Today I spent a couple of hours in the Christian bookshop my wife manages, so she could attend an important meeting. Since it was quiet afternoon with very few customersâ€”and I have a weakness for bookstoresâ€”I spotted a new book by Floyd McClung entitled You See Bones, I See an Army: Changing the Way We Do Church (Eastbourne, England: David C. Cook, 2007) and settled down to read the first hundred pages. I liked what I read, enough that I’m almost ready to spring for a copy of my own. My American friends will have to order their copy from the UK (contact my wife at Harvest Books & Crafts if you need assistance) until it becomes available in the United States.
McClung organizes his book around “five core realities” regarding the Christian life that have made a radical impact on his life and outlook:
- Simple church
- Courageous leadership
- Focused obedience
- Apostolic passion
- Making disciples
As I stated earlier, I have only begun to read the author’s explanation of these five realities. He writes passionately about his desire to see simpler church structures that are more dynamic, fluid, powerful, mobile, and reproductive, reaching people who are out on the fringe and who probably will never be reached with the attractional models of evangelicalism today. And he believes that these simple churches will flourish alongside other forms of church if we recognize the important differences between hierarchical leadership and apostolic (lowercase “a”) leadership. He’s not necessarily disparaging the larger churches, even the megachurches, but he’s simply pointing out the need to acknowledge those within the body of Christ who fit the apostolic pattern. Here’s a brief quote that expresses his sentiments:
Hierarchical leaders focus on control, order and nostalgia. Apostolic leadership yearns for the ‘not yet’. Dreaming, faith, imagination, risk taking, pioneering and future goals characterize apostolic leadership. Administration, bureaucracy, reminiscence and impersonal systems and structures characterize hierarchical leadership. Apostolic leaders encourage holy dissatisfaction, risk taking, questioning and experimenting.
Apostolic leaders can also serve as hierarchical leaders, but they do so to their own detriment. They were not made by God to oversee organizational bureaucracy. They were not designed to manage, but to lead change. I have found personally that to the degree I am caught up in maintaining church structures, something in me dies. My creative gifts and energy turn inward and I am less effective in every way. I battle with the balance between initiating new efforts to reach the lost, and maintaining what I initiate. But I know from failure and past experience that I need to be involved in reaching those who don’t know Jesus if I am to keep the balance right.
Paul was an apostle, and as such, functioned as a visionary leader. He held to independent views and refused to conform to the religious structures of his day. He was a maverick. We need to make space for apostolic mavericks like Paul in the church today. It is the visionary mavericks that play a vital role in questioning the status quo. They propose mind-blowing alternatives to how things have always been done. Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch make this profound statement about the role of biblical mavericks: “In a real sense, a true biblical maverick acts in a prophetic manner by exposing the lies that the dominant group tells itself in order to sustain its shared illusionsâ€¦”* Amen.
[*Frost/Hirsch quotation from The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21 Century Church, p. 195]
Is this what I’ve been struggling to understand my entire life? Is it that God has wired me to be an apostolic leader within His kingdom, but my inherited model (conservative, fundamentalist, Southern Baptist) had no category for me except “trouble-maker” and a few other derogatory terms? It was so liberating to read the above quotation and realize that I might be playing “a vital role” as a maverick within the church of Jesus Christ. Wellâ€¦I say let’s make more room!