Feb 1, 2008

Sessions and Church Leadership

John Kaiser, in his book Winning on Purpose, writes:

In the days of the Soviet Union what was the difference between taking a road trip in Russia and a road trip in Nebraska? For either one you would have needed an automobile, fuel, and a driver. But in Russia you would need one thing more that you would not need in Nebraska: permission. Travel in a totalitarian state is based on approval. Travel in a free country is based on authorization - as long as you operate the behicle within a few simple traffic laws, you are free to drive wherever you need to go.

Leading a ministry in many local churches is like taking a road trip in the Soviet Union: you may not be surrounded by Communists, but it's hard to get the resourcews, it's hard to get permission, and it's hard not to feel that you're stuck in a previous century.
(John Kaiser, Winning on Purpose, p. 61).

In too many dying, declining, and plateaued churches, the leadership functions as the permission giving gate-keepers - nothing gets passed the session without their approval. And everything in the church bottle necks with the session or the leadership body because nothing can get done without the session's permission. Such leading kills ministries and erase the desire and the passion of anyone who wants to engage the world so God and make a difference through them.

However, it cannot be a free-for-all either. There still needs to be clear boundaries that define what and how we can go about doing ministry. And this is one of the session's the leadership's primary function.

In healthy and growing congregations, the leadership body or the session functions as ministry empowering, big picture boundary defining group.

Take skiing for an example. The leadership body and the session define the boundaries of where one can ski down a mountain, but how a person gets down that mountain and which slopes and runs one uses is left up to the persons and groups engaged in those ministries. This can seem frightening for church leadership bodies who have not operated this way, but it liberates the church and the priesthood of all believers to invest and engage in ministry.

And when the church leadership body functions like that, the priesthood of all believers and the people who will be touched through their ministries will never be the same.

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