Changing Leaders in a Changing Culture. A veteran church-growth expert maps out how Christian leadership must change in light of new global realities.
Our culture is constantly changing, often faster than we can adapt to it. Christian leaders struggle not only to acquire new skills and insights but also to unlearn what they already know. As both the church and the world change, so too must Christian leaders and their very notions of leadership.
Styles of leadership are changing, from hierarchies to networks and from compartmentalization to connectivity. Gibbs assesses the dynamics of leadership teams, identifies healthy leadership traits, and looks to how new leaders are identified and developed. This incisive analysis is a comprehensive resource for current and emerging leaders serving in churches, parachurch organizations and beyond. 237 pages
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New leaders in community need to be very much more aware of culture and globalization than any previous generation, save perhaps the first century.
Our consumer driven market place drives the best and the brightest to where the money is. Then, after having made their mark in business with materialistic aims, leaders are recognized for their ideas for the Church of the Lord Jesus. On the other hand, Jesus did not turn to the religious leaders, he turned to the common working people to get the job done. Business literature, as Gibbs writes, tends to emphasize biblical Christian values including humility and servanthood.
Gibbs writes, â€œThe Church of the 21st century needs missional thinkers and apostolic leadership.â€ If leaders today are to become missional readers of the Scriptures with â€œfresh eyes,â€ we need to be much more deliberate about making discipleship more than books, DVDâ€™s, and conferences. We need to do like Jesus did; we need to take our disciples out to the streets as an integral part of training and equipping todayâ€™s leaders.
Gibbs writes, â€œOne of the greatest tragedies in theological education has been the separation (to their mutual impoverishment) of ecclesiology from missiology. This separation has resulted, on the one hand, in a missionless church and, on the other hand, in a churchless mission.â€ (24)
This book has renewed my understanding that leaders go first, serve the most, take the hard knocks. They are generous with their time, but they also take the necessary time to withdraw and refocus. This picture of leadership is that of visionary â€“ â€œthey conceptualize rather than simply critique.â€ Many times comments from those who we work with are helpful, but there is a significant difference between ideas and commitment to follow through on an idea, a vision, serving and loving our neighbors even when many of the â€œhelpfulâ€ comments would deter us from that course. When I have a strong natural leader who is not leading with their gift, but only commenting, I feel the pressure greater than ever. As Gibbs writes, â€œthe enemy is strong natural servants who have the potential to lead but do not lead, or who choose to follow a non-servant.â€ (30) True servant leaders will bring their gift to the task and stay faithful to the vision they share with others on their team.
Gibbs writes, â€œThe leaders of the future must grow and flex with a changing contextâ€¦they are risk takers â€¦committed to change precisely because they recognize the need for change within themselves.â€ (37) This tendency of leaders to re-examine all their established assumptions is what Iâ€™ve heard labeled a â€œparalysis of analysis.â€ If we spend too much time considering our next move, we fail to move. However, there is a healthy humility that is represented in questioning what you practice before continuing on that assumed course.
A new apostolic surge requires that we â€œrecognize that ministry in the surrounding community is increasingly cross-cultural and Christians need appropriate insights and training for it.â€ (49) Todayâ€™s leaders must be â€œstudents of cultural movements.â€ (55) We should not only be aware of present trends, we should also understand the impact of Modernity on our culture and the Boomer generation, many of whom are in major cultural leadership roles in Western society. In the context of the postmodern generation, it is important to recognize the prevailing view of the world as it is seen by much this generation. Gibbs describes this postmodern time of flux and fluidity in Dominic Crossanâ€™s words:
â€œThere is no lighthouse keeper.
There is no lighthouse.
There is no dry land.
There is only people living on rafts made from their own imaginations.
And there is the sea.â€ (62)
While the world sees no purpose in seed planting and harvesting, the Church leaders should once again live the life-style which illustrates that of God as gardener. God is calling a new generation of leaders, not of programs or projects, but those who cultivate the garden, those who are connected in relationship.
The most valuable lessons for me in Gibbâ€™s book is found in the instructions for team building. We need to cultivate our team identity through stories. We need to create the context from which stories may be told and shared and heard. We need to create the trust level to have open affirmation and critique of what we are doing right and wrong. Only then will we have a learning organization and culture.
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