I have been pondering this question for some time, and I found myself drawn back to some lessons I thought I had learned (but clearly haven’t!) from a community in Oxford (UK) called ‘mayBe’ that a friend of mine has been involved with. They have some similar values to us, but they have approached their leadership structure and the expression of those values quite differently. I thought engaging with something a bit different and sharing some of what I have found challenging in their model might be helpful to us as we try and reorient ourselves as a community of leaders.
Lesson One: Leadership as Guardianship
When mayBe set up their leadership team (which is kind of a hybrid of our servant leaders and core team), they decided to use a monastic model of community leadership.
The simplest way to explain this (and as best as I understand it) would be to say that each person who sits in the leadership circle is not there to represent a particular ministry, but to represent/guard a particular community value. The leaders then become guardians of the community’s values, rather than being focussed on a functional role –though they do seem to have these also.
When they gather together they are obligated to allow those values to be both voiced and heard. Any conflict is entered into via the natural tensions encountered by allowing each of the different values to be voiced in concert with one another.
Now I don’t think the model is by any means perfect – every leadership model has its problems when it comes to actually putting it into practice - but it is an interesting way of looking at things.
If we are part of a community of leadership, and each of us has a perspective which is reflective of different aspects of our values that others may not have as great an insight into, then choosing not to speak on an issue, or being unwilling to hear someone’s point of view is not only unacceptable – its negligent.
Our greatest failure as leaders becomes not our failure to fulfil a task, but our failure to represent the values to which our community has committed itself. When we fail to do this we are not simply failing ourselves or our ministry team, or Brett as our Pastor- we are failing our community because we are not guarding the values which have been entrusted to us. I’m actually freaking myself out as I write this!
Guarding the vision and values of the community is a much greater responsibility than simply overseeing the functional tasks we do from week to week. But if we truly believe we are called to leadership, then this is at the very heart of our leadership task.
I guess I swing towards this as value number one for us as a community of leaders – to be guardians of the vision and values of our community. I appreciate that we all do this already in many ways. But I think its time for us to do this more actively and consciously than we have in the past.
Imagine what this could look like if we put this into practice.
Lesson two: What is the ‘spirit’ of cession community? And how do we
as a community of leaders represent it?
mayBe describes its values as being the ‘spirit’ of the community – what they are to guard and to embody.
I think we as individuals have a sense of the importance of embodying our values – but do we have a sense of embodying them as a leadership team?
This is an idea which I have found very challenging - what does it mean for us to collectively guard the spirit of cessioncommunity? And what would it look like if we did?
On another tack – mayBe has some very similar values to us – but they express them very differently (click here for full run down). They also include some which are very different and they exclude some which we would probably feel uncomfortable about dropping.
However, for the sake of freshness of perspective, and challenging us to see things differently here are the values they hold and my own reflections on what they might mean for us:
‘The God-man Jesus of Nazareth was described by the Gospel-writer John as being full of grace and truth. We are seeking to be a community of Christ - and so we know that we need to carry his mark (if we can bear it): grace.’
When I read this, the thing that really struck me was the last part ‘we know we need to carry his mark (if we can bear it): grace.’
When I think of the mark of Christ, I often think of the ‘Stigmata’ the marks left in Jesus hands and feet by the nails that held him on the cross. I have often thought of these as marks of suffering, but what if we understood these not just as the marks of Jesus persecution and death, but of his love for us? The stigmata represent a death that Jesus was willing to experience for us in order that we might be truly free. Ultimately they are not marks of divine suffering, but of divine grace.
What does it mean for us not solely as individuals, but as a community of leaders to be marked with that kind of divine grace? Grace that loves so much it is willing to die in order to bring about the possibility of new life.
If we believed when we were speaking to one another that we were each called to administer God’s grace to one another how would that change our interactions with each other? Would there be less conflict? Or more?
If we saw as foundational to our leadership role not the need to fulfil a task but the call to bear the marks of God’s grace to our community and to one another, how would that change how we approach not only our functional tasks but our leadership task? How would it change the way we approach our time together as a community of leaders?
If we were to measure the level of grace present in the way in which we lead together (not individually) would the light be green? Or red?
‘Whatever the tune we play, whatever the state of the game, we play believing that Jesus Christ is present. That God is around. That heaven and earth are likely to meet. This changes everything. Every time we are together - in small group or larger gathering - and for whatever purpose - sharing a meal, going to the cinema, meeting for coffee, gathering for prayer - Christ’s presence may gently soak into us. And seep out, possibly even flow. And so the music will be more generous, and the game more adventurous. The scratch orchestra will draw in those who have no idea they can play, and the pub football team will welcome players who haven't kicked a ball in decades. God's just and gentle rule will break in and will break out.’
I’m a bit partial to this particular value so I included it in its entirety. The heart of it for me is in the first sentence: ‘Whatever the tune we play, whatever the state of the game, we play believing that Jesus Christ is present.'
Do we lead like Jesus is present?
Do we meet together as though Jesus is present?
Do we believe that when we gather together that Jesus is sitting with us in the circle? That the Spirit of God is there ready to challenge and inspire us, if we are willing to listen?
I often arrive to meetings feeling tired, and wishing I was somewhere else – ‘cause its Saturday and there are other places I could be. But what if we were all turning up to a meeting not just with each other – but with the creator of the universe.
I don’t know about you guys, but it increases my sense of urgency and commitment to our time together when I remember exactly who it is that is at the centre not just of our purpose for meeting together but of every gathering itself.
'We aim to play with a light touch. And mayBe values laughter. Not just tee-hee - though we like that - but also deep, affectionate and joyful belly-laughter. Because laughter is a sign of hope. Of life. Of resurrection. For all shall be made alive with laughter *. And we try to laugh at ourselves - particularly and crucially at the all-too-real gap between what we profess to be and what we actually are.'
(*From David Dark ‘Everyday Apocalypse’)
One of the things that I like about this, is that they actually felt laughter was important enough to value as part of the spirit of their community. It is all too easy to forget the importance of laughter – especially when it happens in the context of our relationships with one another as leaders.
How would our meetings look and feel if laughter was a valued part of our leadership, and part of our role as a community of leaders?
Marva Dawn talks about the picture of the church in Romans 12 as ‘The Hilarity of Community.’ Laughing together should be as much a part of our 'engaging deeply, responding instinctively and supporting freely' as our crying together if we are truly to be in community with one another.
‘...mayBe is trying to re-imagine the world that we live in. To see it as God might see it. To look for the beautiful stuff that has been buried in the dirt, and to bring it to the surface. To see the poetic in the everyday. To seek beauty. To wonder.’
What would it look like for us to wonder together?
To seek beauty in the gift of our friendship with one another?
To see both our functional and leadership tasks, on our own, and together with eyes that see as God does? To look on what has been, what is directly in front of us, and what lies ahead, with wonder?
‘At the heart of Jesus' message in action and word was his insistence that things were changing. That, despite appearances to the contrary, God's just and gentle rule was breaking in. That those with ears to hear and eyes to see should be listening and looking for signs of life-bringing change. But also that there were other, death-dealing powers at work that will not give up without a fight.
... We want to be characterised by celebration of all that is good in the world. And resistance to all that is dehumanising and destructive.’
‘... We want to be characterised by celebration of all that is good in the world. And resistance to all that is dehumanising and destructive.’
Imagine what that could look like if we were collectively committed to that vision.
I’d like to see us learn both to celebrate together, to stand back and say ‘it is good – God is present in this. And to resist together. Collective resistance is much more powerful than anything we could do as individuals.
‘Words are (relatively) easy. The tough bit is doing it. Living the vision. Being Christ-community. And becoming more faithful followers of Christ. We know that this will take commitment. Energy. Time. Grit.’
(I think this one speaks for itself)
‘We are excited that the adventure into God-centred living is a continuing journey, not a one-off event. We understand that we do not understand. We recognise that every welcome insight we receive opens up a greater vista to be explored. We like the idea of space to journey together as a Christian community. We love to learn. We are trying to listen. We want to grow and mature.’
I know we are each on journeys of our own, and we are all developing as individuals and in our personal leadership. But how are we developing as a community of leaders?
What is the journey that we are on together?
Which direction is it moving in?
Are we moving at all?