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Is Your Leadership "Ahead" or "Among?"

I’m a pastor. Is my job to:

a.) lead everyone individually into the Christian life that I am already living? -or-

b.) to lead everyone into joining in life with God and His Mission wherever that might lead?

If it is A I am in trouble. Because I now have the pressure to have a perfect life so that having achieved that I can now give it to someone else. Here I am. Take a look at me. Here’s how to do it.

If it is B then I take an altogether different posture. I can reject the posture of “I am ahead of you.” Instead, I lead not as one who is “ahead” but as one who is “among.” We are in this together and, out of my gifts, I am inviting you to join in a journey together into the depths of life with God and His Mission. Let us journey together and along the way, there will be things you learn from me and there will be things I learn from you.  It is true, I have been walking along this way for a while. I am embedded in a direction. This however does not mean I will always be perfect. It does mean that I have been put on course in an unswerving direction. I have been walking this direction and God has proven Himself again and again as Lord in and through Jesus Christ. But I cannot be everything to you and I will not be perfect in this endeavor. We must be in this together. God has found me in Christ and God has found you too in the same way. Yes? Then let us join in this journey together.

To continue on with model B, We each have gifts. I don’t have everything. I cannot do everything. I am very limited actually. I may have been given certain gifts for leading, and teaching (let’s say). To the extent they are recognized and given authority by the Holy Spirit out of my submission to Christ, I offer these gifts to my community (I think ordination recognizes, tests, and facilitates the gifts within the history of Christ). But you have been given gifts as well. I need you as much as you need me. The church body needs you as much as it needs me. We, and I emphasize “we” are the body. And God will use “us” to build up His Kingdom visibly in this place until He returns.

This model of leading (model B) requires character and direction. In this way I guess you could say I am leading from “ahead.” But I, too, must grow in my character. I must receive constructive truth telling into my life. If I can’t do that, then I should expect no one else to either. Because I am growing too. The minute I stop growing is the minute I am disqualified for ministry. Likewise, if I take a different direction, a direction of rebellion against God, a refusal to repent when in sin, or if I fall having given myself over to sin in a way that reveals I have lost my direction in Christ, then these things as well disqualify me to lead in my respective gifting. This model of leadership requires character and direction. Part of that character is the posture of leading humbling as one “among.”

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David Fitch is a bi-vocational pastor at Life on the Vine and the B.R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary.