There are four stages to discipleship (notation: D1, D2, D3, D4), and each stage calls for a different approach to leading (notation: L1, L2, L3, L4). Being realistic we are likely to naturally default to one, or possibly two, of these; and be naturally weaker at one or more others – depending on our personality, and our own experience of being led. But we can learn from Jesus how to operate appropriately to each stage, as we seek to make disciples who make disciples until the end of the age.
To recap, the stages of discipleship are: unconscious incompetence (D1); conscious incompetence (D2); conscious competence (D3); and unconscious competence (D4).
Allow me to make two general observations:
1) inherited-mode church is deeply, profoundly risk-averse. Institutional leaders rarely permit pioneering developments without first requiring fully-comprehensive risk-assessment and detailed plans mapped out up front.
2) the emerging church is deeply, profoundly committed to decision-making by consensus; and suspicious – as the result of abuses they have witnessed in the inherited-mode church – of strong individual leadership.
Both positions are deeply, profoundly unhelpful starting points, and equally contribute to conspire against pioneering new growth ever taking off.
Followers at D1 need leaders operating at L1: single-minded vision-bearers, with the ability to spot potential that has not yet been proven (prioritising character before gifting) and extend opportunity, the invitation to invest in the life of another. Leaders operating at L1 will be big on vision, big on opportunity to be with them as they engage with their vision, low in explanation concerning the vision – not weighing relationship down with theory, but allowing explanation to follow experience; drawing-out questions rather than downloading answers; hands-on learning rather than academic study. And some people need a bit more structure than that, and might show an initial interest that rapidly falls away: but L1 leaders won’t beat themselves up over that (“Was it something I said?” “Please don’t go…”), or beat the other guy up either (“Well, they were never going to amount to much – too many issues.”). Leaders operating at L1 will hear the concerns of their bishops and their congregation, acknowledge them, affirm the individuals…and then get on with what they are about. And the Chuch needs to learn to give them permission to do so.
Antione de Saint-Exupery’s dictum “If you want people to build ships, you don’t have to teach them how to cut wood, you just have to teach how to dream about the endless sea…” is popular with emerging missional church commentators. And it perfectly expresses L1 visionary leadership. But, if you want people to build ships, at some point you do have to teach them how to cut wood; to move into and through conscious incompetence…They need to learn some skills – not only how to build a ship, but how to navigate by the stars so they can cross the sea. Keeping the dream alive – returning to it time and time and time again; resisting the siren allure of other, seemingly more appealing, dreams; not permitting dilution or distraction (Jesus telling Peter to “Get behind me, satan” is not pastorally sensitive. Get over it.) – will carry them through the trough of the wave that obliterates the sky above and threatens to drown us almost before we have begun…
missional church leadership , making disciples , emerging missional church , Discipleship Square