in the Lent Lecture series, Re-imaging Church - Leadership and Discipleship, was introduced by Rev Vaughan Pollard.
Dr Pete Atkins outlined a Fresh Expressions view on the need for radical change in Leadership and Discipleship to meet the rapidly changing world in which we now live.
Outlining his background as a doctor and then in Threshold church in Nettlehem, Pete Atkins used slides to illustrate the challenges facing church leadership. (PowerPoint downloadable at foot of this page.)
In the same way that this bridge (left) remains in its original place after a severe hurricane which moved the path of a river, the church may be in the wrong place for its community, physically and metaphorically.
A survey by CTAL in 2005 noted how the total number of people actively engaged in Church in 2005 was 47,998; this was approximately 4.9% of the population. For those under 29 years of age, this percentage would be lower.
For those outside the church, there has been so little contact that our ways of doing things, hymns, songs and liturgies are alien and often incomprehensible. The view of the landscape has changed so dramatically that it is now simply a seascape; there is very little that non-churchgoers can identify with. Old maps, patterns and blueprints are useless on an uncharted and ever-changing seascape.
You must have the courage to go with them to a place that neither you nor they have ever been before." (extract, pdf, see page 7).
The type of leadership required to reach out and meet the needs of this generation demands attributes which can excel in uncharted territory, where there is a high risk of failure and exposure to scrutiny, multiple challenges to assumptions, pre-conceptions, traditions and theologies. Leaders have to be secure in the faith as well as having high levels of personal skills and giftings. They need to be faithful risk takers, adventurers in God. Leadership for this time of change will necessarily involve risk and that risk will come at a price; it is a leadership that is shared, and that values team at deeper levels.
Archbishop Rowan has said that the greatest gift a minister can bring to a parish are the things that he or she cannot do; leaders are needed who are happy for others to be and do truly better than themselves.
Leadership for this time of change will involve helping Christian communities to learn, then to respond to, react and change quickly to circumstances; it involves helping people and Christian communities explore their God-given creativity.
Leaders of a Fresh Expressions church are mission focussed, resilient, flexible and able to respond to the needs of the moment (‘discernment in context’), accountable - they are trustworthy and they have no fixed idea of what Church should look like but a clear understanding of what Church is.
Pioneering leadership will mostly be lay, drawing on the ordained clergy as a theological resource and looking to them for permission, enabling, resourcing, and strategy. Pete used the word 'Episcope' to describe the overseer ministry of clergy and leaders - essential at different levels.
Expanding on Episcope, Pete offered that their roles include pursuing the vision, guarding and promoting God given values, being a focus for unity and connection, the care of other leaders, able to recognise gifts and callings and releasing people into ministry. They are responsible for maintaining the truth. Leaders in mission are ‘helicopter people’, able to see things from a town-wide or global perspective whilst also able to work at ground level.
Pete added that we need a re-emphasis on apostolic, evangelistic and prophetic ministry whilst continuing to highly value pastors and teachers.
Matthew. When we attempt to make disciples, what sort of disciple are we aiming for?
Recognising how most people have no contact with the church, we will sell them short if we raise up half-hearted disciples. The call is make full-on disciples: those who are full of the Spirit, secure in who they are in Christ, compassionate, non- judgmental, forgiving, not taking offence, those happy to go the extra mile, grounded in Scripture, full of faith, able to hear God, outward looking, actively looking to disciple others, self feeding, prepared to take risks, doing life God’s way, have full sense of integrity in their lifestyle, ‘sorted’ in their relationships and in handling finance and noted for being fruitful worshippers.
We need to be creative, bold and biblical as we seek to release a new generation of leaders and disciples to carry the mission of God through His church to this context and to this generation.
The meeting split into eight groups of around eight people to discuss the following questions:
How can we identify and deploy leaders for our new situation?
How can lay leaders be given room to move in pioneering new work and be kept accountable at the same time?
How can we live a missional church life in such a way as to be accessible to people at any point in their journey towards God?
How can we grow self feeding mature disciples and move away from unhelpful dependency?
How can develop leadership and grow disciples in such a way that we move from Church shaped living to a mission shaped church?