” “Post-Christian,” “Post-Church,” uuuuggghhhhh! It’s exhausting! We are forced more and more to navigate nuances, to make values-based decisions while constantly adjusting our vision to ever-morphing shades of grey. That’s what it means to be a church leader today. If I’m being honest, sometimes I just want things to be simple, cut and dried, black and white, wrong and right. It seems that it would be much easier to lead if the goalposts weren’t always moving around! But, as leaders, are we called to “easy?” Probably not…
Meg Wheatley holds to the view that a leader’s best contribution isn’t to be causal, but rather to engage in organizational midwifery, stewarding the “qualities of commitment, compassion, generosity and creativity that are in all of us to start with.”1 Hmm… So if people would just come to grips and get in touch with the goodness that is resident in them then organizational leaders would really only have to just stand at their helms, gently steering their adoring subordinates as they glide farther and farther along, out across the glassy seas of human accomplishment. I’m thinking the doctrine of original sin and the general propensities of fallen humanity might argue against this leadership philosophy.
Pema Chodron agrees with Wheatley just so long as individuals in these organizations are able to muster up “a lot of trust in their own goodness, and… not freak out in the face of insecurity and uncertainty.”2 I get it, (I trust that a little of my good-natured sarcasm is coming through here) and agree that in a perfect world, these approaches may work but what do we do when the very uncertainty and complexity facing us is largely caused by the toxicity resident in our own humanity? How do we skillfully guide good-hearted people when their very own dysfunctions continue to perpetuate the uncertainty, not to mention the dysfunctions of us, the leaders? Is the Spirit of God and the renewed nature of regenerated Christians enough to counteract the environmental mess created by original sin? Can we be hopeful? Len Hjalmarson seems to think so.
Len offers the view that the present crisis of uncertainty offers fertile soil for seeds of rediscovery, rediscovery of the church’s original mission: “authentic community, a living priesthood, missional people in a foreign land.” We have the opportunity to make a shift from “leadership cults to leadership cultures.”3 And while this is a hopeful, optimistic view, what evidence do we have that church leaders will rise to this challenge? Throughout church history, we have had ample times of fluidity which could have been leveraged into meaningful change yet somehow, the seasons on the emergent side of liminality always seem to wind up more messy than the previous.
“Shut it Jon! Be hopeful!” Like Dr. Hjalmarson…
1. Margaret Wheatley & Pema Chodron, “It Starts With Uncertainty” Shambala Sun (November 1999).
3. Len Hajalmarson, “Leadership in the Chadic Age,” (an article). 1.