Leading a missional community is different than leading other things. It’s different than leading Google or Apple or a car dealership or a local coffee shop or a farmer’s market. It’s even different than leading a church, at least church the way most of us have conceived of and experienced it. This is because the focus of a missional community is the active presence of the living God. Everything else becomes secondary to the community’s participation in the life of God.
Most other organizations measure success in their ability to control outcomes. Whether that’s measured in technical performance, wins and losses, earnings, or increased membership, leaders succeed when they can produce certain outcomes. To do this, they have to objectify their environment. Debits and credits, profit and loss, sacks and field goal percentage, butts in the seats. Fair enough. It’s not good enough for the Dallas Cowboys to go 8-8 three years in a row. Jerry Jones should be fired as GM.
But the bible has a word for tying God to certain outcomes–idolatry. And that’s a pretty big no-no in Scripture. And the bible also takes a pretty dim view of those who objectify their environment.
And here’s the deal–pursuit of the living God takes everything we have. There’s no room for any other pursuits. Seek ye first, the kingdom of God. There is no “seek ye second.”
This is in part, because the living God is elusive, precisely so we can’t objectify God. God comes in the still, small voice. God hides his victory in a cross. Although God is knowable, God is not exhaustible. And this has implications for leadership.
We’re used to thinking of leaders as bold, decisive, visionary, proactive. We like to think of our leaders as take-control types, as objectifiers. And truth be told, leaders like to think of themselves that way as well. But none of these are fruits of the Spirit. These can actually get in the way of the pursuit of the living God. Missional leaders, in contrast, cultivate environments where God’s active presence can become known. And this requires patience, submission, responsiveness, attentiveness, obedience.
At the beginning of this post, I suggested that leading a missional community is different than the way most churches are led. This is because the state of the church becomes the focus of leadership rather than pursuit of the living God. Our eye is on the worship experience, and not on God. Our eye is on small groups function, and not on God. Our eye is on the decreasing number of youth in our congregation, and not on God. Now, I know that we would say that our ultimate interest is in serving and pleasing God in these things. And we do things that please God and God has a way of finding us even if we’re not focused on finding him. But from a leadership perspective, focusing on the state of the church and pursuing the living God are two very different ways of working.
So, what does leadership look like under the banner of pursuing the life of God? I’ve got a few ideas.