Geoff Holsclaw deftly points out a dynamic tension for anyone in leadership, especially those who lead in organizations that strive to be “starfishy.” We (leaders) want to make sure we aren’t doing everything, rushing in to solve all the problems. Instead we want to trust the community (people in the community) to work things out for themselves, to be patient with the mess, etc.
This is good. But there is another side to this: leadership really does exist, and leaders really are called to do something. Geoff points out the other side of the tension:
But, sometimes this hands-off approach to trusting the community turns into an abdication. For leaders, at least leaders commissioned by the church, have a responsibility to the community which has been entrusted to the leaders. While leaders (and there are always leaders no matter how democratic, or flattened your structure) must trust the community, they must also realize that the community has been entrusted to them for its care, protection, and provision. And while this idea of “entrustment” can lead to authoritarian abuse by those seeking to control a community according their own whims, we must not abdicate leadership when issues, problems, or sins threaten the general health of the church. If a wolf is loose in the sheep pen, it is the shepherd’s responsibility to take care of it, not the community of sheep.
It’s definitely a tricky thing to work out in practice. But I think a key lies in the word “trust.” In an age of abusive leadership and constant suspicion of any kind of authority, this is a tall order, but no less necessary for credible, vital Christian witness. We need to cultivate a “Mutual Trust Society” in our communities, where leaders can trust others in the community, and where people in the community learn to trust leaders.
As I think about it, perhaps it’s just another way of saying “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21).