Learning about change

in Christian organisations

Influence of Information on Church Leadership and Discipling

In a recent conversation on leadership styles, with church and mission leaders, we discovered that the majority of Indian church leaders believe their employees and workplace juniors to be their disciples. The church leaders consider it their duty to help the disciples grow spiritually and a moral responsibility towards the wellbeing of disciples. To accomplish their duty and moral responsibility they expect loyalty and lifestyle accountability from the disciples. Therefore a disciple has to align himself to the leader’s thinking till such time that the leader feels the disciple has received sufficient spiritual and wellbeing support. When that happens, the disciple is released with a hope that the leadership will be acknowledged and more people will be added to the fold.

 

We see this pattern of leader-disciple influence from the beginning of the human race and it is the accepted pattern for church leadership in India. The church leader-disciple pattern has worked effectively till the 20th century, as community decisions were based on local lifestyle and culture. Elders with more experience of the local culture were the leaders and gurus. They were the moral police, demanding loyalty and accountability from women, children and the less informed disciples.

With the increase of global information in the 21st century, the local knowledge is diluted and so has the influencing power of the local church leader. Globetrotting and international experience allows some leaders to stay ahead of their disciples. However, the fact of the matter is that no one church leader will have sufficient knowledge to help influence the all-round wellbeing of the disciple. Also, the community of disciples have a buffet of leaders to choose from, for spiritual needs it is the pastor, for medical needs it is a doctor, for career needs - manager, housing and infrastructure needs - resident association and national beliefs - the politician. For each subject, track or industry there are local, national and global leaders available to the disciples.

These industry leaders are continually seeking to understand local and global practices to increase their expertise and influence. They are connecting, forging alliances and developing common standards of practices and policies that provide a framework for partnerships. The standards of practices also provide the canon for comparing effectiveness, efficiency and expertise in the industry. The industry leaders are exerting pressure, through international and national policies, on the local leaders to align their practices to the global standards. Many local leaders have difficulty in following global standards because the global and local knowledge gap is too vast to bridge.

To help missions and churches on all-round development, we looked at the international standards and the Biblical principles on leadership and governance, care and development of employees, method for preparing realistic plans, reporting standards, and standards for holistic care and protection for children though the Viva quality improvement system. To our surprise the international standards aligned perfectly to Biblical principles. In our excitement, we offered the quality improvement system assistance to over 200 mission and church leaders – 51 responded. We are hoping for the Biblical principle, the international standards and the local practice gap in churches to converge. But we don't know if this is God's will.

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I'm sure it is God's will that Biblical principles and church practices do converge. The fact that they align with international standards is just another demonstration that we were all created by God whether we acknowledge it or not. I'm always excited to go to the core of organisational change theory and discover that God is right at the centre. I remember coming across this academic article once and finding out that there was always something supernatural at the heart of change (even in secular contexts)

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My sense is that the Church does not always have the confidence it might have when considering practice and governance. If we accept that the local church is the hope of the world and that all excellent social science serves to confirm what God has always known about his creation and that we will never meet another human being who was not created by God then the Church should have a head start in leadership, service, change, communication and numerous other areas. When coaching Church leaders I find that enabling this and related realisations and working in the light of election and grace and calling are frequently important first steps.

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