What was something noted as an interesting trend for a while has become a point of discernment for me and our work at TTWM. Here is the main point:
Leadership structures within local churches are no longer static; they are either breathing life into that local body, or they are suffocating it.
Seasons of the Church throughout the 20th century, particularly the first half of the 20th century, saw leadership structures that were effective, though not necessarily biblical. Those structures were tools to accomplish a mission (usually the perpetuation and growth of that church’s institutional life), and internal church political structures could be empowered for mission, or could be politically skirted for the sake of mission. Local church structures of leadership were primarily pragmatic in nature, a means to an end.
This is no longer the case. In my work with dozens of local churches over the last three years particularly, the above point of discernment is ringing true again and again. Church structures of leadership are either life-giving or life-killing. Pragmatism has gone. Churches who embrace fully biblical, spiritually discerning leadership structures are experiencing unprecedented dimensions of health and life in the Spirit within their local church. Churches who choose anti- or extra-biblical corporate structures of leadership are slowly dying.
Fear and control are often what stops local churches from making this essential shift in leadership structures. Usually the fear and control is not widespread in the congregation. Rather, fear and/or control is generally embraced and projected by a few people (5-10) who, interestingly, are often of the Baby Boomer generation. This small group of fearful or controlling people (sometimes official leaders, often not), are often afraid of process required to shift leadership structure, and thus control that process bringing about the suffocation of the discernment that would lead the leadership of that local church into alignment with the mind of Christ.
Presence-based discernment and communal determination to follow what is discerned from the Lord is what is required to align church structures with the Scriptures. Churches who are willing to look at their brothers and sisters who are held in the grip of fear and/or control, listen in love, and still say, “The Lord has spoken, and we will follow, even if it is not what you want,” are the local churches who will receive the freedom and life of structures of leadership that are aligned with Christ and His Word.