Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Subject of "Leadership" Is Hardly Found in the Bible

Monarch, in our front yard

Bill Hybels, founder and pastor of Willow Creek in Chicago, has fallen. He engaged in much adulterous activity over the course of his ministry. The elders of Willow Creek failed to address this in the proper way. A few weeks ago, they all stepped down from leadership. So did their two new pastors.

Willow Creek is imploding.

This is sad for many of us. 

When I was a campus pastor in the 1980s I was having coffee with an older pastor who was a mentor to me. We were talking about loving our wives as Christ loved the church and gave his life for her. I will never forget the moment he looked me in the eye and issued a warning.

"Never," he said, "meet with a woman in private. If you meet in your office, never do it unless your secretary is nearby in the building."

Then he spoke words that have forever stayed with me. "Do not think you are above this. Much better people than you have fallen into adultery."


Many are now commenting on what is happening with Willow Creek. One is missiologist Mike Black. He gives a different kind of warning. In "Pastoring in a post-Hybels world" Black  writes:

"Now that the wheels are falling off the influence of Willow Creek Church, and the GLS struggles to find its place in a post-Hybels world, I wonder if we can all now finally be free of vision statements and strategic plans and KPIs and all the other paraphernalia from 1980s corporate leadership theory.

But what does that leave us with? After two generations of professional leadership theory, what’s a pastor to do? Maybe turning back to the Bible might help (insert sarcastic tone here).
You see, while the church has been obsessed with leadership, the subject as we understand it hardly ever comes up in the Scriptures. As New Testament scholar, David Starling writes,
“When you go looking in the Bible, you realize pretty quickly that leadership can hardly be found there at all. The Bible certainly contains a host of concrete instances of individuals, tasks, offices, and images that you might want to connect in some way with the category of leaders and leadership: mothers, fathers, shepherds, sages, prophets, judges, priests, kings, messiahs, apostles, pastors, elders, overseers … the instances are everywhere. But the abstraction, the umbrella term leadership, hardly rates a mention.”
When you look at the metaphors Paul seems to prefer – mother and father, steward and herald – you see they speak of relationship, intimacy, care, faithfulness, duty, and responsibility.
All four of those images speak the twin emphases of ministry: God’s Word and God’s people."

I write about my ideas on leadership in Leading the Presence-Driven Church