Leadership and Post-Christendom

by Mark Doerksen, Heartland Regional Minister, CBWC


Shannon asked me to write a piece on leadership, and I am happy to oblige.  These thoughts on leadership have been percolating in my mind for a while now, so I’ll attempt to get these thoughts into some semblance of order.  I’m grateful for the opportunity, and grateful for the work of Cailey, Shannon, and Joell (the French pronunciation) for their work in church planting.

I was able to attend a class led by Darrell Guder at Carey Theological College in January of 2017.  For fun, Guder works on translating Karl Barth’s work into English.  So I wasn’t surprised to find out that Guder has also been instrumental in teaching David Bosch’s game-changing book, Transforming Mission.  Guder is no slouch; he’s currently the Professor of Missional and Ecumenical Theology Emeritus at Princeton Theological, and has taught in the area of the church after Christendom for a long time. He has used Bosch’s text as his main text book since Bosch’s book was first published, and really enjoys helping others understand the implications of Bosch’s work.

If you’ve read Bosch, you know that you may be tempted to skip a paragraph or two, but you do so at your own peril; seemingly each paragraph is rich and full of information that you don’t want to miss.  I appreciate Bosch because of his sifting of vast information, and his ability to formulate nuanced arguments for theology and mission, even today.  For example, if you were to attempt to get a definition of evangelism out of Bosch, you would have to read 9 pages with 18 different points, bearing in mind that mission and evangelism are not synonymous, though ultimately linked together.  Brevity isn’t his strength.

So too is Bosch’s treatment of leadership for the missional church today.  In Christendom, the responsibility of ministry lay mainly with the ordained, a power structure comprised mostly of men to lead the work of the church.  There is a shift in this thinking, as a movement is afoot to take this responsibility of a few ordained men and to make it the responsibility of the whole people of God (Bosch, 2014, 478).   Bosch describes this new reality as a rediscovery of the “apostulate of the laity” or the “priesthood of all believers,” a concept that isn’t new to Baptists (481).

In making this shift, people turn to texts like Ephesians 4 to think about leadership in this post-Christendom environment.  The history of interpretation of this text has not been smooth.  Calvin suggested that the only gifts necessary were pastors and teachers.  Some have suggested that the office of an apostle has long disappeared.  But missional theologians and thinkers like this passage because it speaks of the collegiality of leadership.   Leadership is not suited for one individual; instead, there are a multiplicity of gifts and abilities required for leadership.  Leadership is a community within a community.  The notion of a solo pastor making all the decisions for a community that bears witness is not a model that is as welcome as it used to be.  Instead, collegial, cordial, shared leadership amongst folks with different gifts seems to be the model moving forward after Christendom.  Folks like Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost write a lot about this model of leadership.

If Alan Hirsch is right about this, and if his church experience is to be an example for us, churches need to make a deliberate shift to this sort of leadership.  As he describes in The Forgotten Ways, the leadership of his church made a deliberate decision to embrace this leadership style, with each ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) having a team leader.  This posture allows for a dynamic learning system embedded in leadership, with the church poised for mission and health.

Of course, there are some theological reservations here.  If your Twitter feed is similar to mine, you will have read that not everyone agrees with the prominence of the Ephesians 4 passage for ministry and leadership.   Must each individual within a community of faith have one of the gifts of Ephesians 4, or are there other gifts?  The grammar police also have concerns; are pastors and teachers different gifts, or the same one, and what do the Greek grammar rules have to say about this?  You get the idea, and you may well add your voice to the concerns raised here.

And yet….  Given all the concerns about this sort of leadership, I personally find this collegial approach to be helpful.  I find it especially helpful and corrective in cases where solo pastors think they are the main people to hear from God regarding a particular community.  Related, this model also helps guard against authoritarian leadership in churches; it helps pastors move away from “thus sayeth the Lord” models to a model which shares leadership and responsibility, and which appreciates the gifts of the others who are leading.  Even my personality resonates with this sort of approach; I’d much rather work together with others than to dictate what has to happen.  As I see it, we’re a part of an upside-down kingdom (Kraybill) where we serve the other, not dictate to others.  Any model that helps us avoid dictator models, even benevolent dictators, is beneficial, though, as already mentioned here, these models need to be discerned as well.

Read an outline of Alan Hirsch’s APEST leadership here. Do you agree with Mark’s analysis? Are you a Bosch fan? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment on the blog or emailing cmorgan@cbwc.ca.


Book Review: Forgotten Ways

Collin Carbno’s review of Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways  (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2006).

Alan Hirsch’s book The Forgotten Ways is a fascinating portrayal of a “new” paradigm of church. He starts by noting that in the developed world there is little true church growth (mostly believer shifting) and indeed most denominations are losing their young people. What is the root of this problem, and what can be done? In a personal quest to answer this question, Alan looked to where and when the church has thrived.

Church Growth
The early church, the recent Chinese church explosion, and the Pentecostal church explosion in Africa captured Alan’s interest. Alan is struck by the fact these in these movements, the church didn’t have any buildings, was an illegal religion, with few scriptures, with no institution or professional form of leadership. Still it thrived at a level that astonishes believers and unbelievers alike.

Alan contrasts this with the failures of Christendom, with its established organisational structures, ordination councils, and buildings. While this Christendom paradigm sort of worked when Christendom was an empire state religion it is clearly failing today. Alan says we must change.

Indeed, Alan explains how the organizational top-down, building dominated, attraction driven model of the church is poison to true church growth. Alan claims that every community of believers, every believer contains mDNA, or missionary DNA, in short the blue-print of church growth. Tapping into this mDNA involves activating Apostolic Genius. Apostolic Genius is the kind of leadership that the early church had (and Chinese church explosion has) and it involves 6 key elements:

  1. Jesus is Lord
  2. Disciple making
  3. Missional-Incarnational Impulse
  4. Apostolic Environment
  5. Organic Systems
  6. Communitas not Community.

He gives clear evidence that the church is not dying after all, and the explosive growth of Christian movements based on this pattern around the world. I found Alan exploration, and personal knowledge of many of these “new” growth movements of Christianity enlightening, and it took the book out of its theoretical thesis mode into real world action.

Throughout the book, Alan draws on the latest findings in science around chaos theory, organic systems, leadership insights, and organizational dynamics to help explain in detail the various key elements, why and how they work. Being from a theoretical physic background, I found his descriptions accurate, and clear enough that most people can capture some of the concepts at a level that makes sense.

While the book has an academic, almost theoretical flavor to it, Alan had the fortune to be brought into leadership in one of these new type Christian movements early in his career where he experienced both Apostolic genius in action, and negative dynamics of traditional church structure. Throughout the book he draws on this personal experience to illustrate the principles he is explaining.

Who should read this book?
In my opinion, every pastor, every domination lead, every church board, and every single Christian believer should read it! Not everyone will agree that the current church organization models should die, and be replaced by Christian movements using Apostolic Genius but I’m sure that everyone’s thinking will be impacted. Overall the book contains a wealth of ideas that could be useful in all church situations, such as the APEST (Apostles, Pastors, Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers) and TEMPT (Together we follow, Engagement with Scripture, Mission, Passion for Jesus, Transformation) models.

Will and can the traditional denominational bodies transition to this new church paradigm? Should believers be shunning the traditional church and pouring their lives into Christian movements based on the Apostolic Genius model? The book doesn’t answer those questions. I think it is possible that traditional denominational bodies could adapt to the new model, maybe even coexist in a state with the two paradigms operating at once. Few denominations will likely be able to make such fundamental profound changes.

Regardless, Alan has convinced me that the future of the Christian Church will continue to rest on the release of Apostolic Genius.

Collin Carbno
Christian Education Chair
First Baptist Church
Regina, Saskatchewan.

The Optional Commission?

by Shannon Youell

In Eugene Peterson’s The Message, the Great Commission reads:

…Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold names: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you…

So often, as Christians, we focus on the perceived “don’ts” of following Christ rather than pressing into the “do’s”. Here is a direct commandment that for whatever reason has become quite optional. Like buying the basic model of a car and turning down the options because they are too costly; you still get the car and it still gets you to your destination, but when the car doesn’t perform the way you expected, doesn’t make you feel something every time you drive it, you can’t really blame the dealer if he told you about the whole package and you opted out of it.

Discipleship is intentional, experiential, intense, accountable, stretching and involves our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. Intentional communities, devoted to discipling people who then disciple people, who then disciple people, emulates Jesus’ model: in today’s language we might call it apprenticeship. Journey-people don’t tell apprentices how to be plumbers or electricians or chefs. They have them walk alongside them and learn from how they live their vocation.

When I read about the Early Church, I see them gathering together to build up, encourage, admonish, teach, pray for one another and the mission they are all on, equip and empower so that when they leave the gathering they are strengthened and encouraged to bring the presence and blessing of God’s Kingdom, God’s rule and reign into their everyday ordinary lives and the people that share those places with them in our everyday activities.

And here’s my thought on the Great Commission passage: Jesus said to first go and make disciples. Then baptize them.

It seems that the discipling, the apprenticing, the modeling of a life lived like Jesus happens while we interact with others. We share compassion, healing, mercy, joy, mourning and of course blessing with others and the way we do this exposes them to Christ. Then, when we introduce them to Jesus, they already recognize Him because they’ve seen him all along and he is familiar.

As people who love the Church and the things God loves and who desire to make impact in our neighborhoods, cities and nations, it may be time to shift from creating church to developing disciples who are church and take Christ to where those who don’t know the Hope of Glory live and work and play.

What do you think?

Watch this short video from Verge Network and let us know what you think about discipleship, or ask us how you might begin to develop a discipleship movement in your group.

This is Discipling from The Foursquare Church on Vimeo.



this article first published in issue 24 of go west!

Tom and I often use the lens of Ephesians 4 when discussing models for church planting:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (4:10-16).

Leading by example at The Well

Leading by example at The Well

I believe every Christ-follower, has been given the ability and the mandate, through Christ’s power, to lead and care for others. What that leadership looks like will differ from person to person. Some preach, others shepherd, and still others lead by setting examples of humble service and hard work.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul is pushing each of his friends to grow up into the gifting God has given them. And I think his admonition is for us too: stop acting like spiritual babies splashing around at the beach when God has called you to something so much greater: “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

 Here is Alan Hirsch’s description of the Ephesians 4 five-fold leadership:

APOSTLES extend the gospel. As the “sent ones,” they ensure that the faith is transmitted from one context to another and from one generation to the next. They are always thinking about the future, bridging barriers, establishing the church in new contexts, developing leaders, networking trans-locally. Yes, if you focus solely on initiating new ideas and rapid expansion, you can leave people and organizations wounded. The shepherding and teaching functions are needed to ensure people are cared for rather than simply used.

PROPHETS know God’s will. They are particularly attuned to God and his truth for today. They bring correction and challenge the dominant assumptions we inherit from the culture. They insist that the community obey what God has commanded. They question the status quo. Without the other types of leaders in place, prophets can become belligerent activists or, paradoxically, disengage from the imperfection of reality and become other-worldly.

EVANGELISTS recruit. These infectious communicators of the gospel message recruit others to the cause. They call for a personal response to God’s redemption in Christ, and also draw believers to engage the wider mission, growing the church. Evangelists can be so focused on reaching those outside the church that maturing and strengthening those inside is neglected.

SHEPHERDS nurture and protect. Caregivers of the community, they focus on the protection and spiritual maturity of God’s flock, cultivating a loving and spiritually mature network of relationships, making and developing disciples. Shepherds can value stability to the detriment of the mission. They may also foster an unhealthy dependence between the church and themselves.

TEACHERS understand and explain. Communicators of God’s truth and wisdom, they help others remain biblically grounded to better discern God’s will, guiding others toward wisdom, helping the community remain faithful to Christ’s word, and constructing a transferable doctrine. Without the input of the other functions, teachers can fall into dogmatism or dry intellectualism. They may fail to see the personal or missional aspects of the church’s ministry.

Where do you find yourself on this list? Where does each person in your congregation fit in? A great practice to help discern giftings in your body is to have people pair up and tell the other person what gifts they see in them.

Remember, we aren’t in this alone. Christ is the Head of this Body, and only through Him can we reach the maturity and unity that He has for us.