Leadership, with responsibility comes accountability and creative freedom

Discussions on leadership at the moment have been grabbing my attention.
One comment in particular forced me to think again on the issue of creative freedom.
Someone commented that out of the Ecclesia should come the decisions. One has to go no further than the book of Acts to find some proof verses to back up this view.
Furthermore, years of Baptist history and emphasis on congregational government has led to one of the most missional and orthodox denominations, and one of the few established churches growing.

However there are issues and clarification about what this actually means. The issues in my mind relate to what the congregation should actually decide. In Acts they decided if Paul should be anointed as the Mission Leader. The one who would go out and plant churches, act as an Apostle.
I think this is a great model for us.
What we also find the early church doing is appointing deacons to lead the ministries, and not being checked on by an over diligant membership.

Picture this.
The church decides together to send Paul out. They then have further meetings to decide on what methods he should employ, where he should go, what churches he should set up, where, what he should be restricted to saying to them, whether he should make tents or not, and whether he should be allowed to serve wine or not.

These issues and more were ones that it is logical Paul needed to make for himself, and he did.

The church anointed him as leader, and then trusted him to lead. If he had started to make stupid decisions, if he had been greedy and self serving, and dare I say it in this ‘nice political climate’ he had not performed…..I believe they would have revisited the responsibility given to him. Futhermore they continually asked him to be accountable, to report to them, and when a serious issue came up, for example what to expect of Gentile believers, they gave direction.

Let me say something else. Did their appointing of Paul absolve them of being the church, of sharing the gospel, of bringing the kingdom into the present? Of course not, these and more was what Paul and others expected of the whole church. But Paul was recognised as a leader and allowed to lead.

Some of what I read makes me wonder whether political correctness is driving us, whether in fact our culture is determining our values, rather than scripture?
Are we afraid of authority, submission, releasing people? No one likes a dictator, no one likes someone who does not have their interests at heart, and not many will follow such a leader for very long. But that does not mean we should not let leaders lead, and recognise them as such. The abuse of any model is not evidence to not use it, and I recognise this even in what I am about to say.

Of course experience drives all of our views on these issues.
Two experiences drive me.
Bad members meetings where instead of the church gathering together to find the mind of Christ, gatekeepers gathered to maintain the status quo, dysfunctional bitter people gathered in some twisted way to have influence, and some dear souls gathered to be abused.

The other experience is in the statistical fact that creative people are the first people to leave where instead of releasing people into leadership and freedom in expressing their gifts, talents and ideas, they were stifled by change haters.

The so called “Ceo” model is so far from how it is being stereotyped it is not funny. It is not about one person assuming control, it is about leadership being given to the people, not taken from them.
Good business people know this.
I believe the mind of Christ is found in the eccelisa. But how we work out what the church decides in a modern church context is not as simple as this sweeping statement.

10 thoughts on “Leadership, with responsibility comes accountability and creative freedom”

  1. Mark – enjoyed the post, good thoughts. What concerns me a great deal at the moment though is not so much culture determining our values rather than Scripture but rather the lens of our faith traditon seems to be greatly involved in determing how we view Scripture, we seem to be defenders of our faith tradition rather than defenders of ‘the’ faith.

    For example, your view posted here and Hamo’s view posted there

  2. I hope I understand what you mean Mark.

    I wonder if in fact when in comes to questions like this a couple of things.

    Was not the early church (church in Acts)influenced by their culture?
    Did they not adapt or even start their structures in response to their own culture?
    Are they not, at times at least, a great example of a church being all things to all people so as to win them to Christ?

    Therefore should we look to what works in our culture, rather than what the early church did? (ooh, that sounds scary just writing it)

  3. Hey Mark – first time here!

    I think you make some good points. I think, reading responses over at Ra’ah and reading what you wrote here, that we seem to be describing a polemic. The CEO model (portrayed as some kind of autocratic approach) or a congregational model (where “everyone’s a leader”).

    I don’t think anyone is arguing that either of these is the best approach. The kind of collaborative approach to leadership some of us have been talking about is much closer to the middle ground. It recognises a plurality of leaders (I guess somewhere around the APEPT side of things Al Hirsch talks about) while also recognising the importance of ministry-as-a-way-of life among all believers.

    I think the plurality of leaders is a better way of doing things – where each leader has equal authority and works as part of a team – than the more traditional way of doing things where the pastor pretty much runs the show, reporting to a board who have little to nothing to do with the daily running of things – afterall, usually this is the pastor’s domain.


  4. mmmm, thanks for your comments.
    I agree with a plurality of leadership
    I practice sharing leadership.

    I appreciate the views of all people on my leadership team.
    my own view is that you cannot hold a committee or team responsible…leadership and responsibility needs to be given to the person who takes ownership over an area in the church.
    I do strongly believe in a senior pastor role who is kept accountable firstly to a leadership team, and secondly to the church congregation. But….he is also given freedom to exercise creativity within a framework. Without that, I think someones spirit is crushed.

    What I do want to say…is that the church should decide who they want their pastor to be, and seek Gods mind on that…as well as other big decisions.

    I also believe strongly that in any group, one person normally takes the lead. And while a good leader will listen, really listen, and journey with people, ultimately one person will normally lead the group to a decision. Thats reality.

  5. I’ve just been reading George Barna’s book “A fish out of water”. It’s not a completely brilliant read, but one thing has stood out to me – there are different kinds of leadership “aptitudes” (again – think APEPT) and that no one person can have all these. This is where the team comes into play. In a collaborative model different people are responsibile in different roles and each is accountable, both to the others in leadership but also to the congregation.

    I disagree that it isn’t possible to hold a team accountable. When you make one person ultimately accountable you are also making that same person ultimately responsible.

    And we end up right back where we started – with a CEO leader in whom the responsibility for the “real” ministry of the church is invested. Everybody else just has to make sure they rock up on Sunday’s and put some money in the bag and their job is done.


  6. We are allowed to disagree! 🙂

    If you have ministry team leaders, if these leaders are truly given both responsibility, accountability and authority, you dont have the problem with one person doing it all.
    A lot of the time I have no idea what is happening in departments all over the church, and I dont need to, people know I trust them, and they trust me.


  7. Great post, Mark. A couple of thoughts.

    “Futhermore they continually asked him to be accountable, to report to them, and when a serious issue came up, for example what to expect of Gentile believers, they gave direction.”

    I get the impression that Paul would have told the Jerusalem council where to go if they hadn’t given the OK for gentile believers!

    ‘Creature’, I just fail to see the ministry-led model taking ministry from anyone and putting it all on the pastor’s shoulders. It’s not happening in any church I know. Our teams have more freedom and consequently are displaying more creativity since we moved to this model.

    I’d say the main differences are in the amount of planning and the type of collaboration. No longer is a committee, or even a person, sitting around saying, ‘We should do this,’ but the teams who are responsible get to plan and execute their vision.

    I like the idea of APEPT in the local church, but I really think we’ve Westernised and modernised it, so it so that what the current emerging church discussion describes (and I say this quite respectfully), is not actually what the biblical model looked like.

    Take apostles – aside from Paul and the early Jerusalem church we simply don’t know how apostles operated. And Paul wasn’t in local leadership most of the time (2 weeks here, 2 years there). The episcopalians have their view! Prophets are also generally understood to be itinerant. I’m not saying that the concept is wrong, or even unworkable, I just don’t think it’s more biblically valid just because we grab a verse out of Ephesians…

    In fact, we do have a plurality of leadership. We have different roles, responsibilities and accountability relationships. We confer and discuss and plan and envision together. We work in and as teams at various levels. There is room for APEPT within our relationships, positions and structure if we identify and see the need.

    But the right people are important. If you have control issues you shouldn’t be a pastor. Generally, though, I think my leaders wish I’d give more leadership, not less. But I may be wrong.


  8. In this debate there seems to be the committee model at one end of the spectrum and then the ‘CEO’ jibe at the other end. Missing is the reality of many evangelical churches where the pastor leads a team. The team is made up of people with various gifting, and decisions are made by consensus. However, there is an expectation that the pastor will provide leadership, and cast vision, strategic direction etc. This is a long way from the CEO model because that leadership, strategic direction and vision is not implemented unless it is shared by the leadership team and the congregation.

    A CEO makes a call and everyone falls into line. That model is relevant for mega-pentecostal churches, but they are relatively few in number when compared to the totality of Aussie churches.

  9. Hybels said a pastor has one of the hardest jobs, because they dont pay, nor do they normally fire people!

    In a modern business, they talk about the need to motivate staff and get ‘buy in’ for the vision. Particularly in WA at the moment, if you dont provide good working conditions, and a purpose for work beyond the pay packet, you will find it hard to retain good staff. Maybe the CEO of large companies needs to come to get advice from pastors!

    I don’t nececarily agree with your comment about mega pente churches. I think most churches, apart from those with unhealthy leadership, seek to involve people in the vision, and have them ‘own it’ for themselves.

    I have been involved in very conservative Baptist Congregational churches where the Pastor was a dictator. I think unhealthy leadership can be found in ever model of church, from emergent to mega.

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