a solution to church leadership problems
I am constantly reading and involved in conversations about how to do church in this era, and the conversations invariably turn to ideas about church leadership. And often, it can seem like folks are trying to put new wine in old wineskins by trying to lead postmoderns with the same old methods, just with a heightened cool factor. It can become discouraging.
Church leadership matters because it shapes the “being” of a church, sometimes more than Jesus does if we are not careful. Personality cults, controllingness, lack of teachability, fear of creativity – all are dangers that can be birthed from positions of power. Little did I know – an important line from the movie Stranger Than Fiction, in which Prof. Jules Hilbert teaches an entire course on “little did he know” because of what it implies – Ok, so…. little did I know that I would come upon an awesome solution to the problems of church leadership in a most unlikely place during a recent vacation to Mexico.
My husband and I had the opportunity to tour the ruins of Chichen Itza, on the Yucatan Penisula. Chichen Itza is now the ruins of an ancient and huge Mayan city. It is stunning in its architectural achievements and beauty. The main temple, which also functions as a remarkably accurate calendar, stands proudly in the middle of it all. Among the ruins is the Great Ball Court, in which a sacred game was played that involved getting a rubber ball (guessed to weigh about 6-8 pounds) into a small hoop using only elbows and knees. I can’t imagine how difficult that would be. Fortunately, it took only one point to win the game. The tour guide said that these details are controversial, as the Mayans neglected to leave a rule book for us. But according to one theory, the captain of the winning team was decapitated at the end of the game. It was a great honor and a reward for his hard work and fine leadership and team building skills.
The parallels to church leadership issues are obvious. No, really. It is because, as the theory goes, the ego was thought to reside in the head. To be ready to meet the gods, one must lay down ones ego – what better way than to cut it off entirely, as if it were a hand or an eye that causes you to sin? And our own Head has been struck down already (from the victory on the cross- stay with the metaphor here) and seems to have taught that that is the path He expects us to follow into new life. Should not our church leaders be showing the way?
So then. Those who succeed to the high places of leadership, who accumulate power, or give a particularly good sermon, will offer up their gifts and talents for the good of the Kingdom, then march up in front of all for the beheading so that we may eliminate ego and all the problems that come with it. Soon, all the “winners” who have been in power will be heaven’s problem. Those who subsequently aspire to leadership will indeed be called (or dragged) supernaturally. Only the least of these will be left and I suspect they are the true church “leaders” anyway.
By the way, in the movie Stranger Than Fiction, the protagonist Harold Crick hears an unseen Narrator speaking his life as it happens. He is terrified of the “little did he know”. But ultimately, he submits to it for the sake of the Larger Story. For those of us in leadership, we could say, little did we know ministry could cost so much.
Now, see if the elder board will vote positively on this one.