Dimensions of Leadership

The noted theologian Jürgen Moltmann remarked that in “every period the church has a duty to be clear about its commission, its situation and its goal.” [1] These three things – mission, context and purpose – are very significant for congregational leaders. And each of these things can quickly and easily be lost in the rapidly changing world we inhabit.

  1. Mission – The inevitable reality of any community is the loss of its sense of mission. For congregations, the shift from being God’s sent community to serving our own personal agendas is often slow and subtle. But it does happen! Every congregation deserves to have leaders who constantly remind both themselves and the church that the church’s existence is for others – not for itself. When mission is first and foremost in a leadership team’s mind and practice, other things gain greater clarity and focus.
  2. Context – We are living in what Alan Roxburgh calls the “great unraveling.” [2] We face unprecedented change and upheaval in our culture and society. To assume that Christian practices can remain the same and still shape Christian community is to bury our heads in the sand. Rather, Christian leaders must be willing to honestly and openly examine culture and, with imagination, offer hopeful new practices and ways of doing church. God is always doing a new thing; being attentive to our culture helps us to see what that new thing might be!
  3. Purpose – As the people of God our task is to partner with God in the transforming work God longs to do in our world. Our purpose informs our actions, reminding us that God is the agent of transformation and that we do our best work when we are faithful in responding to God’s leadership and action in the world.

I would suggest that leadership teams might find a useful and important conversation by exploring together the questions that follow:

  • How clearly are mission, context, and purpose present in your meetings?
  • Do you begin your meetings with a reminder of the sent nature of your work?
  • Are you cognizant of the dynamics of your particular context and what it means to live out mission in your location?
  • Are you paying attention to the ways that you can partner with God’s new work?
  • Does your current ministry demonstrate a clear connection to God’s purpose in the world?

We will never do these things perfectly. However, we will find joy and meaning in our congregations whenever we are leaning into these questions.

Blessings in your practice of leadership!

[1] Jürgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit trans. Margaret Kohl (New York: Harper & Row, 1977).
[2] Alan J. Roxburgh, Joining God, Remaking Church, Changing the World: The New Shape of the Church in Our Time (New York: Morehouse Publishing, 2015).
Dr. Carson Reed is Vice President for Church Relations at Abilene Christian University and Executive Director of the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry. He also serves as the Director for the Doctor of Ministry Program and holds the Frazer Endowed Chair for Church Enrichment in the Graduate School of Theology. Through the Siburt Institute, Carson does consulting work with congregations and church leaders across the country. His teaching and research centers on leadership, preaching, and issues surrounding faith and culture. Carson and his wife Vickie have been married for over 30 years and have four grown children.
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Author:  Publish Date: November 21, 2016

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CHARIS hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. The website is intended to support education for Christian life and community through contemporary discussions and historical sources that variously witness to the gifts (“charis”) of God among Churches of Christ, especially their plea for visible unity among Christians through ongoing renewal and restoration of Scriptural beliefs and practices among God’s people.

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