I was recently at a meeting and it was, as has been the case over the last two years, a meeting in which there was a lot of energy. This particular group of men and women have been meeting to review where the congregation has been, discussing where it currently is, and imaging where the Spirit might be guiding. In times of such intentional reflection there is always richness. This group, as with most that engage with leadership, modelled self-challenge, as well as comfort in listening to ideas that were either new or difficult. I suspect that many who are in leadership, either Ordered or Lay, have been in this place. And, as my own experience has evidenced, there are moments of profound insight, perhaps even revelation

Early Church to 600 CE

During a particular moment in the conversation, one of us was sharing an event from the past. There was much fondness in the recollection and the reminiscing was obviously held dearly. As we discussed the event and how it was lived out in the present and how it might work in the future, it became clear that the church had changed. Though the event that had provided opportunities for Fellowship in the past, it was clear that the current context in which we all sat was no longer appropriate for it. That was hard enough. The leader in this case clearly had emotional investment, had benefitted from the experience in the past and obviously wanted to share that with the family of faith who may never have had the opportunity. There were many tensions in that moment and then, or so it seemed to me, wisdom was spoken …

“It’s just hard to let it go …” And it is in that honesty, that vulnerability, that this Blog was conceived.

I do not have extensive personal experience about leadership in the past, though I have read a lot about how generational context has informed the way it has been lived out. Emerging Spirit has effectively used, in my opinion, parallel descriptions to illustrate the shift in church leadership from the ‘Sage on the Stage’ to the ‘Guide on the Side.’ Obviously any reduction of research can water down its import, but I believe this concise comparison helped in that moment. The leader, about whom I was discussing, shifted from a model that assumed leadership equalled ownership and, therefore, success was connected to the person who facilitated the event to a perspective that is grounded in a comfort to take chances: Chances that opened the door to accept that just because something that worked in the past and did not work in the present was not a reflection on the individual.


I think this event has a lot to say about both the leadership of today and wherever the church might be going, regardless of whether we mean ‘C’hurch or ‘c’hurch. Whoever our leaders are and might be, there is going to require a comfort, a confidence perhaps more accurately, in who s/he is and to live with the ambiguity that comes with failure. If we cannot let go of where we have been, while also being able to reflect on what we can learn from the past, we are simply going to continue to recreate the same structures and models in which we currently reside. Edifices that are clearly no longer contextually appropriate. If we can live into that role of self-assuredness that is able to differentiate success as being connected with how many are in attendance and from success that is not gauged by qualitative results, but quantitative ones, then perhaps this Emerging Spirit might be an opportunity for newness, for Resurrection.

The resistance to the intent of the Emerging Spirit Programme, as I have experienced it, is that it is comfortable with the reality that we do not know where we are going, and our society does not like that. There are few buoys or frames of reference that are similar to our current context. The most potent is that of the Early Church, which was composed of men and women who were inundated by a dominant culture that conveyed messages that did not encourage the taking of chances. We live in a culture of professionals and experts, where we doubt ourselves and acquiesce responsibility. Waking up can be a difficult thing To lead, to be a community of disciples, requires something that no amount of education, no volume of information can ever provide and that is Faith. Faith is not the rejection of knowledge or science, it is the realisation that all of the words that we have accumulated over the millennia are, perhaps crudely put, simply tools. Letting go is, finally, about humility and taking a step of Faith and then using the tools we have collectively developed to help nurture the Kingdom that will Be in the Here and Now …