the servant leader

5 06 2008

It is servant leadership…in which the leader is a vulnerable servant who needs the people as much as they need their leader

this follows closely on the heels of yesterday’s post about the responsibility of the leader to the community and the community to the leader.

a current struggle of mine is in regards to the role of the community in supporting their leader, beyond nodding the head during the sermon on Sunday morning, or shaking his hand on the way in or out.  in one sense the pastor or minister is an employee of the church, or the larger organization, that serves the community when they show up to “worship” with all the baggage out there.  if we hold just to this view, than the leader is just there to give the listener the product, or the message wrapped up with a nice little bow, and then withdraw until the next time or the next need shows up.  this is wrong, purely flawed.

the leader, assuming that he or she has an ounce of humility to lower themselves to some degree of servitude, is as much a part of the community as the man or woman who walks in with worries.  to take the position that the leader is above all others and therefore to be left alone at the top and to deal in a power exhortation downwards, is a corrupt view of the western Christian Church.  on a whole, pastors are left on an island by their people, the very ones who sing the praises of the preacher, or of the visit that the pastor made to the hospital during the past week.  one wonders if it’s that this is expected or that it is genuinely appreciated and valued.  what would it look like if your pastor was in the hospital?

we cannot ignore that the pastor is to minister to the people and is in place to lead the community of faith towards worship.  but the pastor is as much a member of that community that hurts, struggles, and doubts from day to day.  the pastor is not some perfect man on a pedestal, waiting to be worshiped and adored by his people because he did what was expected.  the pastor is as much in need of the very words that were spoken in the message as the man sitting three rows from the back, or the woman feverishly taking notes in the second row.  the pastor is a member of the body, is one with all other believers, not above or below, but has humbly accepted the role of leading the people to worship of the God on high.  the pastor is not greater, for he needs the people as much as they need their leader.

the question is, when will we start treating our leaders, pastors, and ministers as such?  when will we lose the stigmatism of a leader that doesn’t need the fellowship of his or her brothers and sisters as much as we need to hear the teachings and wisdom that God has given to the leader?

wake up people, we’ve got to learn to love our leaders as much as they love us.


the community and the shepherd

3 06 2008

When the members of a community of faith cannot truly know and love their shepherd, shepherding quickly becomes a subtle way of exercising power over other and begins to show authoritarian and dictatorial traits…

Ministers and priests are also called to be full members of their communities, are accountable  to them and need their affection and support and are called to minister with their whole being, including their wounded selves

the culture of this time would have the common person or churchgoer assume that secrecy is one of the most valued traits that humankind must cling onto.  some sort of lie has been built up to suggest that the human being must keep themselves hidden from those around them.  such a thought process has crept into the minds of those who lead our churches, preach to the masses, and proclaim the Good News in their lives, of which i myself am a guilty member.  i’ve kept secrets, we all have, and still do to this day, but i suppose the point of Nouwen here is to expose the minister or priest as above that standard.

if we are truly to be about community and about brothers and sisters in Christ caring for one another, we must choose to be open and transparent with each other, even if stings and wounds us.  as proclaimers of the Word we can stand up on Saturday night, Sunday morning, or whatever midweek program we run and tell people that they need to be a part of community and know what it means to love one another.  but as the one saying it and telling others about the value and importance, are we truly doing it ourselves?

maybe the reason we feel so burned out, useless, and abandoned in ministry is because we chose to hide ourselves on a higher platform than the community we are to be a part of.  we’re not to be set apart from our communities, we are to be one within it, so we must choose to be transparent and vulnerable as such so that not only can we minister to the needs of the community, but the community might minister to the needs of the leader.


25 05 2008

the following is an article that i wrote a month or so ago and have reproduced here.  enjoy.

Communitas –

defined as: an intense community spirit, the feeling of great solidarity and togetherness. usually exists in the form of common living.

community is a buzz word these days, used in churches, neighbourhoods, alcoholics anonymous, weight watchers, etc. it seems that everyone wants a piece of belonging, of being greater than just themselves. it can be used to expose or hide our pain, give or take love, and to unite a group of similar people. do we really understand community though?

that’s where communitas comes into the picture. it’s the picture of togetherness, of a common spirit or goal, a group of people who are striving to meet one end as a group. it’s a group like this that is what i think true community was intended to be. when did community really start? as soon as God created adam, there was community in-between man and God. with the creation of eve, man and woman had intimate community. soon enough there would be community between multiple men of the earth. community is a part of who we were made to be; it’s been there from the start. so why do we seem to suck at living authentic community, or communitas?

community is so much more than meeting together once a week, seeing each other in passing, or watching a movie together. communitas embodies the type of community which is people sharing their lives together. it’s eating together, it’s laughing together, it’s crying together, it’s about being there. true community is about being intricately woven into a part of other people’s lives. it’s about knowing when your brother or sister is struggling and being able to just be with them. it’s not about having the right words or encouragement all the time, but it is about just being there. it’s about being vulnerable to the point of being brutally honest about you entire life with those involved in your community. when we’ve got secrets that are burning inside us and we can’t bring them up in our community, what is our community really worth?

ask yourself this question: am i tangible part of communitas right now? chances are that we might have a sliver of it, but we haven’t even come close to understanding what it’s about. it’s a long process, not one that can happen in a day or even a week, but we work at it.

in the past few days i’ve cried, literally wept at the feet of my brother, i’ve laughed until my side hurt, i’ve enjoyed pancakes, kraft dinner, and a hockey game with my brothers. tonight i’m going to go out and enjoy dinner with two of my brothers whom i’ve been able to get a slice of communitas with. i don’t know where we’re going, or when we’ll be back. but that truly doesn’t matter because i know i’m going to be with my brothers, and that’ll be enough for me. we’ve told great stories, are sure tell more as the day continues, and will continue to create great memories as we just work at being. i’ve experienced true vulnerability, true joy, and contentment in community. community has burned me this year, brutally backstabbed and let me down time and time again, but the bottom line is that my brotherhood of community has allowed me to experience so much more than it could have been. it’s not that i’ve reached the pinnacle of community, but the journey is bringing wholeness to my spirit that i didn’t know was possible.

God is there with us in the midst of community, and he’s laughing and weeping alongside us. when we have communitas, it means that no matter what comes our way, or what might break us down, there are always our brothers and sisters around us to just be with us.

so ask yourself again: am i a legitimate part of communitas? if you’re realizing that you’re not, then you’re missing out. our souls long for that sense of community, for the ability to be transparent and one with all of those around us. seek it out, wherever you’re at, sit down and break down the barriers in your community and see if you might find a real sense of communitas, of what it means to have an intense community spirit. you’re only going to be better off if you find it, and maybe it’s just what you’ve been crying out for and needing to have.

God has designed us for community, and it’s through the aspect of communitas that we’re really going to find out what we have been designed for. may we go now and be blessed by a little bit of communitas, a little bit of love, and a little bit of genuine togetherness. and then maybe we can just be.