Lessons from ministry: death of the hunter-gatherer

Early humans were hunter-gathers, a way of life that gave way to agriculture and settled modes of living. But whatever the advances this had for human history, it marks an unfortunate tendency in church life.

Bluntly, most churches structure for comfort and stability. We like each other and like what we do, so developing an inertia for change. We want leaders who can help us maintain this settled, pastoral, way of life; who create an atmosphere were all feel secure and valued. We equate good leadership skills with those who can manage to help larger groups, with greater diversity, to be comfortable together. People who can draw others together and enable groups to pull together; these are the folk we want leading our churches (and even more so, our denomination).

The gospel of the kingdom is based on seeking and changing; accepting impermanence, longing for revolution, embracing the nomadic and searching for more. This needs leaders who are flexible, egalitarian, insightful and empowering. Often they are perceived as difficult, loose cannons or risky. We worry they will break the church up rather than see the potential they offer.

My head (and experience) tells me if you want to get on in church / Baptist life, you need to become better at the ‘together’ stuff, whereas my heart tells me I need to be more of a revolutionary. Maybe that’s why I’m confused!

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