Saturday, 16 February 2008

What about the Gatekeepers?

Jackie asked about the gatekeepers... I reckon that every community has gatekeepers or watchmen - if we are to build community, take a lead in communities we will find it really difficult without the openness of these people. Often they may be opinion formers, people whose judgement is trusted by others. Sometimes they may be people who have occupied a position of power in a group enough to mean that they have the key to that group and if they don't turn the key then no one will. Sometimes a leader has to seek the removal of a watch-person who is too controlling or choose another bunch of sheep to lead!

Leadership certainly is messier than 5 points in John 10!

Further thoughts: It seems to me that every flock has a sheep pen, a pasture to go to, a shepherd to lead it and gatekeepers who watch over it.

It is interesting that Jesus goes on to say that he is the gate for the sheep - maybe that's what we need to watch out for - watchmen/gatekeepers who have a humility about them so much so that they know that it is Jesus himself who is the gate - that it isn't about them but rather Jesus because "whoever enters through me will be saved".

Monday, 11 February 2008

Leading at SMC - Faith-based and Apostolic

It occurs to me that I ought to say something further about leading at SMC and especially where I am coming from... my leadership emphasis.

I prioritise faith-based leadership - confident that I/we can hear and see the Lord and therefore will be led out by him. Jesus said 'as the Father has sent me so I send you' - we are an apostolic people and supposed to lead apostolically as those who are sent.

I seek to use Lifeshapes (see & especially the Circle and the Square to help me to lead. The Circle helps me to live a life of constant learning - repent and believe. The Square helps me to see different leadership styles that I need to function in a different times. I make many mistakes and have my share of failures yet tools like 'Lifeshapes' are crucial to keeping me in an apostolic frame of mind.

Mike Breen talks about the need to be 'a shepherd from in front and a sheep from behind' - in other words I need at the same time a leader and led, a shepherd and a sheep.

Sunday, 10 February 2008


I will return to the subject of belonging and community soon however I have been thinking a little bit about leadership today so thought I would blog on this.

We can't escape from the biblical image of shepherding. Jesus says

"the gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice." (John 10:3,4)

This morning as we were worshipping in this glorious hubbub of community at HGS I was reminded of this passage (esp.v3) and here's a number of things that I am thinking about in response:

1) Leadership has to be legitimised - we earn the right to lead. You don't get to lead the sheep unless you are in some way or other authorised/allowed to lead. Too often this has been construed as a way of keeping leadership to a few 'special ones' - we are mad to go down this route - I prefer to say that all can lead but our leadership has to be legitimised. I think we often earn the right to lead through loving service of others, through exercising initiative and taking responsibility. As we do these things the gatekeepers allow us in... then we can lead further.

2) Leaders are listened to - the sheep listen to the shepherds voice - she/he is legitimate, trusted and they are open to guidance and help. So a leader needs to ask whether they are being listened to - if they aren't it could be because their leadership isn't legitimised (hasn't been earned) or conversely because the sheep have decided not to be sheep (not open to guidance and help). I'm only to aware of how stubborn and proud we/I can be - unteachable - and how it seems to me that sheep are uniquely designed to need guidance and help and not to is to reject all that is good for them (I think Neil Coles in his book 'Organic Church' says something along these lines).

3) Leaders call - a leader identifies those who are their sheep (remember Jesus talked about being called to the lost sheep of Israel - he was quite specific about who he aimed at and who he called - 12 disciples). I believe that a leader calls people to the vision that the Lord has given them. Am I/are you calling people to my/your vision?

4) Leaders lead out - leading has to have a direction to it and I am sure that it has to be an outward movement - the sheep aren't meant for the sheep pen they are designed for the pasture. In my last church someone gave me a prophecy that I was to be a shepherd who led the sheep from a pasture that was finished with (pastures can be overgrazed and therefore unable to provided nourishment) to a new pasture but that we would have to go through a valley to get there... how true! I was able to leave my previous church with a new pasture to graze in (though there were still sheep who hankered after the old pasture!)

5) Leaders go on ahead - here is what we need to do once we have led our sheep to new pastures... we continue to go on ahead. We don't get waylaid by the demands now of maintaining the flock... we need to go on ahead as by now the sheep are willing to follow us to new pastures because they know us and trust us.

Of course all this needs to be reflected on in the light of Jesus being our true leader. He is the model which is why this passage of his teaching in John 10 is so important for us. True leadership is learnt from the true leader ... the good shepherd.

Friday, 1 February 2008

True Community

I have been waiting with anticipation for a book by Joseph R. Myers to arrive. Called 'The Search to Belong' and subtitled 'rethinking intimacy, community and small groups' I reckon it might be just the right thing to be reading as I lead SMC through a vision casting and implementation process that is focussed on becoming a community of communities. At time of updating this blog I am still only in the first chapter and already feeling disturbed and challenged in how glibly I use and have used the words 'belonging' and 'community'.
Myer's quotes from someone called Larry Crabb;
"The future of the church depends on whether it develops true community. We can get by for a while on size, skilled communication, and programs to meet every need, but unless we sense we belong to each other; with masks off, the vibrant church of today will become the powerless church of tomorrow. Stale, irrelevant, a place of pretense where sufferers suffer alone, where pressure generates conformity rather than the Spirit creating life - that's where the church is headed unless it focusses on community."
Hmmmm .... makes you think doesn't it?
I really want to see true community developing associated with SMC but I realise that we are going to have to process the question of belonging in relation to community because as Myers puts it "Most of us have always believed that a person could 'belong' as long as their definition of belonging agreed with ours."
More on this at some point soon.