The key to HC growth are the leaders, their openness, giftedness, brokenness, and willingness to serve without self-interest. You will notice immediately that the majority of these are character traits. Nearly all leadership problems in the church can be put down to faulty characters. It is imperative that a church leader has a grace transformed character.
In the beginning God created man in his own image. The body, soul and spirit of man were in perfect equilibrium, until man sinned and thus died spiritually, leaving just the body and soul which strive continually to feed and satisfy themselves.
Both of these parts of man are self-centered: the body seeking fleshly or carnal satisfaction, and the soul intellectual or emotional satisfaction. It is only in Christ that His Spirit living in us begins to restore the equilibrium that was enjoyed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is only when we are enjoying this equilibrium, this “life in the Spirit”, that we have the power to live, move and minister in a Christ—like way, thinking first of God and then others before my needs. For this reason the most apt leaders are those who clearly demonstrate that they have characters that are being conformed to Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit.
How can we find these leaders?
First, we must forget our stereotypes of leaders. In several churches I know a young man is not seen as a potential leader until he adopts a certain mode of dress, or speech pattern or begins to relate unquestioningly to a leader or denomination. Secondly, we must not confuse education with maturity. I know many highly-educated leaders, who are in reality spiritual babes (or worse still not yet started in the Christian life) and others who whilst having little or no formal training have a wonderful grasp on the things of God.
Above all, a leader needs to be seen as a “man of God”, able to relate simply and humbly, both to his flock and to his peers. In his character he must be clear and open, his life demonstrating his reliance on Christ. In terms of gifting, we must carefully discriminate those parts that come from his training and those parts that come from God. Because of the perversity of this world, learnt things will always contain a taint of that perversity. However, that which comes from God is good and pure. A leader must have Spirit-lead motives for his service, and never be led astray by ambition, money, or desires of self—fulfillment. You may think that I am describing an impossible ideal.
However, it is my experience that everyone within God’s family has the ability to lead at some level or another. The only requirement is our death to self so that we can live in the Holy Spirit. Perhaps we would have more success if we stopped looking for leaders and started to help some of the “failures” or “pains in the neck” in our churches to find enough security in Jesus so that they can humble themselves and lay down long enough to die. But perhaps before that happens, those of us already in leadership need to do some more dying.
A question I was once asked is if I loved God and the Church enough to turn my back and walk away, leaving all in the hands of God and inexperienced leaders. I thank God that I was able to, because the small church that I left, instead of becoming reliant on my faith, later became a strong, missionary sending church. There is a part of all of us that would like to lead a successful 3000+ member church, and perhaps God will call you to that, but until then let us be happy within small inter-relating groups.
The leadership relationships at the congregation and celebration levels are important. In scripture I do not find people relating pyramidically. Pyramid structures always leave senior leaders with too much authority and too little accountability. Some people look to wheel structures with similar interests grouping around a common hub. This allows for better interaction and communication, but once again fails because of insufficient accountability. It also makes the church inward looking, centred on structure.
The structure that I find most helpful is the so called “net model’, Local leaders, plus other recognised ministries, would be at the end of each thread of the net, with like ministries being grouped together. As items arise within the group, those with any interest would pull at their thread, thus inclining the net towards them. The group would then look towards that person or those persons to take the lead. Sometimes there will be two, three or more people tensing the thread at the same time. This leads to only those with a real interest in the matter taking decisions whilst the others are free to give counsel, and then follow the consensus of the group.
The aim of this type of model is always consensus; “‘It seems good to us and the Holy Spirit... “. Tyrants and dictators find it impossible to work within this type of network, as others will pull at their threads to prevent their worse excesses, thus creating an equilibrium. This is a leadership model for real servants, people prepared to lay down their lives for the sheep and each other. But it cannot be over-stressed, that the authority within each HC, rests with their elders, who are there to persuade and help the brothers to make decisions rather than order.
What happens if things go wrong? The constant emphasis on good teaching (1 Tim. 3 and Lev. 19 etc.) should mean that every church member is spiritually equipped to see problems before they occur. The emphasis on accountability both within the leadership and within each group will also mitigate against real problems arising. If the leaders cannot resolve a problem it would be better for them to leave it in the hands of God arid separate themselves from the problem, whilst at all times leaving a way back for any people involved.