Mavuno is led by godly people. They are striving to be Biblically faithful. They desire to see the lost saved by the gospel. They believe the gospel changes everything. Those ingredients up to a church that God is going to work in. But, there is something that brings those ingredients together in such a way that very little energy is lost, confused, or directed in unintended ways…that something is a commitment to a centralized culture. How so?
First, they believe that while every Christian is filled with the Spirit, while every Christian is a priest unto God (1 Peter 2.9), while church is an every member affair, that God does anoint particular people in special ways to truly take the lead in order to call a community to a common vision and mission. I was even challenged by one pastor at Mavuno to look at the OT stories and to take note that every time God wanted to make a move he anointed a leader. He called that leader out. He set that leader apart. He gave that leader gifts, open doors, and his favor. I think that is a good point. The priesthood of the believer is Biblical. The the leader-hood of every believer is not. The Bible’s theology of priesthood is equal access to God and equal call to ministry. Neither of those necessitate an equal call to umbrella leadership. That is a good thing, because God created the world where too many cooks in the kitchen ruin the stew (or however that saying goes). Now, this is not all about yours truly. This is about an overall value to let leaders lead, whether it is me, an elder, or a staff person. I actually believe in a plurality of leaders, but plurality cannot be the entire church, and it does mean among the leaders that there is no differentiation or main point man. Plurality is not a fixed number. It just cannot be everyone. It cannot be one. Each church will figure out their number. You know, without this value for leadership, a church is often pulled in opposing directions and never really can embrace what this kind of leadership culture adds up to, namely, a strong and compelling and embodied vision and mission. I often want to ask churches with a hyper-group-think system: so, how is this working for you? How clear is your vision and mission?
When leaders are not only allowed to lead but expected to lead, we find an ecosystem that is hospitable to bold and decisive vision and mission. Not visions and missions. But, vision and mission. Churches with this ecosystem are the churches that are making a difference today. Those are the churches God is using to save lots of people, on a regular basis. Those are the churches that know what to do with those newly saved people. Those are the churches that have well thought out reasons for doing what they do. Those are the churches where someone new can sense the vision and mission fairly soon into their experience with the church. Those are the churches that have enough system and structure that the organic and dynamic reality of God’s work in the gospel flourishes. Those are the churches that attract our young people who want Truth so big and so good and so beautiful that it is worth their life!
Does this mean that leaders have a blank check? Does this foster autocracy? Does this mean people who are not on staff or a leadership team have no say? The answer is an emphatic NO. Sin can get in the way, but centralized leadership, mission, and vision do not. In fact, I argue that bold leadership, vision, and mission are like a home where dad and mom lead well – the kids feel secure and they are released to flourish. Leadership ambiguity is deadly for churches as it is for homes. Again, the proof is in the pudding. Churches that call their leaders to lead, who find their fulfillment in serving Jesus in mission through the church and not necessarily in being in on the executive discussions and decisions, who hunger for a shared vision and mission, are taking the world for Christ.
By the way, this is not an indictment on any particular church government style, nor a sneaky endorsement of another. Mavuno’s leadership never mentioned any of that. Centralized churches are not on a crusade to kill off uber congregationalism. Nor am I. Well, maybe the uber part. OK yes, the uber part. But, my main concern is our functional reality, not our legislation. Churches can have various polities and yet still have a strong leadership culture and value for a centralized vision and mission.
Why did this hit me so hard in Kenya? Why am I hungry for this? NOT so I get to make the calls. I actually don’t wish that burden or responsibility on anyone. It is because I think God has called me and some others at this church to lead, and that the fruit of that leadership will take us to a shared and clear vision and mission, which will in turn enable our church to be used of God to make Jesus great in this world. I really believe that. I really do.