Leonard Sweet wrote a book entitled Aqua Church that I never read. I like the title as it seems to communicate that the church is ever-changing, ever-growing, and evolving to speak truthfully to its own context. Maybe the book isn’t about at all but it has got my mind churning about this same idea when it comes to leadership in mission work. Aqua leadership perhaps.
I have had a series of conversations this week about seeing church planting and mission work continued in ways that are not solely centered on a leader. Though I’m not sure that we’ve done that successfully around here, I have tried to hold things with a loose fist, clinging only to those things that are absolutely necessary to see the Gospel race through the streets in our hood. If anything, I am probably too fast to turn things over when people have an idea or desire to serve. Take it or leave it, this is what we’ve become and we continue to try to figure out how to serve our neighbors from three different parts of the world who practice three different religions. That all being drawn out of some wonderful leaders with very, very different ideas on how to accomplish our mandate.
I find it frustrating, perhaps even troubling, that books and conferences are often pitched from the standpoint of doing mission from an exclusive style of mission and vision. Of course we need hands and feet to mission, vision, and purpose, but this often is the starting point. I have watched friends and colleagues be unwilling to bend on the styles of how much mission is accomplished that they end up producing mini-versions of themselves, doing mini-versions of what God may have actually had in mind. This all has been a very difficult process as I think I’m right about most things. Letting go and letting people run wild with the passions god has placed inside of them is the only way I know how to lead. I have been straight-jacketed and I’ve done my share of the same; we all hate the way this stifles. I’m so thankful that I have had a team that follows the Lord where He is leading them, not simply blindly following some mission statement we put on a website somewhere.
It is true that we run the risk of seeing churches and ministries run in all sorts of directions when we have this aqua leadership thing going on. If we don’t discern the Spirit’s voice, we’ll just do everything imaginable. It is the classic quote by Stephen Neill, “When everything is mission, nothing is mission.” Surely there is more truth in that statement than we care to realize. Perhaps the words of Neill and other plausible advice about narrowing our vision in a community have actually made us experts at minor realities. What I mean to say is that many teams and organizations tend to define their mission not so much around a narrow Gospel mandate, but more around a how-to strategy to serve a certain niche of the population. What if the Gospel was for everyone? And what if all under our gaze were neighbors entrusted to us by the Lord? I wonder if we would spend so much money on advertising, promoting, and being cool to attract attention as we would on the thought of. . . “Man, we have to see this whole village transformed by Jesus!”
The organization I serve with, International Teams has the vision of bringing all people, affinity groups, and organizations in a small geographical community together to see the Kingdom of God reign there. Societal re-creation. I like it. This isn’t rocket science is it? Jesus gave us a mandate to make disciples of all the nations and we as leaders have been given a mandate to see things ebb and flow in our community. Maybe everything falls apart when we leave. Maybe no one follows our style. Lots of maybes, but when fully empowered by God to engage in mission that has nothing to do with our reputation and everything to do with the Kingdom of God, people can’t help but fall in love with this Creator Everyone has this sense that there is something wrong in the world. Society is jacked up. Together we can join with Jesus, leading from the bottom.
This could very well be the only leadership blog I’ve ever written. It isn’t a topic I muse over too much. Yet, it is a topic close to my heart. Aqua leadership – leading sideways, desperate for His Kingdom. Let people go crazy . . . let His glory fill the earth like waters cover the sea.