Women Men and Ministry

The following takes a ‘meta theological’ or overall Biblical narrative approach in trying to answer the question – ‘What are the big Biblical ideas that help us to find our way in these issues?’
1. Creation: We are all made in the image of God and therefore equal – Gen 1:27. Both the man and the woman are given the role to rule over creation – Gen 1:28. In marriage they are described as “one flesh”, a unity of equality – Gen2:24-25. It should also be noted that the Hebrew word translated as “helper” to describe the woman in Gen 2:18 means one that corresponds to the man or the other side of the coin and is most commonly used of God in the OT. But the fall disturbs all this and introduces inequality and oppression –“he will rule over you” – Gen 2:16. The fall introduces into our natures the propensity to “the will to power” , usually over others and frequently men over women. There are of course many other ramifications of this disturbance in the created order like fear and shame – Gen 3:8-10. The whole plan of salvation is to rectify this disturbance and restore Gods original intentions, which of course includes the relationship between men and women.
2. Redemption: The goal is to reconcile, restore and renew what has been disturbed and fractured. This plan is worked out in history through Israel and the Old Covenant and then finally through the Church in the new Covenant and so unfolds progressively. In the OT the sign of membership of the people of God, who are called out to be the instrument of Gods plan of redemption is circumcision, born by the male members only as the full plan of redemption is not yet fully realised. But when we come to the fulfilment of the plan, with Jesus’ death, resurrection, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the establishment of the Church, it becomes baptism. This sign is now given to all, men, women, children, slaves, Jews and Gentiles-Gal 3:26-28, Coloss 3:9-11, Ephes 2:11-22, Philemon 15-17. So we begin to see the redemptive process of reconciliation, renewal and restoration beginning to work its self out in the relationships of gender, race and status (eg; slave and free). Baptism incorporates us all into Christ where we are united as one. The NT in fact encourages us to see ourselves now not only as equals but in a radical new relationship of servant love (literally slaves) of one another just as Christ served us – Phil 2:5-11, Ephes 5:21, Mark 10:42-45.
3. New creation: So the new people of God, the Church, are to be signs, examples and foretastes of the new creation, the Kingdom that God through Christ is bringing in now and which will be finally consummated when Christ returns and the whole creation is healed and renewed – Rom 8:18-27, Rev 5:9-10, 22:2 (‘the healing of the nations’.)
4. Ministry: In the new people of God all are equal and servants of one another, therefore ministry and role are by gift (Charism) of the Holy Spirit – I Cor 12:1-31, Rom 12:3-8. Roles and ministry are no longer to be determined by gender, inherited position (OT Priesthood), the world’s cultural constructs of hierarchy and imposed authority, but by the Spirit. The proper ordering of the gifts of ministry is a function of the new covenant community operating in its new understanding of itself as a community of redeemed equals in which the disturbed relations between people and particularly men and women and the judgements of the fall are now in the process of redemption. So all tendencies to the fallen “will to power” over one another must be eschewed and excluded from whatever method of ordering the gifts a particular community or group of communities decides. The other factors to be considered when appointing people for ministry and leadership roles in the new redeemed community include matters of character, spiritual maturity, sanctification and trustworthiness and those of the kind listed in – 1Tim 3:1-12, Titus 1: 5-9. There is no essential or ontological hierarchy in the Church apart from Christ who is the head of the body.
The following are notes on: The Pauline texts on men and women in Christian marriage and women in Ministry and two of the major solutions proposed to resolve the difficulties encountered in the NT and the disagreements that have resulted. They are: (a) ‘Equal but different’ (Complementarians) and (b)The idea of ‘Strategic cultural adaption for the sake of evangelism’ by the NT church alongside its radical redemptive teaching on human relationships of equality, unity and mutual servant hood.
1. Christian marriage: In the NT Christian marriage is seen as a metaphor for the relationship between Christ and his people – we are ‘the bride of Christ’ – Eph 5:31-33, Rev 21:1-2. Christian marriage is to be understood as a sign and expression of the new people of God in which the original intentions for the relationships between men and women described in Gen 1-2 are to be worked out in a partnership of unity, equality, love and mutual servanthood. – Eph 5: 21. The binding covenant and promises required in Christian marriage provide the security and commitment for this process to take place in the intimacy of the marriage relationship. In this way marriage becomes a sign of: (a) the Gospel of redemption and (b) the intimate relationship possible now between Christ and his people and (c) the new redeemed community, the Church.
But this ‘meta theological’ view creates an apparent tension or paradox with Pauls other statements on men and women. In Ephe 5:22-24 the tension between Paul’s statements about submission of wives and the idea of the restored equality under the new covenant is within the text of Eph 5 itself as vs 21, which introduces the section on marriage, says we are to submit to each other! Paul also expects in vs 25 the husband to adopt Christ’s servant example in his relationship with his wife. Is Paul taking for granted their fundamental unity in Christ, as per Gal 3:26-28 (etc.), and referring to their roles – and therefore stating the ‘equal but different complementarian approach’? The other alternative is that this is an example of ‘strategic cultural adaption.’ These alternatives and their various merits and difficulties will be discussed further below.
2. Women in ministry: The question is how are we to resolve the tension between Paul’s restrictions on women in ministry and the macro theological picture presented in the Bibles redemption narrative?
(i) The Complementarian approach. In this resolution men and women are seen as equal but different, having different roles in the family and in the Church, particularly in relation to leadership and ministry. The problems here are as follows: (a) That it fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between the man and the woman in Gen 1-2 and Gods original intention and imports into the creation account role differences like leadership. The account has no mention of role distinctions and, as we pointed out earlier, the Hebrew word in Gen 2:18 translated in English as ‘helper’, which has given rise to much misunderstanding, does not refer to a particular role that is different to the mans but actually means ‘one who corresponds to’, or as we might say, ‘the other half of the coin’. It is a description of their mutual interdependence – they are only complete together – “one flesh”. The only difference is in their male and femaleness and the woman’s ability to bear children. (Later in the Mosaic instructions it will be clear that the responsibility for the children’s nurture as in their conception is a mutual responsibility.) It is one of the goals of the redemption plan to restore this original relationship disturbed by the fall. (b) That particular roles like leadership and eldership are associated with authority, power and control which frequently conflict with expressions of equality. (c) That because of the effects of the fall we are all vulnerable to the temptation of “the will to power” and the seduction of hierarchy, and our vulnerability to this is particularly acute in male female relations. (d) Pauls teaching appears to hold an unresolved tension between his radical redemptive teaching on the effects of the Gospel on human relationships in the new covenant community (Gal 3:26-28, Colos 3: 9-11 etc.,) and his comments on male and female roles in the family and the Church.
(ii) The Strategic cultural adaption approach. This resolution sees Paul’s instructions as an expression of strategic cultural adaption for the sake of evangelism. Because first century culture is highly patriarchal it would have been culturally unacceptable for women to lead in church or to publically evangelise. So the Church accepts some of the limitations of current cultural norms for the practical reason of the ability to publicly witness. But at the same time it teaches within the fellowship the radical redemptive ideas of equality in Christ. This creates certain tensions. It should therefore not surprise us to find in such a dynamic and developing environment as the NT Church examples of cultural and practical inconsistencies regarding women and ministry. For example women are described as ‘fellow workers’, ‘deacons’ and ‘Prophets’. In Paul’s list of people and fellow workers he wishes to thank in Romans 16: 1-27 there are at least nine women’s names! He begins his list with Priscilla who we know from Acts 18:24-28 instructed the gifted teacher Apollos .(For further examples see the notes in the references )
There are a number of examples of this tension in other areas of cultural clash between the Gospel and the first century world: (a) Slavery – there were many slaves among the members of the new Christian churches. Paul clearly takes the cultural adaption approach with Onesimus the runaway slave in his letter to Philemon his Christian master as he sends him back as Roman law required. At the same time he exhorts Philemon to see Onesimus as his brother in Christ – vs 15-16. In 1Tim 6:1 the sensitivity to the cultural issue is very clear – “so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered”. In Coloss 3:22 he encourages slaves to obey their masters and then in 4:1 relativises their authority by saying both master and slave are under Gods authority. In I Cor 7:21-23 he says to Christian slaves that in Christ they are really free people and if they can gain free legal status they should. In 1Tim 1:8-11 he describes slave traders as evil and breakers of God’s law. These references show clearly the tension described above.
(b) Circumcision – Paul argues strongly in Gal 5:1-3 against non Jewish Christians being circumcised as this conflicts with the Gospel of grace (see also Coloss 2:9-12). Paul with Barnabas argued strongly against requiring Gentile converts to be circumcised at the first Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15 and the Council agreed –Acts 15:19-21. And yet Paul has Timothy who has a Jewish mother and Greek father circumcised for the reasons of cultural sensitivities among the Jews they were attempting to evangelise at Lystra – Acts 16: 1-5. Another example of cultural adaption for the sake of witness and a very controversial one! (c) Clean and unclean food: The Council at Jerusalem had put forward the cultural principle (Acts 15:19-21) of respecting the sensitivities about foods that were forbidden to Jews and Paul respects these. But when teaching non Jewish converts about their new freedom in Christ he makes it very clear that these are not required by the Gospel and are only to be considered in evangelism to Jews and discipling young Gentile believers who are still influenced by Pagan sensibilities of idol worship and the food offered to them – 1Cor 8:1-13, 10:23-33. (d) Head covering and uncovering – men and women: This is another area in which the cultural principle can be observed. In Pauls day for a woman to remove her head covering and expose her hair in public was a sign of loose morals and sexual promiscuity. If she was married this would be a sign of gross disrespect to her husband. Men were to worship uncovered. I Cor 11:1-16 deals with this issue, it is a passage that is notoriously difficult to exegete and has been the subject of much controversy but it is very relevant. One thing is clear it is about cultural propriety in public worship and the common custom of the churches at the time, as vs 13 & 16 shows. In the process of his argument vs’s 11-12 reveal another example of how Paul grapples with the tension between the creation accounts of the equality and the mutual interdependence of men and women and the pressure of cultural adaption. The tension is clearly revealed in his equivocation about the instructions he is giving in vs’s 11-16.
The I Tim 2:11-16 passage should also be commented on at this point as it is Pauls response to another occasion of the issue of cultural proprietary in public worship. This passage is much commented on and the interpretations are vigorously disputed so my comments will be brief! The following points should be noted: (i) Verses 9-10 indicate that the instructions arise because of the proprietary of women’s dress and hair adornment in worship. This is similar to the occasion for the instructions in 1Cor 11. This was obviously a sensitive issue in the culture of the day! (ii) The context of 1 &2 Tim also indicates that there were specific issues with false teaching at the Church at Ephesus – 1Tim 1:4-7, 2 Tim 2:16-19, 3:6-9, 4: 2-4. (iii) At this time most women in the general culture were uneducated, it was similar in Judaism where the Rabbis were very reluctant to have women as disciples. This would have added weight to Paul’s concerns for women to be teaching in Ephesus at a time when false teaching was present. Paul presents two strategies to meet these concerns: (a) The short range one – to forbid women to teach. (b) The long range one- educate the women , Vs 11 “a woman should learn.” It is worth noting in the cultural context Paul was addressing that this gender specific encouragement is actually counter cultural! So once again we see the cultural tension issue arise – adaption alongside radical redemptive change. (The footnotes have further comments on the 1Tim 2:11-15 passage, in particular on Pauls remarks on the “creation order” in Gen 1-2. See also Craig S Keener’s excellent but brief commentary on these passages. )

Paul’s general cultural principle in evangelism: This is found in 1Cor 9:19-23. “Though I am free and belong to no one, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jew I became a Jew……I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some..….” For Paul his Mission was always the priority, if that required strategic cultural adaption he was prepared to take the risk!

The danger of cultural adaption is of course cultural conformity that reduces and compromises the radical redemptive message of the Gospel. It certainly seems when you look at the NT evidence in this way that the early Church did a balancing act walking the fine line of strategic cultural adaption to its culture for the sake of evangelism and at the same time avoiding cultural conformity. It is also clear that the NT contains evidence of failure to resist the conforming and corrupting influence of certain cultural forces such as the Gnostic influences that Paul tackles in Colossians and the constant tendency for Jewish converts to drift back to the legalism of Judaism that he tackles in Galatian’s and is also seen in the letter to the Hebrews. Also the corrosive effect of the general ungodliness and moral decadence of the first century Greco/ Roman culture that we see reflected in I Corinthians and described in 2Tim 3:1-5 had its effect on some.

The reason the early Church did not fall into complete cultural conformity is I believe because of the following :( 1) The NT Church was gripped by a living experience of the Holy Spirit. (2) The nature of the freedom that the Gospel brought to them was so radical and fresh in contrast to their 1st C culture, whether Jewish or Pagan, that they really felt ‘saved, liberated and redeemed’ – like converts in Africa, Asia and China or converts from Islam feel today. It is also why evangelism is so hard in the jaded post Christian West. Its people have the hard won fruits of Christian freedom and its radical view of the equality and dignity of every human person, which they take for granted, but are no longer aware of the origin of these values, they have also rejected their transcendent source. (3) While the early Christians were culturally savvy and pursued their outward evangelism strategies with great courage, energy and cultural sensitivity, it is also clear from the NT letters that the Apostles and teachers continued to teach within the Churches the radical nature of the redemptive and relationally transforming power of the Gospel. This would have been supported by the regular reading and reflection on the Gospels and the radical teachings of Jesus. (4) There were also clear points at which they drew a line in the sand in cultural adaption. For example; the Lordship of Christ over their lives could never be compromised, there was only one who could be called Kurios (Lord) and that was Jesus. That led eventually to persecution when they would not take part in the civil ceremonies of allegiance to the Emperor that involved or implied his worship as a God. They were also uncompromising in matters of sexual morality. (5) While they made some strategic cultural adaptions they also developed new cultural innovations based on their redemptive theology that had significant impact, for example:
(a)Their practice of caring for prisoners who were not members of their families
(b) The rescuing and adopting of abandoned babies
(c)Their willingness to become involved in caring for the sick and dying in the numerous epidemics that regularly broke out in the crowded cities when most people withdrew from the sick.
(d) The practice of not allowing their daughters to be given in marriage before the age of 18 years.( Rodney Stark in his excellent history of the early Churches influence on Roman culture points out that their treatment of and regard for woman was one of the factors for the churches rapid growth in the first three centuries. His book lists other ways in which they were counter cultural and innovative )
(e)The treatment of slaves due to their understanding of their oneness in Christ.

The Biblical theology of Creation, Redemption and New Creation creates an overwhelming case for the equal and mutual interdependence of men and women in Christian marriage and ministry. It also means that there should be no gender distinction in leadership and ministry in the Church.
Contemporary cultural factors that run counter to that theology and reflect our fallen nature require the Church to teach and model a counter culture of Kingdom values in its community, but they also require a missional sensitivity so that the Churches culture does not hinder evangelism or place unnecessary cultural barriers before non-Christians.
‘Strategic cultural adaption’ for evangelism is complicated and vulnerable to the danger of cultural conformity to the world’s standards. There is also the question of the difference between first and second order issues. Some cultural practices at certain points in history are so opposed to the Gospel that they have to be challenged from the outset. For example the custom of honouring the Emperor was expected by the ruling power of Rome and Paul encourages that respect in Rom 13: 1-7 but in certain civic ceremonies it was extended to a formal act of worship, and as pointed out earlier in the paper, this was a bridge too far for the Christians. By the time we get to the Book of Revelation and the period of fierce persecution Rome has become the Anti-Christ!
Culture is also constantly changing and so must ‘strategic cultural adaption’. Some examples: if a woman in public leadership in the first century was a cultural barrier, in the twenty-first century for women not to be in leadership in the Church is a cultural barrier! A less serious example is the custom of women wearing a scarf or hat in Church, based on Paul’s injunctions in I Cor 11. This was still common in the 1950’s in Australia even though the original reason was hardly remembered and was by then more connected to the idea of dressing up for Church – so hats for ladies and suits and ties for men! It is almost never seen now in Protestant Churches and would be seen as culturally ludicrous to call for today. On the other hand if you were doing evangelism in a Muslim culture today head covering for women might be advisable! If we consider the question of slavery any tolerance today by Christians for slavery would be seen as an intolerable barrier to the Gospel’s integrity. On the other hand if we take the question of food and drink it has been a largely irrelevant issue in Western Churches for a long time but if you were evangelising in a Muslim subculture in Australia today it would be important, and you certainly would not serve alcohol at an Alpha dinner for Muslims! The issue of polygamy is still a factor in evangelism in parts of Africa today and often a difficult question to resolve practically for new converts from a tribal culture that practices polygamy – which wife does the man keep! These examples could be multiplied.
Then there are the more subtle cultural factors to bear in mind when evangelising sub cultures of a dominant culture. For example in the dominant Aussie culture there are the subtle issues of dress style, language, choice of illustration, music genre, etc., all can affect you being ‘heard’ in a particular sub culture of our many Aussie tribes!
If you are serious about effective evangelism ‘strategic cultural adaption’ is unavoidable, as St Paul knew so clearly.
These factors have great significance for the contemporary Church in a multicultural Australia today.
Peter Corney 4/1/17
(Notes: There are extensive footnotes available for this article on request)

Christian leadership an interview with Peter Corney

INTERVIEWER:Peter what do you think are the essential qualities a Christian leader in ministry needs?
PETER: I believe they need the following things:
1. Conviction – a strong faith in Christ
2. Calling – to the task or role
3. Character – spiritual maturity, moral integrity, a strong sense of servanthood.
4. Mental health – While no one is completely whole leaders need to be reasonably healthy psychologically and emotionally. For example any-one with significant narcissistic tendencies, serious insecurity or lacking in empathy and emotional intelligence should not be encouraged. The pressures of leadership amplify our weaknesses and emotional disabilities and leaders with significant unresolved problems can become toxic for an organisation.
5. Gifts – there are gifts given by God that are clearly very helpful in leadership. EG. Verbal communication skills, ability to teach, personalities that attract people and have real empathy, organisational abilities, ability to take initiative and to think strategically etc. No one will have all these gifts but often gifted leaders have a combination of several. These are usually discerned over time by observation by others of people’s service in the context of their Christian community. Romans 12:6-8 lists leadership among the gifts of the Spirit given to the Church.
6. A solid orthodox theological and biblical education.
7. A willingness to develop competencies – skills in communication, in training others, leading and managing people, skills in managing change and conflict, organising and planning skills, etc. These can be taught through a combination of theory, modelling, practice and evaluated experience by a mentor, preferably one who observes them in action.
8. An ability to read the culture in which they are placed.

INTERVIEWER: Are leaders born or made?
PETER: I think both. But ‘born’ leaders need to be trained and skilled and have instilled into them proper attitudes to the task, such as servanthood and humility to counter our natural fallen nature and tendencies to ego inflation and pride. Someone said ‘Charisma without character usually leads to chaos’. A ‘made’ leader can be just as effective as a ‘born’ one. History tends to support the idea that every now and again God seems to raise up a special leader and ‘anoint’ them, such leaders often have history changing effects. E.g. Moses, Luther, Wesley, St. Francis. Many of these were not completely rounded people; Moses had a temper and was not an outstanding speaker, it seems he may even have had a speech defect. Wesley’s marriage was strained, St. Francis would today be considered to be extreme in some of his ideas and practices. So an effective leader doesn’t have to have to be perfect and have every gift we think is necessary! But there are some common factors that outstanding Godly leaders share:
* Passion and single mindedness for the vision and for God. These characteristics attract others to follow them to share in their vision. The passion rubs off!
* A number of them like Wesley were very capable organisers. Organisational ability enables the leader to create structures in which others can be empowered, mobilised, find a role and explore their own gifts.

INTERVIEWER: Are manager’s leaders and do leaders need to be managers?
PETER: It depends a bit on your definitions! But a manager can be a leader as well as a manager but not all managers are leaders in the capital L sense. But leaders definitely need to know how to manage and how to surround themselves with people with complimentary gifts to themselves.
A good manager may run a system and a task team well but not be a person who naturally thinks about the bigger picture, about strategy, vision and the future. They may not be the kind of person who can convey a passion for the big aim of the enterprise. They may not be a thought leader or major influencer and culture shaper.
The leader usually has to carry more responsibility than a manager, deal with more complexity, give more time and energy and be ultimately accountable for the enterprise its values and vision, success or failure. They have significant ‘power’ and authority. How and why they exercise that power and authority is of course a key issue. Excellent leaders are often transformers of organisations and can impact large groups of people.
The English word ‘lead’ comes from an Anglo Saxon word which means a road or a way or the path of a ship. ‘Managing’ is from the Latin meaning a hand – manus. The idea is handling a sword, a ship, a horse or machine. It tends to be associated with more technical skills like accounting, supervising a manufacturing process, etc.

INTERVIEWER: Are all leaders capable of rising to the same level?
PETER: No I don’t think so. Some people can lead well up to a certain level but the next step up may be beyond their gifts or abilities. But it is not always easy to tell early on if a particular person has the potential to develop further or not and so people need to be given the chance and senior leaders need to take controlled risks with people. By ‘controlled risks’ I mean giving people opportunities but supporting and supervising them closely. We also need to create a climate where all levels of leadership are celebrated and affirmed. Not just the senior leadership.

INTERVIEWER: In your experience what are the common traps or mistakes that leaders can fall into or make?
PETER: I think they fall into two general areas. The first is moral and spiritual; the second is in the skill and experience area. In the moral and spiritual area the things that trip up leaders and often end their careers are (a) sexual misconduct and inappropriate relationships (b) financial misconduct (c) the abuse of power and people (d) neglect of family life (e) personal emotional and psychological wounding that is undealt with (f) plateauing, a failure to keep growing and learning (g) failure to develop personal disciplines early in their ministry, both in spiritual practices and use of time. In the second area of skill and experience some of the most common things are: (a) a failure to learn and practice basic organisational and planning skills. (Creating structures for people to work in is a key responsibility of leaders. It’s like the scaffolding for constructing a building, it enables the ministry to be built.) (b) not understanding the change process and so proceeding clumsily, too rapidly or without sufficient consultation. (c) a failure to understand how to recruit and motivate volunteers and how to build and lead teams (d) not understanding that building relationships of trust and friendship with those you are called to lead is a fundamental key to ministry (e) not being prepared to get in and get your hands dirty with the troops and do the ordinary hack work, like setting up, cleaning up, washing up, working bees, etc., the things that demonstrate a humble servant heart. (Now this does not mean you don’t delegate and organise teams to set up and prepare etc., but you show by your own involvement that you don’t think you’re above this but willing to work with others in the grunt work.) (f) The failure to make a constant priority the selection and training of leaders and key ministry people. (‘Ministry is multiplied by multiplying the ministers’.)

INTERVIEWER: What would you do differently as you look back now on all your years in ministry and leadership?
PETER: That’s a tough one! I hope I would try and pray more and listen to God more. I would put even more energy into training up leaders and lay people for ministry. I’d be more proactive and less reactive with my time and energy. I would try to be more strategic in my thinking and decision making, trying to ask myself regularly “What should we do now that will build a foundation for the future and make future changes easier and future initiatives more fruitful?” Given that the Gospel, and its communication so people will come to Christ, is our primary objective, the effectiveness of that task should always be the measure of our fruitfulness. But there is always a tension between preparation and action. You can be so focussed on quality and teaching and getting the base right that you never reach out. Another strategic question is “What are the current barriers to growth in both peoples maturity and attendance and how can we remove them?”

INTERVIEWER: What did you find most stressful?
PETER: I think striking a constructive balance between competing factors. Coping with the tension created by competing factors is constant in ministry and I don’t think I understood how challenging that is when I first began. In a reasonably healthy and open Christian community there are many tensions, e.g.: between outreach and pastoral care, between differing theological emphasise, between different styles of worship and music, between the particular enthusiasms of one group and those of another, between waiting on God and taking initiative, between different age groups, between stepping out in faith and waiting till you have the money, where to pitch your preaching- teaching the basics to new Christians or deepening the knowledge and faith of more mature members, etc., etc. The other stress is the fact that ministry is like housework in a big family – it never ends!

INTERVIEWER: Do you have any one thing you think is crucial?
PETER: Yes. Keeping a sense of humour and a sense of perspective!!

Lessons from the long haul

Recently the following personal questions were put to me about leadership. Here are my answers.

  1. 1. In your many years in ministry what one thing or one area of ministry has given you the

most joy?

God has been good to me and there are many things that have given me joy so it’s hard to choose. I think that to be a part of people coming to faith in Christ and then seeing them grow, persevere and stay in the race is a great joy. Recently I attended a reunion of a youth group I led when I was in training. A significant number of people came to Christ in that time. The people are now all in their 60,s and here they were still active Christians, involved in their churches, many of them in positions of lay leadership and some in ordained ministry. That was a joy! I think the area of ministry that has been most rewarding is my involvement in leadership training and development. When you help to develop a Christian leader you become part of a multiplying effect in the bigger picture of the Kingdom of God because leaders influence many others.

  1. 2. What season of ministry was the most stressful?

Well there are plenty to choose from to answer this question! At a personal and family level it would be the period when I was leading and building up a local congregation in a significant growth phase and my three children were at a critical age of late primary and early teens. I was very busy with a lot of balls in the air and the ministry was in a very stimulating phase. But I realised that I had to spend more time with my family and especially my three boys. The demands of the job were relentless and the opportunities were many and exciting. But I remember feeling very strongly one day that God was saying – “You might rescue a lot of other people but lose your own children if you don’t get some balance into your life”. I made a decision to significantly restructure my timetable and spend more time with my kids. It was one of my best decisions.

At a ministry level one of the most stressful times was during the charismatic renewal in the 80’s when many mainstream churches were affected by the movement. There were many positive things that came out of that time. It was exciting and unpredictable and we saw God do some great things in people’s lives. There was a great desire among people to discover their gifts and use them .Worship had a new energy and focus on God.  People had a much greater expectancy of what the Spirit of God would do. But along with this came significant tensions for leaders. It was a challenge to keep a healthy balance between those who wanted to see more and more freedom and those who became concerned about excesses. Many needy people flooded into the church looking for help. Moderating people’s expression of the gifts of the Spirit required great wisdom. Trying to be inclusive without people dropping off either end was challenging. Finding, and then standing by, a theological position that was Biblical, balanced, healthy and inclusive was a difficult and stressful task.

3. Can you remember a lesson you learnt from an unusual source? What was it and how did it affect you?

Captain Ahab, the very flawed but charismatic central character in Herman Melville’s great book “Moby Dick” was an unexpected source of leadership insight. Ahab is the Captain of a whaling ship who becomes obsessed with catching a particular whale, Moby Dick. In spite of being a skilled sailor his obsession and unbalanced passion eventually leads him and his crew to disaster. There is a key scene where the whale evades him yet again and in his rage and frustration he smashes his sextant on the deck, his main navigational tool. They are in the middle of the pacific and the crew realise they now have no reliable way to navigate home; their faith in Ahab begins to leak away.

The relationship between a leader and their people that makes positive, healthy and constructive ministry possible is a delicate unwritten contract that is based on trust, once that trust is broken or seriously weakened it is hard to restore. Sometimes it is broken by the leader making a major error of judgement that they refused to accept advice on, or by becoming so angry publicly when their ideas are frustrated that they say things that are difficult to take back. It’s like smashing your sextant!

I consulted once to a church where this trust had broken down not by anything immoral but by the leader being so obsessed with his vision that he could not accept any significant modification to it. In a fit of anger he then issued his lay leaders with an ultimatum – agree to it or I go?  He would not back down and so they accepted his resignation! It was his Captain Ahab moment.  It was a tragedy because his vision was actually good and he was a talented person, he was just pushing too hard and too fast and without enough consultation. It took the church some time to recover and several years before he could engage in ministry again.

Strong conviction about vision is Ok as long as it is presented in a way that is not absolute and allows other people have a real opportunity to contribute to and modify the vision. Leadership ultimatums are dangerous! They are usually driven by emotion not wisdom. It is also dangerous to present visions as a clear non – negotiable message from God to the leader. This can degenerate into spiritual blackmail. How do lay leaders disagree with God! Any vision must be presented in a way that leaves it open to be enriched, modified or challenged by others. Exclusive leader visions contradict the NT teaching of the Body of Christ and the operation of the Spirit in all members. Churches that are stuck or in decline are well advised to listen to a new leader and a fresh view of their ministry but not in a way that excludes their input.

  1. 4. What do you wish you had known earlier in your ministry?

How to focus my time strategically on the right people and the right tasks, and how to balance my time and energy between working IN ministry and working ON ministry.

Working strategically and working ON is to keep regularly asking yourself the following kinds of questions: “How can I/we equip, release and multiply people who can multiply ministry?”  “How can we multiply and train leaders?” “Does this work towards our main goals?” “Is the vision clear and how can we get more people to own it?” “What are the barriers to our growth?”  “What are the key things we need to do next to move forward?” etc.  Working ON is planning, designing, conceiving structures and organisations that enable others to serve. It is spending time listening to God about how you should move forwards.

Working IN ministry is chairing meetings, seeing people who are sick, preparing sermons, planning services, attending to administration, answering emails, counselling, listening to people’s concerns , etc, etc. You have to spend significant time doing these tasks, but if they consume all your time and energy you will not be able to lead effectively.

There are always more demands than you can meet and the immediate tasks are always pressing. This tends to push the leader towards a reactive rather than a proactive stance. The phone rings, the email arrives, the needy person wants to see you now, this task must be done by tomorrow, people with high needs absorb your time and sap your energy, etc.

So the challenge is to plan and manage your time so you have a balance between IN and ON and time to think and act strategically.

Think about it like this: You may be very good at pastoral counselling and be able to carry a significant load but if you’re the only one who does it then once you have reached your limit and  no more will be done! The only way to get more done is to train and release other people to do it also. That will mean you will have to say no to some individuals so you can give time to train others, you will have to reorganise your priorities and your time. If you do not become proactive about your time and focus you will be the prisoner of everyone else’s demands and you will unintentionally hold the growth back.

  1. 5. What charge do you pass on to the younger generation of leaders?

Keep your passion alive for ministry and the Gospel. To do that you need to attend to 11 things:

  1. Your relationship with God.
  2. Your personal disciplines both spiritual and practical, e.g.; prayer and time use.
  3. Be organised and plan ahead. Keep and adhere to your diary, keep control of your life.
  4. Attend to your relationship with your spouse and children if you are married.
  5. Keep growing, thinking, reading and learning.
  6. Keep balance in your life, maintain other interests, rest and recreate.
  7. Continue the mentor principle throughout your life.
  8. Keep renewing your spiritual life.
  9. Maintain personal integrity – deal with your weaknesses, live what you preach.
  10. Don’t sail too close to the shore, be wise but be adventurous.
  11. Keep your sense of humour.

Peter Corney.

How to get more done – Clues for Christian leaders

Clues for Christian leaders – How to get more done
Peter Corney
For leaders there’s always more to do than you can keep up with. Here’s some ideas for how to get more done but stay healthy!
1. Work harder. Yes, but there is a limit to this. There is a limit to your energy, your time, your family’s tolerance. There is a line you can cross where your life balance gets way out of whack and you and your relationships become unhealthy. There are some people who do need to work harder but most leaders I know need to slow down!
2. Multiply the workers. Whether they are volunteers or paid staff more can get done if you multiply the workers. To do that you have to motivate people to be involved – create a vision, then recruit and train. Create an organisational structure for people to work in*; then delegate, supervise, encourage and support them. This is the primary key to getting more done.
3. Work smarter. Manage your time well, set and keep to a daily and weekly structure planned in your diary. Get organised, plan ahead. E.g.: Have three 30 min slots in your daily dairy to answer your email and phone messages – at the beginning of the day, late morning and late afternoon. Unless there is a crisis or emergency do not constantly monitor and respond to emails and phone messages, manage them according to your dairy time table.
4. Use technology to work smarter for you not to control you. E.g.: If you have groups of people that have to be contacted regularly for meetings then create group mailing lists in your email. Store pro format’s and outlines, for agendas, notes, study and discussion outlines, programs, service orders, etc. so you don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel.
5. If you have admin assistance then use that person to filter and handle basic enquiries and requests, do follow up phone calls, do basic info gathering, etc. After careful briefing delegate tasks to them that do not need your expertise but make sure you supervise and encourage them with daily contact.
(*This is the ‘scafolding’ that enables the construction of what you’re trying to build.)
There are healthy and unhealthy reasons why we want to get more done.
Unhealthy reasons:
1. Ego, pride, we want to make a good impression on others.
2. Control and power over others.
3. Feeding an inner need – a parent’s expectations, insecurity, the need for success to prove yourself, etc.
Healthy reasons:
1. To serve God and others and build the Kingdom.
2. Because you believe that when people embrace Christ they become what they were meant to be. When they find love and grace through Christ they are reconciled with God and can be reconciled with each other and can become more whole, happier and better people that can make a better society.
3. To equip, empower and release others into ministry
Why we sometimes lack motivation to get more done
1. Laziness, selfishness.
2. Fear.
– The fear of more responsibility or more complexity
– The fear of failure
– The fear of things getting out of my control
3. Theological justifications:
– ‘Quietism’ – the idea that we should not take human initiative and action but waite on the Holy Spirits movement. “The Lords work is the Lords work.” While there is an element of truth in this it can be a justification for failure to obey the Lords clear commands, eg: “ …go and make disciple’s…”
– An unbalanced view of the Gospel that limits action to narrow categories.*
– A limited and narrow view of the church and its ministry that constrains activity to a few functions, like formal worship and pastoral care.
(* A balanced and wholeistic view of the Gospel has been expressed as “The whole Gospel for the whole person for the whole world.”)

Peter corney

Leadership and the future.

Leadership and the future

The future of the Church is only as secure as the next generation of leaders it is recruiting and training now.

We do not discover the future and we can’t predict the future with any certainty. We in fact create the future! The future is shaped by us in the present.

We do that by the visions of the future we imagine and the decisions we make now. The most strategic visions and decisions we make now are about the recruiting and training of leaders.

Three key roles of Christian elders are:

  1. To pass on the faith faithfully and truly to the next generation.
  2. To live the faith with integrity before the next generation
  3. To discover, encourage, prepare and make way for the next generation of leaders.

Peter Corney

What makes an effective leader?

By Peter Corney

Image by Denis Collette

I have read a lot of books on leadership both secular and Christian and found useful insights in many of them. (My top ten are listed at the end of this article.) But recently I read a study of major leaders of the 20th C. “Leading Minds -An Anatomy of Leadership” by Howard Gardner.(1) Many of the leaders he analyses faced the enormous challenges of the Second World War period, the post Colonial era and the dramatic changes of the sixties. Included are people as diverse as General George Marshall who conceived and implemented The Marshal Plan for the reconstruction of Europe after the devastation of the war and Martin Luther King Jnr. who lead the successful civil rights campaigns in the US. In the 60’s

I found Gardner’s analysis and conclusions about the common elements of effective leadership insightful and compelling. They also resonated with my own experience of leaders and leadership.

Here is his own summery of what he describes as the six enduring features of effective leaders.

A leader is likely to achieve success only if he or she can construct and convincingly communicate a clear and persuasive story; appreciate the nature of the audience(s), including its changeable features; invest their own (or channel others) energy in the building and maintenance of an organization; embody in their own life the principle contours of the story; either provide direct leadership or find a way to achieve influence through indirect means; and, finally, find a way to understand and make use of, without being overwhelmed by, increasingly technical expertise. (2)

The six key things identified here (in my order) are:

1. The ability to develop a story and communicate it. This is what is sometimes called the power of a vision. It might be the possibility of curing a disease or creating an organization to eliminate poverty in a community or provide a new education system that will engage marginalized youth or building a business that will be more efficient and profitable and fun to work in or it might be the vision to transform a church into a radically committed and powerful community. The story has to be clear and  understandable by both the tutored and untutored and it must be communicated convincingly and persuasively.

2. The leader must embody the story in their own life. If the vision is to eliminate poverty in a community then the leader must live a life style that is frugal, sacrificial and responsible. They must demonstrate personal commitment to the story.

3. The leader must build an organization and channel others energy into the organization. The story will not be translated into reality without an effective organization. The organization must be maintained for the story to have long term effect. To have wide influence and long term effect the leader can not just be an impractical visionary.

4. Understand and appreciate the ‘audience’ and its changeable features. What is sometimes called the ability to read the culture of the people you want to lead and influence. This is ‘the language of the people’: their idiom, style, music, level of formal or ‘street’ education, their humor, employment, their entertainment, etc. Over time this changes.  This is all crucial to communicating the story and motivating people to participate in developing the organization.

5. Provide direct leadership. Politicians are direct leaders and their ability to speak directly to the ordinary voters is crucial to their success. Providing hands-on direct development of an organization is direct leadership. Influence may also be exercised through indirect leadership, which Gardner sometimes refers to as creative leadership. This can be exercised through the influence of symbolic creative work. Artistic works like the novels of Solzhenitsyn who had no direct political role but contributed significantly to the unraveling of the Soviet Unions moral credibility. Some leaders can combine both. Vaclav Havel who led the Czech Republic out of Soviet control at a critical time was a poet and a direct leader whose poetry was very influential with the Czech people. Academic research can also produce indirect leadership like Sir Mc Farlen Burnett’s scientific research work. Creative academic leadership is often confined to a particular sphere of activity.

6. Understand and make use of new and developing technology without being lost in technical detail and expertise. For example in an earlier period in churches it was sound systems, copying machines, slide and movie film and overhead projectors, later computers, data projectors, DVD, now web based communication systems like email, face book, twitter etc.


The nature of the ‘story’.

An interesting issue that Gardner raises is how inclusive or exclusive the leaders ‘story’ will be. He makes the point that most effective leaders have an inclusive story. They help people to feel part of a broader community or movement. But inclusive leaders will eventually be challenged by some group or faction who feel that their story is the correct one and the leaders story is not pure enough or is compromised. It is also true that for any organization or movement or church to have cohesion and momentum it must have a limit to its inclusiveness, or to put it another way its story must also have an attractive distinctiveness.  Gardner makes the point that the fascist leaders of the WW 2 period were powerful and influential because of their exclusive stories, eg: Hitler’s ideas of the purity and superiority of the German race. Religious cult leaders also tell exclusive stories. While they are powerful they can also be enormously destructive. There is of course a big difference between extreme exclusive stories and those with a healthy and constructive distinctiveness. Every reformer has a distinctive story or moral call that excludes something.

Space for reflection

Gardner’s study also shows the importance of space for reflection for the direct leader. He calls this retreat to the mountain top. Without this the direct leader can loose the big picture or the sense of vision or the moral imperative energizing them and their sense of ‘agency’, that, they are an agent of change and influence. It also enables the regaining of perspective and awareness of change.

Early signs

In an examination of the early lives of effective leaders (or as he expresses it Exemplary leaders), he shows that often while still young and inexperienced they were willing to challenge the leadership above them, often to their disadvantage. Established leaders of organizations should be sensitive to this as they can thwart the potential talent because they challenge the status quo and don’t toe the line. They also show early on skill in speaking, posses a general energy and resourcefulness, they also have a concern for moral issues. (3)

This book is a rich mine of  insights on leadership and will repay the time spent in reading it for anyone involved in the selection and development of leaders.

References: (1) Basic Books 1995  (2) page 302  (3) pages 284-290

My ten top leadership books.

1.‘Leading minds. An anatomy of leadership’ by Howard Gardner, Basic Books, 1995

2.‘Leading at the Edge- Leadership lessons from the extraordinary saga of Shackelton’s  Antarctic Expedition’ by Dennis N.T. Perkins, AMACON, 2000.

3. ‘Intelligent Leadership’  by Alistair Mant, Allen &Unwin.1997

4. ‘Leaders on Leadership’ by George Barna, Regal, 1997

5. ‘Harvard Business Review on The Mind of the Leader’, edited articles from the H.B.R Harvard Business School Press,2005

6. ‘Spiritual Leadership’ by J Oswald Sanders, Moody Publishers 2003

7. ‘Identifying and Developing Leaders’ by Ian Jagelman, Open Book, 2003

8. ‘Finishing Strong’ by Steve Farrar, Multnomah, 1995

9. ‘On Becoming a leader’ by Warren Bennis, Addison Wesley, 1989.

10. ‘Hiring Strategies for Success’ by Ken Byrne, Wright Books 1990

Peter Corney.

Leadership in Uncertain Times – what does the future hold for us?

By Peter Corney

(This was originally delivered as an address to the teaching staff chapel service at Trinity Grammar School Kew in Melbourne in 2010)

During the American civil war and the battle to emancipate the slaves, the then U.S President Abraham Lincoln said he “often felt like a man standing on a burning platform.”

Photo by Michael Holden

Many people in leadership today, whether it is in politics, business, education, health or public administration feel like Lincoln did. The times are so uncertain and the problems so challenging. What does the future hold for us?

Just think of a few of the headline issues we face. Global warming and the environmental crisis, water supply and security, world population growth, the global financial crisis, which is really a crisis of greed and morality that may even herald the twilight of the dominance of Western capitalism. Then there is the clash of civilizations as massive people movements around the world force radically different cultures and world views into uneasy connections. The U.N estimates that there are now approximately 43,000,000 refugees and displaced persons around the world as a result of wars, ethnic conflicts, poverty, hunger and climate change.

In the West we are becoming increasingly disturbed by the fraying of the moral and social fabric in what have been for some time relatively stable societies like Australia and the U.K. Drug and alcohol abuse are at alarming levels, and while we have never been wealthier, the percentage of dependent children being taken in to state care keeps rising steeply each year. These depressing examples could be multiplied.

So, what does the future hold for us?

Can we predict it? More importantly, can we influence it?

We have of course always been fascinated by the future but particularly in times of crisis. Our artists and novelists have often prophesied for us – George Orwell’s ‘1984’, Aldus Huxley’s ‘Brave new world’, the prolific H.G Wells, a pioneer of science fiction, wrote many very prescient novels like ‘The World Set Free’ and ‘The Shape of things to come’.  In our own times when film has become the literature of the people visions of the future appear in films like ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Gattica’, ‘The Matrix’, ‘Akira’, ‘Mad Max’, ‘Brazil’, ‘Existenz’, ‘Twelve Monkeys’, ‘The Children of Men’, ‘District 9’, etc. Then there are the natural disaster films like ‘2012’ where a giant tidal wave submerges the world in a modern flood narrative even with contemporary Arks! Then there is the recent film of Cormac McCarthy’s bleak but very moving novel ‘The Road.’

Interestingly these are mostly dystopian and pessimistic visions. That is probably because we tend to see the future through the lens of the present. In confident times we are optimistic and hopeful, in anxious and troubled times we become pessimistic even apocalyptic.

There are three alternative ways we can face the future:

(1) With Pessimism: Pessimism leads to resignation, loss of hope, the suppression of creativity, distraction and the growth of self interest.

(2) With Nostalgia: Nostalgia is a longing for the way things used to be. There is nothing wrong with a little nostalgia, there are many good things to honor and preserve from the past, the past shapes our identities. But you can not steer your vehicle into the future by looking mainly in the rear view mirror, that’s a good way to miss a vital turn you need to make.

(3) The third way is with Creative Imagination: Creative Imagination is that way of thinking that sees the future in a new way and by its vision creates the future. In spite of the plethora of futurologist’s, we can not predict the future with any accuracy. Nor do we discover the future. In fact we create the future! The future is a decision we make now, an intervention in the present. The present is of course the only field of action we have.

To create the future we must first imagine it. Creative imagination, coupled with passion, sees, feels and dreams new possibilities. But to have the energy to create a positive future you have to have an inspiring and guiding moral vision. Whether it’s the dream to create a new vaccine to deliver millions from a debilitating disease or to free people from hunger or injustice, it requires a moral vision.

Hugh Mackay the Australian social researcher has made this point about the need for such a vision in Australian society. We have yearned for a guiding story that would help us make sense of what is happening to us, and to our society. But no such story has emerged, because no such leadership has emerged. (The Mackay Report 1997)

Nietzsche, that strange prophetic voice from the late 19th C., made many pertinent observations about the future direction of Western culture. He wrote:

When cultures loose the decisive influence of God and God dies for a culture they become weightless.

Nietzsche had lost his own faith and he observed that as Europe was loosing hers, the culture was hollowing out. What had given it its energy, strength and moral vision was leaking away and it was becoming weightless. We are living in the remains of that movement today. Western culture is like an old neglected masterpiece that is fading, the paint peeling, mould growing on the canvass. What was it that gave our culture its weight?

Psalm 24 concludes with this shout:

Lift up your heads, O you gates;

Lift them up, you ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

Who is he, this king of glory?

The Lord Almighty  –

He is the King of glory.

Glory is one of the most frequently used words in the Bible to describe the character of God. For us it conveys the idea of radiance, brilliance, light, but the Hebrew word Kabod also carries the idea of weight. But weight in the sense of heavy with truth, laden with love, loaded with justice and holiness – gravitas, the epicenter of reality.

It was this idea that was the defining source of Western cultures values, its energizing creative force, the origin of its sense of  meaning and purpose.

I recently read A C Grayling’s book “Towards the Light”. The sub title is The story of the struggles for Liberty and Rights that made the Modern West. Although he is an atheist he makes it quite clear in his book that many of the most important forces in the human rights movement were Christian. People like Anthony Benezet the French Huguenot who became a Quaker and influenced many of the English and American leaders in the anti slavery movement including Thomas Clarkson and Wilberforce, all committed Christians. There is also a direct line out of that movement into children’s and workers rights and the modern labor movement and finally the UN Charter.

We are still living on this moral and spiritual capital but it is running down. Like money in the bank, if you only draw it down and don’t replace it eventually it runs out!

My point is a fairly simple one – you can provide an excellent education for the young people who pass through your hands, an education that will equip them with all the tools they need in our society to construct successful careers. But to what end? What will they build? What will guide them in how they build? What kind of society will they construct, with what sort of values? The answer to these questions lies in the spiritual and moral realm, where the real weight of a culture is measured.

We can and should provide our young people with an excellent education but unless we also provide them with a moral and spiritual vision we have not provided them with the most essential thing.

As a school with a long Christian tradition I urge you to keep going back to the well, back to that which gave us the best things we have inherited from our culture and its energizing vision. It is true that our Christian institutions have sometimes failed us and failed the Christian vision, but the vision has never failed. It may fade in our minds but its essential glory does not fade.

The New Testament picks up the Old Testament idea of God’s glory (the kabod) and in II Cor.4:6  Says: “God, who said, ‘let light shine out of darkness’ made his light to shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

This is the heart of the vision, this is where our attention should be focused.

Leadership and Power

by Peter Corney

Image Credit: www.wilpf.org/node/86
Image Credit: www.wilpf.org/node/86

There is no effective leadership without power. By power I mean the ability to influence people organizations and structures, the ability to effect change. I will call this ‘real power.’ Such power can be acquired and used legitimately or illegitimately. Formal authority and power are connected but power can be exercised without formal or appointed authority, in such cases it develops its own informal authority. Formal or appointed authority can be without real power and as such is therefore ineffective.

(A) How is power acquired legitimately?

  1. By valid and proper election or appointment such as an election by voters or appointment by a legitimate authority. (Where the criteria used is appropriate gift, ability and some of the other factors listed below real power may also accrue to the person)
  2. By the recognition by others of a persons good character – their integrity, honesty, humility, consistency, commitment, servant hood.
  3. By charisma. Not in the NT sense but in the indefinable attraction that some people posses, the ability to inspire and attract.
  4. By giftedness and talent. More related to the NT gifts of ministry. Eg: Teaching, preaching, organising, leadership, wisdom, relational gifts, etc.
  5. By developing and communicating powerful ideas that people respond to.
  6. By developing vision. This is related to (5)
  7. By communication skills, persuasiveness.
  8. By the ability to engage and involve others skills, gifts, creativity and energy.
  9. By building and earning trust.
  10. By constructing effective structures and organizations.

The empowerment of others is one of the most constructive uses of power. Healthy leaders who have real power and use it well empower others. This multiplies both the effect and the extent of the legitimate use of power. (This is related to (8) above.)

In a fallen world power is often acquired illegitimately and frequently misused. There is a “will to power” in fallen human nature that can be traced back to our original rejection of God’s authority – “You will be like God” were the tempters words. In almost every group a struggle for power and control is present at some time, and some would say, in every relationship. In groups the struggle emerges strongly if there is a vacuum of leadership, poor process and structure or weak leadership. Someone will always seek to exercise power in these situations either out of frustration for the group’s purpose or out of personal opportunism and the desire for power. Insecure leaders create a power vacuum or become over controlling as a way of protecting themselves. This in turn leads to negative reactions and challenges to their authority or passivity and withdrawal by members.

(B) Why and how is power misused?

  1. Through the desire to dominate and control.
  2. Through the fear of others controlling us – control or be controlled.
  3. Through insecurity.
  4. Through pride and the desire to inflate our own importance.
  5. Through the desire to reinforce prejudice and avoid challenge or change,eg: fundamentalism, racism and xenophobia – the fear of the different other.
  6. Through intense or unbalanced conviction, leading to the coercion and control of others. The conviction may be true or false. Leaders of extreme political ideologies, sect and cult leaders fall into this category and sometimes also mainstream religious leaders. [“Convictions can be more dangerous enemies of truth than lies” (1)  “Beware of the well lit prison of a single idea.” (2) ]
  7. Through leaders putting themselves above or outside critique, accountability or due process.
  8. Through the devious manipulation of legitimate processes.
  9. By doing the right thing by wrong means.
  10. Through bullying and threatening others.
  11. By “spiritual blackmail”. This is when the leader claims to have a privileged insight into God’s will and so any resistance to his ideas is resisting God. By controlling others through claiming to have special spiritual insight into a person and using that to control or direct them in a way that effectively removes decision and choice from them. This is also a characteristic of sect and cult leaders.
  12. By over controlling the flow of legitimate discussion and disagreement.
  13. By manipulating peoples vulnerabilities and fears to achieve an outcome. Political leaders sometimes use this to reinforce prejudice, racism, hatred and xenophobia. Religious leaders can do it by threatening the people with God’s disapproval or judgment unless they follow a certain line espoused by the leader.
  14. By playing on the fear of rejection and the desire to belong. There is always a tension between healthy and unhealthy Christian community. Without a sufficiently strong sense of belonging a group has no cohesion or strength. On the other hand if it is too insular or controlling it becomes unhealthy. The key is the creation of a climate where everyone feels free, and is free, to choose and make their own decisions about belonging. A healthy community has permeable and flexible boundaries at the edge but very clear commitments at the center.
  15. Through the desire to be served, feted, privileged, given special treatment and favors’ rather than to serve those they lead.

(C) The results of the use and abuse of power

(1) The illegitimate use.

The illegitimate and abusive exercise of power is immensely destructive. We can all easily recall tragic examples in the political field. Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China and numerous African states, the latest being Zimbabwe. We all know a family somewhere with an abusive parent or overbearing and controlling spouse. Most of us at some time or other have experienced a bullying or manipulative boss. We have all experienced peer groups controlled in the cruelest manner by a dominant teenage de facto leader. There is the teacher who uses their power over certain pupils to humiliate and control them, and there are teachers who have received the same treatment from a powerful group of students! Then there are the Church communities that have been destroyed by the abuse of power by leaders.

There is also the failure of power. That is the failure to exercise it when it is ones responsibility. Many organizations and Churches have been hurt, weakened or died because their leaders failed to exercise their legitimate power. Out of fear of failure or conflict, lack of imagination, or laziness or loss of vision they fail to exercise their power. There are as many organizations and churches hurt by this as by the abuse of power.

(2) The legitimate use.

The result of the legitimate use of power is as constructive as its abuse is destructive.  Organizations are created that educate, grow, heal and develop people. People are empowered by the legitimate use of power. Businesses are developed that provide employment and manufacture goods or provide services that we need. Scientific research is carried out that produces new drugs to heal diseases. Churches are planted and grow and people are led to Christ and developed as healthy disciples.  Government exists and at its best provides order and justice to our society and constructs the infrastructure we need of health and transport and education and to redistribute wealth through taxation to the poor and disadvantaged. One could go on! None of this is possible without the legitimate exercise of “real power”.

(D) Power and institutions

Frequently in institutions, particularly those in decline, the power of appointed authority becomes in effect limited to the rules and regulations of the institution because for various reasons it has lost the ability to energize, renew or change the institution. Often it is those who have acquired real power (see (A) 2-10 above) and informal authority, but who are outside the formal authority structure of the institution, who are the only ones able to renew or change a dieing institution. This may be done by those with real power taking over the old authority at the centre. This is usually resisted and difficult! The other alternative is working from the edge of the institution by new initiatives that ignore or bend the rules or move outside the comfort zone of the institution. This is usually disapproved of by the appointed authority. Rarely, but occasionally, the institution comes to recognize these initiatives as positive and embrace them as a means of renewal. This response is usually very delayed and it is often too late for the institution.

The original purpose of the institution may also be renewed and continued in a fresh way by those with real power and informal authority leaving the institution and creating a parallel or competing new work.

Footnotes: (1)   F. Nietzsche  (2)   G. K Chesterton

An exercise for a staff team

An exercise for a church staff retreat or training day.

 If you lead a church with a staff team the following could be a very useful basis for a staff retreat or training day.

 One of the problems that can develop when staff are appointed to develop particular areas of ministry like youth or children’s ministry is that they become so focused on their area of responsibility that they loose the bigger picture of the whole church community. This is why regular staff meetings are critical and that all staff share in the process of setting goals and future directions for the whole congregation.

 The first key idea in this exercise is that all staff are responsible for building the whole church.

 They are responsible for its growth in four ways:

(1)   Numerically – by evangelism, welcoming and following up new people, contacts and visitors and the follow up of people who drop out.

(2)   Prayerfully

(3)   In spiritual maturity

(4)   Financially in terms of peoples giving

 The second key idea is the link between all areas of ministry. No area should become isolated from the others. Everyone should be aware of what is happening in the other areas and how they affect each other. This is especially true if you have separate sites and multiple congregations.

 Exercise and Questions :

First, individually do an evaluation of your area of ministry using the four growth ways listed above. How well are we doing in each area? Where are the strengths  and weaknesses?


  1. How can I exercise my staff role in my area of ministry so the church is built up more effectively in the four ways listed above?
  2. How can I build stronger links between my area of ministry responsibility and other areas?
  3. How can I build a stronger sense among my leaders and people of being one congregation, one community in Christ?

Then get people to share their findings with the whole group.

 Peter Corney

Leaders and Teams – Free chapter from the book A Passion for Leadership

Chapter Eight:  Leaders and Teams

By Peter Corney

(This is a free chapter from the new book A Passion for Leadership, Insights from Arrow Australia Leadership Team, edited by Peter Corney and Evonne Paddison. Coauthors include: Karl Faase, Stephen Hale, Evonne Paddison, Ian Harper, Sandy Jones, Graham Johnston and Stephen Abbott. It is published here under the Creative Commons Attribution Licence, like the rest of this site. If you find this article useful, I encourage to click here to purchase the book online from Arrow Australia.)

‘He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two…’
(Jesus) Mark 6:7

‘I ask you…help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers …’
(Paul)Phil.4:3 [NRSV]

Why teams?

The NT pattern of ministry is teams!  Monoministry is nowhere to be found in the NT.   Jesus called the twelve to follow Him. When he sent the disciples out to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom he sent them out two by two (Mk.6:7). When the need arose to organise the distribution of assistance to the widows among the early church a team of people was appointed. This team freed up the apostles to concentrate on their work (Acts 6:1-7). This is a great example of ministry teams being developed with complementary gifts and tasks (Note verse 7!).   When the early church saw the opportunity to work with the Gentiles at Antioch they appointed Barnabas who in turn recruited Paul who had the skills and background needed. While thoroughly trained in the Jewish Scriptures Paul was a Roman citizen and spoke fluent Greek. (Acts 11: 19-26).

The NT model of the church as a body makes it crystal clear that the gifts and abilities required for ministry are not all going to be located in one person (1Cor.12:1-31, Rom.12:4-8, Ephes. 4:11-13).  In the church at Antioch we see a leadership team at work (Acts 13:1-3). It was out of their prayers, worship and discussion that the mission to the West was born.  When Paul founded churches he appointed teams of leaders (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5).   He always traveled with co-workers (Acts 16:6, Phil. 4: 2-3).  The NT pattern of ministry from Jesus to Paul seems clear, they worked in teams.

Any one who has worked in a healthy team knows their value. Teams create energy and momentum; you can get more done. They are creative; you can generate multiple ideas, options and solutions to problems and challenges. You’re not alone; the task and the burden are shared. Well led teams are safer and healthier places in which to work than working in isolation. They create community. Teams allow the recruiting of complementary gifts and abilities. They are a great place in which to train people. In the local congregation they also model the shared ministry pattern of the NT, the truth that the gifts of ministry are dispersed throughout the whole body of Christ and need to be released and deployed for effective congregational ministry to take place. They are also more fun!

Recruiting teams

Before you begin to recruit a team certain fundamental structures need to be put in place.
1.   A set of policy statements need to be developed that include a theological statement that sets out your primary theological commitments.  This statement needs to address issues including matters of sexuality and a staff code of conduct.

2.   A standard contract of employment needs to be drawn up by someone with professional expertise in this area. In addition to an initial trial period, make sure the contract enables you to let the person go at the end of the first 12 months. If it is not working out you will generally know by then. A couple of months before the end of the twelve month period a review should take place regarding the future. If you are satisfied then the contract can be extended by two or three year periods.

3.   Remuneration scales and a salary review process need to be determined.

4.   Job descriptions need to be developed.

5.   A supervision structure and a review process determined.

6.   A professional development plan needs to be considered for further training and skills      development.

7.    An induction process planned to introduce the person to the team, the task, the office and the resources. It’s a good idea to allocate a buddy for new team members to call on in the early stages.  This is helpful when they need to know where things are and how they work.

Recruiting principles

Recruiting people is one of the most important things a leader does. Choosing the wrong people is one of the costliest mistakes you can make. People fail in jobs mainly because of personality traits and values that don’t fit the job or the team and the organisation’s culture. A good friend who has years of experience in the recruitment field tells me that most organisations hire people for what they know and fire them for who they are. Therefore the recruitment and interview process is extremely important.

When building the team choose people who:

  • share your theological and missional commitments
  • demonstrate a commitment to Christ, have a servant heart and high moral standards
  • are culturally relevant and appropriate for both the team and the context of ministry
  • fit your ethos
  • are spiritually, emotionally and psychologically healthy
  • have demonstrated competency in the skills required for the role
  • complement the team.

Do not put too much weight on written CVs as they are frequently inflated and sometimes quite misleading. Remember technical or other formal qualifications have little value in predicting whether the person will be an effective member of your team. Always work back and check the references thoroughly.

You should always have an interviewing team of yourself and at least two other people. Work out your interviewing questions carefully beforehand and frame questions that reveal how a person has, or may deal with certain situations and people. Where possible if you can recruit good people from within do so. This has the great advantage of knowing exactly what you are getting, the person already understanding the ethos of the organisation and knowing many of the people. These people begin with a flying start.

Teams can be made up of a variety of combinations:

  • paid staff, both full time and part-time
  • it can include bivocational workers who also hold down another job part-time which may fund their time given voluntarily to work in ministry. I know of chemists, consultants, tree fellers, lawyers, and builders who work in ministry teams in this way
  • full or part time volunteers
  • early retirees
  • theological college or youth work interns, GAP year students, etc
  • combinations of all of the above

A self check for leaders of teams:

1. How well do you know yourself?
Self awareness is critical for becoming a more effective leader. It is vital for leaders to understand their own strengths and weaknesses.  Instruments such as the DISC Leaders profile   are very useful tools to help leaders become aware of their own preferred style and to adapt to the different personalities they will be leading. For example, if you are a big picture person who is impatient with detail you may find your opposite on the team difficult to work with.  The DISC Leaders profile helps you to understand the need for complementary styles and how to adapt your style to work constructively with different people. It is also important to find ways to get honest feedback from someone you trust on your team.

A leader who is insecure or afraid of conflict can cause problems for teams.  Here are some questions to ask your self that may reveal your need to work on these two areas:

  • Are you comfortable with people challenging your ideas and decisions?
  • Do you respond defensively or aggressively to other strong people or those more gifted than you in certain areas?
  • Do you welcome other people participating strongly in the decision making process?
  • Are you very uncomfortable or angry when people appear to be challenging your authority or role?
  • Do you tend to shut down, back away or want to withdraw when conflict looms?
  • Do you take steps to avoid conflict situations?
  • Do you always look for a compromise?
  • How willing are you to face and work through conflict?

Insecure leaders often respond to challenges and difficult problems in one of two ways; either by becoming authoritarian and overly directive or alternatively being indecisive and prevaricating. Both of which usually create more conflict!

2.   How are your meeting leadership skills?
Remember The Four Ps: Poor Preparation leads to Poor Performance! A leader has to chair a lot of team meetings.  If your skills in this area are poor you will frustrate your team, waste a lot of everyone’s time and not get a much done. The most common complaint in organisations is that meetings are poorly run, indecisive and waste time and energy. Here are some simple clues for being more effective:

  • always prepare an agenda
  • determine and announce a time frame and then start and finish on time
  • manage the discussion so everyone gets a go; draw out the quiet ones by sometimes going around the circle and asking every one who has not spoken for a comment
  • bring discussion on topics to a conclusion and make a decision on a specific action
  • decide who will action the decision and by when; when there are minutes, record this
  • like most things, preparation is a key to effectiveness.

3.   Can you change your role?
As a team leader your role will change. You will have more responsibility, more people to manage and more decisions to make. The team has probably grown because the ministry is growing. Complexity increases and the time to make decisions decreases! You will work less directly with people and more through the team and other people. To achieve the organisation’s goals, you must spend more time in planning and strategy, and creating and managing a structure for others to work in.  Unless you learn to manage and prioritise your time, structure your week and organise your diary in more detail you will not cope and you will frustrate and hold back the team.

The chart below illustrates how an increase in staff and size of organization requires a major role change by the team leader. A plumber who starts out running a business with one apprentice can no longer run it the same way when there is a team of 15 plumbers working for the business. He or she now rarely touches a pipe or an S bend! The plumber must now organise the work of others and has a whole new set of responsibilities and tasks that if left undone will lead to the business becoming chaotic and eventually folding.

Leaders and Teams

As the team grows the leader needs to spend more time working on ministry rather than in ministry. Working in ministry in a local church setting includes:

  • preparing for worship services
  • pastoral care
  • visiting the sick
  • personal counseling
  • preparing sermons
  • chairing committees.

Working on ministry means supervising, managing and organising the staff team.  It includes:

  • vision casting
  • strategising
  • planning
  • creating structures that enable other people to exercise their gifts and become involved in ministry
  • recruiting and training leaders
  • motivating and communicating with key lay leaders and those through whom the ministry is actually being done and expanded.

What team members want from their team leader and the team experience

1.   Someone who clearly leads and involves the team
Team members want to be involved in the process of planning, problem solving, creative thinking and decision making in a consultative way so everyone can participate. They need to feel they can contribute their ideas and opinions to the team process. Contemporary leaders need to be authoritative but not authoritarian. If team members can not contribute they will become passive, and creative energy, one of the great advantages of a team, is lost.

2.   Someone who knows how to get a team working synergistically
A good leader can enable team members to combine their individual talents and different strengths in a complementary, rather than competitive way.  Once again the DISC leadership profile is a very helpful instrument for understanding how to do this. Edward De Bono’s Six Hats exercise is also a fun way to teach this insight to a team.

3.   Regular well run meetings that start and finish at the designated time

Teams want their leader to manage the discussion so everyone is able to participate, decisions are arrived at and tasks delegated to people for action. In every team meeting there is a tension between the tasks to be done and the individual needs of the members. These vary all the way from a team member’s health or family concerns to a strong desire to get a pet project up. It could be a need to be acknowledged or heard on a particular point. It could be that a particular team member’s area of work is regularly overlooked or taken for granted. The leader has to balance these with the group’s tasks where individual needs cannot dominate and deflect the group from achieving their tasks. On the other hand the leader needs to be aware of people’s needs and not drive the process so hard that the tasks are achieved but at the cost of people feeling ignored or steamrolled. The leader must exercise creative balance between the tasks and individual needs when leading a meeting.


4.   Forward planning
Members of a team not only need to know the big picture of the forward vision but also the more detailed plan for the year ahead. Team members will have different areas of responsibility and it is crucial that key dates and events for each area of ministry are coordinated. This is best done around October for the coming year at an annual planning day.  This avoids unnecessary clashes and competition over people and physical resources. It also reinforces the sense of intentionality and direction for the team and encourages everyone to plan ahead.

5.   Good communication
Many tensions arise in teams through poor communication.  Poor communication is almost always unintentional but nevertheless annoying and sometimes very damaging. As the leader, you need to set the climate by regularly communicating your ideas, hopes and future plans as well as your feelings about how things are going. Remember though that whenever you communicate your feelings they will affect the emotional tone and morale of the team, so be careful how you communicate negative or anxious feelings. The team leader is like a thermometer who sets the emotional temperature! If anyone in charge of an area of ministry is planning a major change of direction or use of space or resources these need to be flagged at the regular staff meeting for discussion as this usually affects others.

6.  Access to the leader
Team members need to feel that you are accessible but you need to set up a realistic expectation of accessibility. One approach is the open or closed door policy. If your door is open you are able to be interrupted, if it’s closed you are not. You also need to communicate that if team members have a serious problem they can talk to you without an appointment. Otherwise meetings should be by appointment. In addition, every team member should have a regular supervision meeting with their supervisor. This should be at least monthly and more often for new staff or inexperienced people. The team leader should not supervise more than four people. Supervision should involve an element of pastoral care.

7.  Evaluation.
All team members should have a formal evaluation twice a year, one at the beginning and the other towards the end of the year. This will involve a review of the job description, goals, hours, remuneration, in-service training and general performance.

8.  Community.
People want to enjoy working and being together. Effective and happy teams build a sense of community. The experience has got to be fun as well as being challenging and stimulating. There should be a time for sharing personally at regular team meetings. The length needs to be specified and controlled so it does not absorb too much of the meeting time.  Occasional retreats away together which include fun and recreation as well as work are important. Affirming and celebrating team member’s achievements such as a successful children’s holiday program just completed as well as birthdays and other special events are very valuable in building community and a culture of encouragement. Remember eating together is a great community builder. Attending a training course or conference together and then debriefing on learning can be very effective.

9.  Team meeting evaluation.
Occasionally the leader should give some time for the group to evaluate the way the team is working together and the team meetings. It is important for the leader to listen to this feedback.

Good and bad leaders.

My wife, who is a Christian Religious Education teacher in a state primary school, was doing a lesson on leaders in the Bible and she asked her class of 7 and 8 year olds what they thought was a good leader and a bad leader. Their contributions were very insightful.

A bad leader is someone who:

  • shouts at others
  • thinks they are better or cleverer than others
  • orders you about
  • whispers about other people
  • makes fun of you or gets angry when you can’t do something
  • tells you to do bad things
  • always goes first because they are the leader.

On the other hand, a good leader is someone who:

  • always asks you to do things
  • says please and thank you and is respectful
  • cares for everyone on the team
  • lets everyone take a turn at leading
  • encourages you
  • treats everyone the same
  • can be trusted.

Out of the mouth of babes!


When people are asked what the most important quality they want in their leaders is, the most frequent answer is integrity. Integrity is the consistency of word and life, profession and practice. Above all team members want their leaders to act with integrity, to be consistent, and to be someone they can trust.

1. Disc Classic 2.0, (Inscape Publishing, 2004).DISC Classic 2.0 Inscape Publishing Inc. 2004
2. E de Bono, Six Thinking Hats (Boston Little, Brown, 1985).