(This post and the previous are in response to my good, good friend and respected pastoral colleague David Fitch, known colloquially as "Fitch" to many who know and love him. Read his post and the first part of my response for background.)
Here's the thing- leadership isn't a choice, it's gift, And beyond that, it's a given.
I talked in my previous post (contra-Fitch) about places in Scripture where leadership is mentioned and described as happening in the church. But beyond descriptions both specific (the use of the word "leader", or "leadership") and general (places where we see words like "elder" or "overseer" used and qualifications given to those who would desire those positions), it seems as though both Jesus and the Holy Spirit assume there will be leadership in the church.
First, much has been of Jesus' words that point us towards being last, not first and servanthood. The inference is this negates any sense that Jesus would have anyone lead in the ecclesia. But that's simply not a careful reading. What he says is this: "But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. " (Luke 20:22) This issue is not that no one exercises authority or leads, but rather HOW. Leadership? Yes... How? Servant leadership. And to explain what that means, we have the entire life of Jesus as our guide.
Second, the Holy Spirit desires that some in the church will lead- how do we know?
"In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly." (Rom 12)
God gives gifts to supernaturally enable us to do what we need to in our lives and in ministry. And one of the gifts He gives is leadership, enabling some to exercise the kind of servant leadership He desires.
Why so many don't do it this way is (at least at the moment) beside the point (and perhaps up to the brokenness we are all living with). God gives gifts of leadership, Jesus tells us how to lead and Scripture gives qualifications for leaders (in the epistles of 1 Tim and Titus) and tells us to obey those God has given this responsibility ("Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden"- Heb 13:17).
Further- let's just face it. Leadership is a given. Like they say- ask a group without a leader why they have none and the person who answers? That's your leader.
(I'm aware of groups like AA and I think they fit into a very special category of groups that intentionally don't change or evolve and so are led, in effect, by the dead and the structures they left behind. The church can't be like that- because we don't follow a dead guy and are being called to continually grow and mature as a body, both local and universal.)
I understand the skepticism with applying leadership concepts from the corporate world in the church. And I disagree with Andy Stanley when he says "There's nothing distinctly spiritual [about leadership in the church]. I think a big problem in the church has been the dichotomy between spirituality and leadership."
There are absolutely limits with what we can learn from sources that don't acknowledge the fundamental brokenness of the world, our hearts and our systems, and build significant checks of the Spirit in to counter and redeem exactly those things. So I'm with Fitch up to a point... but where he'd put the stop of what we can learn from "secular" sources at "ZERO", I'd be a bit more generous. I think there's a lot we can learn about leadership from extra-biblical sources- but we need to make sure that we are grounded in the kind of Spirit-led, servant leadership Jesus calls us to first. That's the only thing that will enable us to separate the wheat from the chaff and see what fits as wisdom in a servant leadership model ecclesia and what doesn't.
Let me put it this way: Can Christian people gain wisdom about marriage and loving each other, communicating with each other or raising their children from sources that are not Christian? Am I wrong to ever suggest the wisdom of a Dr. John Gottman (on whose research many Christian marriage authors base their works) to someone who wants to know how to better communicate in marriage, better discipline children, better love their spouse?
How about leading worship? Am I limited in learning guitar theory or vocal techniques to only believers? Our insurance company offers some helpful guidelines for safety in church children's ministry. Verbotten?
I guess I'm just missing where the difference lies between learning from non-Christians in the area of marriage, music theory and ministry to children and leadership. Why is leadership different?
If I can gain wisdom about all kinds of things that Scripture speaks to, but does not claim to exhaustively speak to, why not leadership?
I love that Fitch and others often sniff out and push back against resurgent fundamentalism. But I gotta say... It's a HALLMARK of fundamentalism to deny wisdom can be found anywhere but in Scripture. And more- I think it's missing the common grace that God gives to this world that allow us, even apart from Him, to catch glimpses of wisdom and even live reasonably successful lives apart from God (you don't buy the lie that only Christians are "happy", do you?). The notion of the imago dei alone tells me that when I'm sitting across from (or reading the book of) someone who doesn't know Jesus, I need to listen for truth as well as proclaim it. The story of Peter and Cornelius tell me the same.
All I know is I want to be a servant leader and if my community recognizes a gift and gives me a role in leading I want to heed the words of Rom 12 and "take the responsibility [to lead] seriously." And if there's wisdom out there to help me do it, by all means with careful consideration and discernment, I need to make use of it.
Anything less would be irresponsibility, I think,