Thursday, November 03, 2011

Followers not leaders

I am in the place I did my Alpha retreat twenty years ago led by my dear friend Peter. He says of me that I am one of the people who most disappointed him on any course:) (and he has led hundreds) as I seemed to make no progress whatsoever. I am gathered here with others who are all planning to plant churches or exploring opportunities for church growth in their contexts across this land. How weird and wonderful is that?

I was unable to sleep for all the emotion of coming back here so I read Simon Walkers book 'The Undefended Life' late into the night. He gets the title from a quote attributed to Melanie Klein

'Maturity is the freedom to live an undefended life'

Simon led the most interesting and frankly challenging course I did at Vicar factory and anyone faintly interested in better understanding oneself and God should read this book. If you 'lead' anything, this book will help get perspective on what on earth that actually means.

You know sometimes you read a paragraph of a book and it stops you dead and makes your heart beat with an insight. I did that reading this:

"If there is one thing I would have the reader take away from this book, it is the significance of these lines [John 5:19]. It is upon this that everything I have written hangs......(p.123)

....Some have rightly noticed that we should talk less of leadership and more of followership- in other words, the things that make people follow the leader. I would want to go further and suggest that leadership itself is an act of followership. There is no such thing as leadership in the sense of executive agency and decision-making that we often take it to mean. The leader is not in the business of taking decisions about the things that happen. Rather she should be in the business of responding to the leading of God's Spirit.

The only kind of leadership possible is described in John 5:19, where the Son describes his following of the movements of the divine Father. The chief quality of a leader, then, should not be the capacity to make decisions or be visionary, but rather to listen and be attentive. It is startling that we often seek to train our leaders to be better communicators (by which we mean 'speakers') believing that leadership is some act of persuasion. In fact, we should be looking for individuals who have cultivated a stillness of spirit such that they can attend to the movements of God.....

....I am not the slightest bit interested in following men and women who can depict a grand vision, or who have confidence about 'the way we need to do things'. I want to follow and learn from the men and women who struggle with the pain of the world and who are generous, kind, self-effacing, seeking to learn, fragile, patient, still and free, those who have known failure and been crushed. I want to follow the one who can laugh at him or herself and who does not try to achieve mighty things. As someone once said, 'The immature man seeks to die heroically for a cause; the mature seeks to live maturely for one' (p.160)

I will be pondering these words for some time to come.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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