Further reflections on conversations with Mark Carey.
As noted in my previous post, discipleship is relational, directive, and involves both being a disciple (being led, or following) and making disciples (leading, and being followed). This post is concerned with the stages of leading, and the styles appropriate to each stage, as we seek to lead according to the pattern of Jesus.
The first stage of leadership is an apostolic phase. Its focus is casting vision. The primary work is setting out revelation (this is what we are going to do) and the restraint (what we are not going to do) that comes with revelation (without revelation, restraint is cast off, and the potential for momentum dissipates).
The second stage of leadership is a pastor/teacher phase. Its focus is embedding values. The primary work is encouraging those who have responded to the first-stage vision to stay within the restraints established then, coaching them in the core values of the vision. So, for example, if hospitality is a core value, we model what hospitality looks and feels like, in our context, with gradually increasing teaching following experience.
The third stage of leadership is an evangelistic phase. Its focus is shared vocabulary. By ‘evangelist’ I mean someone who, by natural preference, cannot help but communicate good news stories; and by evangelistic phase I mean taking on this discipline whether it is our natural preference or not. In this stage of leadership, Jesus sends his disciples out to do the things he has been doing. They can be entrusted with this because they have a shared understanding, a common ‘vocabulary’ for describing the in-breaking kingdom of heaven. But they return to Jesus as the one who gathers-up their good news reports. The primary work of third stage leadership is passing-on the good news stories concerning those we lead: no longer telling our stories, but telling theirs; the leader as collector and distributor. So, for example, by the third stage of transitioning a church to missional communities, a key role for the bigger gatherings is telling the stories of the pilot communities.
The fourth stage of leadership is a prophetic phase. Its focus is releasing vehicles, as one community of disciples multiples. The primary work is supporting those you have led (your disciples) to develop their own vision (that they will cast, becoming first-stage leaders) as they listen to what God is putting on their hearts, ensuring that the necessary ‘cover’ (or structure for ongoing accountability) is in place for them as your own relationship with them changes from day-to-day discipler to more removed mentor or overseer (Jesus leaves his disciples, but sends the Holy Spirit). Note: the question of providing the right cover for those leaders we release is one that, to date, the fresh expressions and pioneer ministry movements have not adequately engaged with; it is also the key element of fourth-stage leadership that, in failing to put it in place, led to the most costly relationship breakdown with people we had led Jo and I have experienced.
It is important to go through the stages – not in a mechanistic sense, but not attempting to short-circuit the process Jesus models. Short-cuts (such as attempting consensus decisions from the outset) result in the people we lead having a vehicle for discipleship without understanding the values that drive discipleship (akin to a car without an engine – which is an expensive box), and this leads to problems that undermine the whole process of discipleship. Short-term gain ends in long-term loss.
Which stage of leadership is most suited to your natural preferences?
Which is least suited?
From whom can you learn (be discipled by) how to grow in competence within your strengths?
From whom might you learn (be discipled by) how to grow in competence in those stages/styles that lie further outside of your comfort zone?
(Not because we are one-man bands – I believe in complementary leadership teams – but because we are all called to grow more into the likeness of Christ, personally as well as corporately.)