What is the connection between leadership and management? And what then is the connection between leadership, management and grace? And finally what is the connection between leadership, management, grace and an authentic way of being the Body of Christ in the world?
My problem is one of resistance to and suspicion of theologically misleading discourse. Leadership and management are about efficiency, control, direction, achievement, development, intentional actions, presumed effectiveness and humanly contrived success. All of which is fine in the company, the business, the commercial organisation, the corporate entities that make up most of contemporary social structures. But is the church that is the Body of Christ a corporate entity of the same order as all the others in the world, or even entirely of the same ontological sphere?
The church exists to embody the life and reality of the risen Lord Jesus, the Body of Christ. And as such, its organisational principles, its ethos and values, its convictions and actions, are likely to be qualititatively different, perhaps even threateningly alien, to the principles, ethos, values, convictions and values of other corporate bodies with no transcendent affiliation. Or is that just too radical? Is such a disconnect between the culture of managed commercial and political society and the culture of the church just too unreal? Are the basin and towel embarrassing relics, revered symbols, sacred ideas - or are they part of a story that is to be lived, practiced and perpetuated in the witness of the church? And is the table, set with bread and wine, the place for private, individualised devotional reverie and remembrance, or the place where we are reminded of that vast disconnect between power and brokenness, between management and mystery, between the lust to control and the passion of surrender, and that surrender which is the Passion.
So any discussion of church leadership which presupposes forms of management and hierarchical models of direction and authority, for me will always be judged by those radical symbols of disconnect - the basin, the towel, the table, and yes, the cross. Which brings me back to the awkward and disconcerting juxtaposition of the words management and grace. And to that table around which Christians gather to be reminded of how different from the pervasive cultural norms we are called to be. And to be recalled to a way of life, a form of being, a lifestyle of convictional practices that show why this disconnect, this radical difference is not only necessary, but is the benchmark of faithfulness to a Gospel of grace which enables and renews the mind, heals and restores the heart, beckons and summons the will, humbles and lifts the spirit, breaks down the barriers of our mistaken self-confidence, and remakes in us the capacity to trust, to love and to serve.
Grace and management presuppose a different order of relationships; leadership and grace only co-exist in Christian discourse and practice when acts of service, not expressions of authority and power, bear witness to that example that was given at the heart of the Christian story, and is told out around the Christ-given table. At that place, the Christian table, the radical disconnect between the styles and activities of managerial leadership and the lived practices of the Body of Christ as a graced community are most visible, and there witness is borne to the way of Jesus.
And if you ask what that means in practice - I'm sorry the specifics will only arise in each of our lives when we make those choices that mean for us what it meant for Jesus who laid aside the garments of status and took the basin and the towel; and when we learn what it means in our own living, in this particular relationship now, to not count our own status a thing to be clung to; and when grace as gift, as being weak yet strong, as being generously given thus a generous giver, as not looking to our own interests, when grace not our own overriding intentionality, takes of our not much, and multiplies it in blessing to others. Because that's what God is like.