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Leadership for Today

Putting the Jesus Model to Work for You

Clair Woodbury and Joyce Madsen

Congregational Life Centre

Edmonton, Alberta

Leadership for Today is published by: The Congregational Life Centre #1405, 5328 Calgary Trail Edmonton, AB T6H 4J8 780-619-0386 or 780-438-6016 Copyright 2009 Clair Woodbury and Joyce Madsen. All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without prior permission from the publisher. Cover design by Robert Woodbury. Back cover photography by Michael Martens. All Scripture quotations are from The Inclusive Bible, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

ISBN: 978-0-9688358-5-2

Introduction 1. The New Culture 2. Experiencing God 3. Knowing Where Youre Going 4. Initiating Change 5. Communication is Key 6. Multiplying Leadership 7. Overcoming the Fear 8. Making It So 9. Being Authentic 10. The Last Word Appendix: Six Steps to Success Index References i 1 17 37 55 75 99 129 143 167 183 185 191 193

This book is dedicated to the many church leaders who are demonstrating what it means to offer leadership that builds on Jesus model.

Our thanks to those who volunteered to read the manuscript and have offered so many helpful suggestions: Sheila Carr-Stewart, University of Saskatchewan Ed Lewis, Southwood United Church, Calgary Lynn Maki, Executive Secretary, Alberta & Northwest Conference Harold Munn, St. John the Divine Anglican Church, Victoria Paul Nahirney, Revelations Book & Gift Cooperative Board Gordon Oaks, retired clergy and Chancellor of St. Stephens College, Edmonton Harry Oussoren, General Council Office, United Church of Canada Alan Richards, Camrose United Church, Camrose Chris Standring, Edmonton Journal Ralph Westwood and Shirley Kabachia, Congregational Life Centre Board and special thanks to Heather Marshall who did the final edit on our manuscript.

Jesus leadership was so effective it changed the world. What kind of leadership did he offer? Is that a leadership model that could be effective today? The Synoptic Gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke provide a very good picture of what Jesus did. Insights into why have come through those who have examined what was happening in Palestine during Jesus lifetime. Archaeology has unearthed new evidence about the Roman occupation and Jewish resistance. Ancient texts like the Gnostic Gospels that were lost but have now been rediscovered are giving us a deeper understanding of the times. Other insights have come from the new quest for the historical Jesus. Authors like Robert Funk, John Dominic Crossan, and Marcus Borg have gone to great lengths to identify how Jesus actions were meaningful responses to the challenges of the day. The consensus is that each gospel writer altered the original story slightly, and in doing so provides fresh insight into the challenges facing the young Christian community at the time they were writing. When we consider what we are learning from the new scholarship about Jesus and his times, we recognize that it was rooted in the past, the present and the future. We can discern eight facets to his leadership style. It was: spiritual, visionary, flexible, story-based, team-based, courageous,


Leadership for Today

action oriented, and authentic. In this book, we will explore these eight facets of Jesus leadership, but in this introduction we want to briefly define them. We do not pretend that these account totally for Jesus ability to attract followers and build the movement that has resulted in the Christian church, but they are the characteristics that we the authors feel are needed by leaders in the church today. Jesus leadership was three dimensional in time. He was anchored in the past, able to clearly point out the basis for his actions in the Hebrew scriptures. He had a powerful and passionate vision of the future he called the Kingdom of God. A better translation today might be Gods New Community. It was a future when Gods way of treating all people with compassion, equality, justice, and care would be reflected in the way we deal with each other. At the same time Jesus was able to deal head on with the current issues of his day. Is it proper to pay tribute to Caesar or not? he was asked. Show me a denarius. Whose picture and name are on it? he answered. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Give to God what is Gods (Luke 20:22-25). Jesus ministry was profoundly spiritual. It began with a transforming experience of the presence of God. There is no doubt that people felt a deep sense of the presence of God when they were with Jesus. That is a gift that saints like Francis of Assisi learned from Jesus, and one that is a key to leadership in the church today. Many people want to experience the presence of God in their lives in ways that give them meaning and a sense of worth. Jesus had a powerful vision of a new society in which people are cherished for who they are, not just for what they can do, and where the love that wants the best for everyone is the law of the land. In Jesus vision peoples needs take precedence



over political domination, economic exploitation, and religious legitimization of these structures. It is a vision that has inspired people for 2,000 years and continues to be a driving force behind much social reform today. Jesus was a flexible initiator. He was a master at adapting his ministry to the challenge of the moment. He was able to address large crowds, and then in a flash be totally present to a woman who touched his robe. There were major shifts as his ministry took new directions. Jesus had a gift for communication. He talked about digging around fig trees, planting seeds, harvesting grapes, and building watch-towers in those vineyards experiences all his listeners would be familiar with. He used poetry to communicate. The cadence built into the Beatitudes makes them easily memorable. He used parables to catch people by surprise. By challenging many of the established practices of the day he was able to reveal Gods way of looking at the world. Jesus put time and effort into developing a leadership team for the future. It is quite amazing that the rag-tag collection of people Jesus gathered from fishing villages and rural Galilee eventually worked together to change the world, but they did. Jesus risked everything when he took his movement to Jerusalem, the centre of Temple power. A current television program shows us each week what it takes to overcome the fear factor. Facing down the opposition in Jesus day was, however, much riskier than bungee jumping or balloon flying. Mahatma Gandhi is a towering twentieth-century figure who knew the importance of overcoming ones fear in order to resist injustice. Nelson Mandela is a contemporary example of someone who was not afraid to resist injustice. He put his years of imprisonment behind him in order to lead his country into a new social order transforming fear into forgiveness. The Mothers of the Disappeared risked a great deal to bring about political change in Argentina. It took courage for Betty Williams


Leadership for Today

and Mairead Corrigan to lead a peace movement dedicated to ending the violence in Northern Ireland, for which they received the Nobel Prize in 1976. We admire the fact that Jesus was a man of action, taking his leadership on the road and walking to Jerusalem, knowing every step brought him closer to confrontation. Jesus is still an incredibly attractive figure 2000 years later because his leadership was authentic. He walked the talk as we would say it today. The collection of his teachings we call the Sermon on the Mount stresses authentic prayer, authentic relationships, and authentic giving a life where motives and actions are one. This is Jesus leadership model. It is an exciting one. Paul picked up on it, and the result was the churchs explosion across the Roman Empire and beyond. From our experience and research, we know that this model is basic to the leadership style of those who are making a difference in their community. We live in a new culture. The starting point for the church being able to speak to that culture is an experience of God. It is that contact with God that gives the church the courage to articulate a vision of where God is calling it to go. This is a journey in which those in the church must do five things: initiate new forms of ministry, learn new languages, multiply leadership, overcome fear, and act on convictions. All this must be done authentically. In this book we invite you to come with us on a journey as, in the next chapters, we explore Jesus leadership style. Jesus was authentic, adaptable, spiritual, a communicator, a team builder, courageous, an initiator and first and foremost a visionary. We want to use one of Jesus powerful tools in doing so, namely stories. We will share stories of people who are demonstrating the Jesus kind of leadership today.


Telling the Story

There is an insight from the 1960s attributed to Marshall McLuhan, the medium is the message guru. It was during the time of Vatican II. When asked by the priests of his parish to tell them how to communicate better with the people, McLuhan said simply, Tell the stories. Jesus was above all a story teller. We would like to carry on that tradition, and we would like to tell you why. We were in the final stages of a Saturday workshop with two congregations that formed a pastoral charge. It had been a great day with people expressing their enthusiasm for the tasks that were involved. When it came to the question of how to share some of this with the whole congregation on Sunday, we asked Why dont some of you share why you are volunteering for the role you play in your congregation? What happened that Sunday morning was a moment in time we will never forget. One after another, the Treasurer, then the Board chair, then various committee people told the story not just of their role, but of the deep Christian commitment that empowered their lives and turned their contribution into what was for them a deeply fulfilling ministry. We could tell by the hush in the congregation that something very significant was happening. There was an era fifty years ago when all young clergy peppered their sermons with what were termed sermon illustrations. There were whole books of them to draw from. They were stories, but about someone else from another time and another place. They had one great gift they were safe. Those using them did not have to reveal anything about how they felt personally or what they believed, or where they had made mistakes. Most lessons in life are learned from mistakes. It takes a lot of courage, however, to reveal our mistakes in public, but doing so means we can share what we learned in the


Leadership for Today

process. In her book, Storycatcher, Christina Baldwin tells many stories. The most powerful ones, however, are her personal accounts. She tells, for example, about an evening with her grandfather in his study. He was a clergyman who kept bees to bring in a little extra income. He had a jar of honey on his desk along with a Bible that night. Together they looked through the crystal clear honey at the words of Isaiah. He asked her to read what she saw. Good, he told her, when she had finished. And where he touched my hair, she adds, I thought it smelled of honey. And where he touched my heart, there is honey still (page 7). At a workshop we conducted, talking about this story created an occasion to celebrate the lives of people who had put honey into the hearts of those taking part. The story of a congregations beginning can be very powerful. While doing a workshop in central Alberta, we heard a story that we found very heart-warming. The early settlers, farmers all with a common Evangelical Brethren background, had come to the area from the United States seeking more land and a fresh start. As they settled on their farms, the question arose about where to build their church. One Sunday morning they all got in their wagons and drove toward each other. About 100 metres from where they met was a suitable piece of land. Within a week, the frame of their new church was up. West Irricana church is still serving the people of that area. Equally powerful is the story of the beginnings of your congregation. What is it?

Stories and Small Groups

Clair remembers what it was like to be turned loose on the world when his contract at St. Stephens College ended. Five years from retirement is not the best time to go looking for a call or a congregation. A couple of possibilities had turned into blind alleys. Then a small group, just four people, gathered



around a meal, a bottle of wine, a flip chart and the Congregational Life Centre was born. We had all been involved in one way and another in a five year research project investigating what it took to develop and sustain new congregations. We knew if we didnt do something, those research reports would be put in boxes and gather dust in the hidden recesses of some library. What inspired us was the thought of keeping those insights alive as we worked with congregations eager to become truly alive. We each told our stories where we were at personally and what we felt the church needed for its ministry to be more effective. This led to the idea of becoming consultants who could help congregations do just that. That there was no money, no structure and only four of us didnt matter. We told each other a story of possibilities that night that sustained those of us involved in the Congregational Life Centre through those start-up years. Two years later, Joyce was laid off from her job at Digital Equipment. Starting the Congregational Life Centre and watching a dream become real gave her the courage to start her own consulting business. The two consulting streams have interacted in creative ways that has resulted in a rich journey of growth and learning. We look back to that initial evening fifteen years ago and the story we told each other as the key to what we have been able to accomplish.

The Story of Termine di Cagnano

Its forty years ago now that Clair arrived with eleven colleagues in a small village of Termine di Cagnano 200 people high in the mountains of central Italy. The Gran Sasso, the big rock where Mussolini was briefly imprisoned near the end of the Second World War, dominated the western horizon. The village is twenty-five kilometres from the nearby city of


Leadership for Today

LAquila and hugs the hillside overlooking a rich valley. When Clair arrived, the school was due to close at the end of the year. There were only two telephones serving the whole village. The paths on the rough slope between houses were rock strewn trails. Two-thirds of the homes were deserted, and municipal services were obvious by their absence. Clairs group called the people together to develop a vision for the community. Sabatino, an elderly muratore (stone mason) with huge ham-like hands, sang a song of greeting and anticipation. Most of the people had only a grade three education, but they described their dreams and they were written down. Twin girls in high school told of their hopes for more activities in the village for youth, and a scribe wrote those down. A young man, Giovanni, said that he needed work. Several young mothers asked about a pre-school for their children. A dairy farmer dreamed of owning a milking machine. It was all woven into a story of what the village would be like in the future. Sharing their stories, these people generated a hope that saw them, and Clairs colleagues, through many low points as they struggled to find ways to make that dream for the villages future a reality. A number of projects were launched. None of them lasted once the team left. What did last was the hope. A year into the project Clair encountered Francesco walking along the lower road. Bearded, his seventy-five years showing, he had been a friend from the beginning. Clair had heard the village story a hundred times, Laria buono, ma paese bruto. (The air is beautiful, but the village is ugly.) Francesco stopped that warm afternoon amid the donkey droppings on the cobble stones. You know, he said, laria buono, anche il paese! (The air is beautiful, and so is this village.) The project went on for another year, but Clair knew in that moment the work was done. The people of the village told their relatives who came back and refurbished most of the vacant homes, turning them into



summer retreats from the heat that bakes Rome in August. The project caused enough embarrassment that was its major contribution that the township council found the money to create stairways, pave the roads, and extend water and sewage to every home. When Clair came back for a visit three years later, a truck driver pulled up beside him and shouted out the window. I should buy you a beer. Ive been kept busy repairing roads and houses ever since you people left. The phone people put in fifty new lines and the transportation company increased their service to four busses a day. The school remained open, which meant young families were able to stay. The final victory came as people found the money to repair the long silent clock in the church tower and completely refurbish the building. The group of stranieri (foreigners) did very little. The people and their story of hope was what accomplished the miracle that made Termine de Cagnano the thriving village it is today. We could share so many stories that we have heard, like the Coronation, Alberta, congregation who moved their Sunday School to Saturday evening as an experiment. It didnt work but they were proud of being willing to risk trying something new. St. Pauls United Church in Edmonton told itself the story of an area of the city where there was no United Church presence and the congregation that is now Riverbend was brought into being. It is time for this introduction to stop and the curtain to go up on the main event, our journey toward understanding Jesus leadership.

This Book
Our book is for everyone who wants to explore opportunities to become leaders in church congregations, and for those who are already leaders and who would like their leadership to become

Leadership for Today

more effective. Joyce is a lay person, and Clair is an ordained minister. We know from our experience how creative it can be when clergy and laity work together. Our observation is that it is leadership teams lay leaders and clergy working in partnership that can respond successfully to the needs of people today and transform congregations into communities that live out Jesus vision of a new world. We will explore Jesus leadership style one facet at a time. Each chapter begins with an appreciation of the particular element of Jesus leadership style. We will look at ways that Paul picked up on Jesus model and used it successfully in his ministry. What does the particular leadership style we have highlighted look like today? We have been privileged to have visited and worked with congregations of different denominations and widely differing backgrounds. We will draw on that experience and interviews we have done to share snapshots of leadership we have seen in action. In the last section of each chapter we will describe some specific ways for developing facility with this leadership style. One very important thing we have noticed: where the elements of Jesus leadership style are in place, congregations are thriving. Where they are missing, congregations decline. We have written this book as a team. Well use our names Clair or Joyce when one of us is sharing an experience. When we speak of us or we it means both of us were involved and are sharing a common experience. We offer this book with the prayer that it results in a new approach to leadership across the church. We live in a world in need of Jesus insights into how to relate to one another and to God, and we need active healthy congregations modelling that message.

1. The New Culture

They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom. Confucius Be the change you want to see in the world. Mahatma Gandhi Jesus lived in a time of incredible change. Herod the Great, the ruler of Palestine when Jesus was born, undertook a number of grandiose construction projects including the Mediterranean port city of Caesarea. As a client king for Rome, he collected taxes for these projects, and more taxes to send on to Rome as tribute. After his death, the kingdom was split among his sons: Archelaus, Herod Antipas and Philip. They inherited a land seething with discontent and signs of revolt. Herod Antipas, as ruler over the Galilee area, restored the city of Sepphoris as his capital. It was a short ten kilometres from where Jesus grew up in Nazareth. The construction was a great feat of engineering, but at the same time, a cause of deepening social unrest. The heavy taxes required to pay for construction placed a new burden on the peasant farmers and artisans, many of whom were forced into debt and lost their land as a result. For a time some found employment as construction workers. When Sepphoris was finished, however, huge numbers of unemployed people had nowhere to turn. Many joined marauding gangs of robbers or joined the ranks of rebels. People were strained to the limit and prized those passages in the Hebrew scriptures which emphasized that God

Leadership for Today

would send a Messiah to save them. We know from the Dead Sea Scrolls that the monastic Essenes expected a great battle between the forces of evil and good. John the Baptist was preaching the wrath to come. The axe is already laid at the root of the tree; every tree that doesnt produce good fruit will be cut down and tossed into the fire (Luke 3:9). There was a certain red pottery that people would not buy as a silent protest against Roman rule. These were some of the negative changes. On the other hand, Roman conquest opened vast territories to trade. Some of those trade routes passed through Galilee, bringing news of the lands that lay beyond and opening possibilities for those with imagination. Wealth was there for those with important connections and Roman citizenship came with certain rights and privileges for those who qualified. It was into this era of rapid change and social unrest that Jesus was born, a time not unlike our own era. It is that parallel that makes one wonder if the form of leadership Jesus used so successfully in his day would not be one that would also work in ours. If you have some grey hair you no doubt remember, as we do, what it meant to get all dressed up for church on Sunday. You went to Sunday School, then to church, and if your family was a bit religious you also went to church on Sunday evening. Canada was very rural 75 years ago. There were cities but they were much smaller. Suburbs were just beginning to be built. More likely than not, you lived in a compact community and attended a school that was much smaller than the ones today. Many of your activities would centre on the church and a small circle of friends, most of whom would live close by. Joyce, for example, went to school with neighbours, sang in the choir with them, played ball with them, went to church with them. Everyone knew who I was, who my parents were and where I lived. My community was a safe place for me.

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