Promoting Christ-centred Biblical Ministry

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reprinted from the June 2001 edition of Essentials  
  Mobilising for Mission - Refocusing Leadership

John Batt

John Batt ministers at St Johns Blackburn in suburban Melbourne.

  The Anglican Church is at a critical stage in its life. Facing decline, the challenge is to renew church structures in a creative way in order to enable more effective mission. The need is to refocus church activity outward to gospel engagement with Australian society. Australia has not been a Christian society for many years. It is now a multicultural and multi-faith society. Many Australians are indifferent to church structures perceiving them as irrelevant to modern day living. New and creative endeavours to incarnate afresh the message of the Christian gospel are necessary. A refocusing of church activity outward to engage proactively the mainstream of Australian life is needed.  
  In earlier Australian history, the church's role was widely understood as very much maintaining the pastoral ministries to a church-friendly community. In a post-Christian society many people are ignorant or confused about the church's purpose and role. However, such ignorance and confusion can also provide a God-given opportunity to rediscover a new vision and role for the church and its leadership. Such a new purpose and role demands a review and assessment of leadership style.  
  Indeed, effective leadership at both the diocesan and parish levels will be a crucial factor in endeavouring to refocus church activity outward in mission. Lyle Schaller, writing in 1999, believes that the challenge of leadership is becoming increasing sophisticated. At one time loving the people and preaching the Bible may have ensured a successful ministry. However, society has undergone dramatic changes, which have meant that the challenge of leadership now requires up to seven skills which are -  
  Preach the Bible, love the people, earn their trust, challenge them to do what they know they cannot do, equip them to meet the challenges, support them in their ministries, and be prepared to respond creatively to the future consequences of present actions. 1  
  Bill Hybels also highlights the importance of the role of leadership, making a distinction with that of the skill of teaching. Hybels writes  
  Unfortunately, there has been some confusion about leadership in recent church history. Local churches haven't been directed by leaders but by teachers, and these two species have distinctly different behaviour patterns and areas of emphasis. As a result, a lot of churches are well taught; very few are effectively led.2  
  How leaders perceive their role in the church will become increasing important. McNeal suggests four different roles that ministers have understood as important before suggesting a new emerging role as an Apostolic Leader3.  
  Apostolic Leadership  
  Apostolic leadership has the following characteristics. First, it is visionary in that it looks back to the example of the early church leaders who gave their lives in pursuit of a compelling vision of the Kingdom of God that Jesus shared with them. It involves both taking seriously the great commission which captures a vision of a prospect of a better future and the ability to cast a vision for that better future.  
  The second characteristic of Apostolic Leadership is that it is intentionally missional. As a result, when mission is the main motivation for action, the New Testament reveals early Christian leaders making decisions and changing behaviour for the sake of the Great Mission (Acts 1:8), for example at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 or in the spread of the gospel to the Samaritans in Acts 8 and to the Gentiles in Acts 10. The end result is that Apostolic leaders will courageously refuse to let their congregations settle for maintenance ministry.  
  Thirdly, it is empowering. It is a leadership which empowers other members of the body of Christ to share the task of ministry. Paul writing to the Ephesian church encouraged every member to function in such a way as to build each other up to become mature, attaining the full measure of perfection found in Christ (Eph 4) The Apostolic leader of today will devise systems to assist church members in discovering and developing ministry employment opportunities. The ministry becomes released from being bottlenecked in the hands of a few professionals.  
  Fourthly, the Apostolic Leader will be team oriented and reproductive. Apostolic Leaders follow the example of the apostle Paul who developed the leadership qualities of Timothy, Luke, Silas, Barnabas, John Mark and Titus. The apostolic model was one of team leadership that is plural in its essence and expression. Leadership development will be a priority for the Apostolic Leader.
  Fifthly, Apostolic Leadership will be entrepreneurial in the best possible sense of that word. Apostolic Leadership is one which organizes, manages and assumes risk for a venture. For example, an Apostolic Leader will take full advantage of opportunities for sharing the gospel in ways that unchurched people find appealing. It will by nature involve far more ministry done outside the walls of the church. It involves a shift in the emphasis of church programs outward to engage people who may not have any contact with the church.  
  Finally, it is kingdom conscious. McNeal believes that only as leaders focus on reaching people in obedience to Christ, not on developing an institution, will the church grow. Therefore, today's new Apostolic Leaders are determined to prosecute a kingdom agenda for Gods people which means following Christ out into the world where they can dispel some darkness with his light. It will mean putting Christianity into action in the communities. It is a call away from 'churchianity' to rediscover the spontaneity and vibrancy of the living out of the Christian tradition in new and creative ways.  
  Apostolic Leadership suggests an approach which may provide a model for a changing social context. A new style of leadership is necessary as Schaller states. No longer will loving the people and preaching the Bible suffice for church leadership in today's society. The task is at least sevenfold with casting the vision to challenge them to do what they know they cannot do as one key characteristic.  
  Apostolic leadership offers a model which would change the focus of leadership from that of maintaining pastoral ministries in a church friendly community towards a more outwardly focused mission orientation. The intention would be to recapture the earliest Christian tradition of mission (Acts 1:8) and reinterpret it for the present day. Such a reinterpretation may well prove worthwhile as the present day social context is such that the church is quickly returning to a situation where its front door is a doorway into a mission frontier4. In fact, the situation has become even more sophisticated as modern day society is a by-product of two thousand years of Christian history which has at times been a mixed blessing.  
  Apostolic Leadership also takes account of the fundamental shift in relationship of the clergy and laity which has accelerated over the last twenty years. Is the laity passive recipients of the grace of God via the ordained minister, or is the laity co-workers with the ordained minister, in fact co-workers with God, in the ministry of building up the body of Christ? The latter is the case. The New Testament envisages ministry not as the prerogative of a clerical elite but as the privileged calling of all the people of God. Ministry then becomes the responsibility of the whole church and can be described as every member ministry.  
  Effective leadership will become increasingly important if the Anglican Church is to survive as a viable expression of Christianity into the next century. Accordingly, Apostolic Leadership which exhibits the following qualities should be encouraged at all levels of church life: visionary, serious about the Great Commission, an encourager of every member ministry, committed to team ministry, entrepreneurial and generous viewing life from a wider kingdom perspective. In fact, a necessary strategy of church growth will be the recruiting, training and positioning of people who have the spiritual gifting of leadership.  
  It is in this regard that Hybels distinction between the spiritual gifting of teaching and leadership is a helpful insight. Hybels would not downgrade the gift of teaching as Willow Creek views 'anointed teaching as essential for a healthy church life and as necessary to enable growth. Rather, the distinction is an important one with the particular gifting of leadership recognised as the ability to mobilise and organise resources and personnel to achieve a goal. As previously noted, McNeil also suggests that leadership should be entrepreneurial in the best possible sense of that word and apostolic in that its intention is to take full advantage of opportunities for sharing the gospel in ways that unchurched people find appealing.  
  In relation to mobilising the Anglican Church for mission, two major leadership challenges emerge. The first will be to experiment with new patterns and paradigms for ministry as the church explores the implications of the incarnation for its life. Anderson defines apostolic incarnational church culture as assuming forms and methods that are relevant to contemporary human social and cultural forms, critically challenging them while creatively using them to touch the lives of people5.  
  It is critical that Anglican Church culture be redefined with forms and methods that are relevant to contemporary human social and cultural forms. Any such change should be anchored to the mission of Christ. And mission will have incarnational implications for church life. The way ahead for the Anglican Church is to examine its expression of the life of Christ and critically to identify what is nonnegotiable tradition and traditions that have become valueless, now impeding the church's mission as cultural baggage. The challenge of leadership will be to sensitively challenge the church to reassess its life so as to move it forward in its engagement in mission.  
  The second major leadership challenge will be a refocusing of the roles of the paid professional and lay persons. McNeil understands one of the roles of Apostolic Leadership as an encourager of Every Member ministry and the empowerment of all members of the body of Christ to share the task of ministry. This will involve a necessary move away from an institutional view of the church, with its distinctive clergy/ laity separations, to a more organic view of the church. In a more organic view of the church every member of the body of Christ participates in the mission of God6. The new role for the church would be as a missionary church with every member having their part to play in the mission of God. The mission field is the sphere of influence of church members who use God given opportunities to interact with people with whom they come into contact with on a daily basis. As Charles Van Engin writes  
  Missionary congregations will emerge when leaders equip all the members to realize their greatest potential for growth, maturity and service in a relationship of the shared ministry and cooperative outreach of the whole gospel by the whole church to the whole world.7  
  The paid ministers role will be that of the equipper of Gods people for ministry.8  
In conclusion, the following leadership strategies are suggested. Firstly, the recruitment and training of ministers who have the spiritual gift mix of both leadership and teaching over against those who may be capable and gifted teachers but do not have the distinctive spiritual gifting of leadership. Secondly, the intentional development of ministry/mission strategies. Thirdly, the challenge will be to develop and encourage leadership initiatives which are apostolic in the truest sense of the word. Such transformative leadership is crucial for the future viability of the Anglican Church. Finally the challenge will be to recapture the zeal the early church had for mission. This zeal will empower the renewal of church structures to enable more effective mission. The mission of the church will be led by leadership which is truly apostolic in character and expression.
  John Batt ministers at St Johns Blackburn in suburban Melbourne.  


1 Shaller, Lyle. Discontinuity and Hope: Radical Change and the Path to the Future. Abingdon Press, 1999 P. 62

2 Hybels, Bill & Lynne. Rediscovering Church: The Story and Vision of Willow Creek. Zondervan, 1997. P. 149

3 McNeal R. Revolution in Leadership Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998 Pages. 26-31 - The first role is the leader as Holy Person/ Priest. The Holy Person/Priest is set aside to carry on the demands and rituals of the belief system. The second is the leader as Wordsmith/Educator. The major change was one of emphasis away from the ceremonial focus of the Roman Catholic priesthood to one which relied heavily on preaching and teaching. Academic and teaching excellence became increasingly valued within the denominational traditions. In short leadership centered around the pulpit. Thirdly, the leader as Chaplain/Parish Minister. This is a popular and enduring model of leadership because it draws heavily on biblical motifs of shepherding. The model arose at a time when there was little movement between geographical locations. The role involved caring for a group of people/flock within an assigned geographical or denominational jurisdiction. It often involved a lifetime commitment of the pastor/shepherd to his/her burden of care. People were born into the care of the church and shepherded throughout life, along with family members and others belonging to that same parish. Fourthly, the leader as Professional/Executive. The rise of the category of minister as professional/executive has arisen in parallel with the rise of organisations in the 20th Century. The style of ministry is managerial as the minister marshalls and manges resources in directing the churchs ministry program and staff. The underlying presupposition is that managerial expertise positions the leader for greater effectiveness. In summary, ministry expressed in the office is valued as highly as performance in the pulpit.

4 Meade L. The Once and Future Church Reinventing the Congregation for a New Mission Frontier. The Alban Institute, 1994.

5 Anderson Ray S. The Soul of Ministry, Forming Leaders for Gods People. U.S.A. Westminster John Knox Press. 1997 p. 154

6 Ogden G The New Reformation, Returning Ministry to the People of God. U.S.A. Zondervan, 1990. p. 30

7 Van Engin C. Gods Missionary People. Rethinking the purpose of the Local Church. U.S.A. Baker, 1991 p. 151

8 G. Ogden The New Reformation p. 98

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