Getting Things Done (on Mac)
EmergAnt.: A One Week Tour

Mixing Our Wineskins?

Can emerging churches survive traditional top-down systems of governing?

What do you think about this? Emergent systems have a self-regulatory, mutual accountability system that enables everyone to participate and keep the system healthy. Which is why no one is insisting that someone organize and govern the internet - better to have the whole system work it out than hand it to one group, or one government.
Who would you trust? If anyone? The community seems better equipped than a single leader. Even Jesus suggested that 2 or 3 witnesses have a better angle on the truth than a single person.

The reason i am saying this is because:
The emergent dynamics of the new churches have a decentralized, non-hierachical leadership system that seems to work. But because it doesn't look like anyone is in charge, the older organizations sometimes insist that their old leadership forms be adopted. And then what was previously working explodes or implodes.

- Case in point - a new church in USA was doing great until an organization gave them some money, and gave it to someone they recognized as the "Leader". This created distrust among the group and it imploded with a lot of bitterness.

- Other implosions have happened when a single leader was ordained by another, more hierachical group (NOS came up recently as an example of this).

If it is true that we cannot mix old leadership styles with new emergent churches, then we really need a whole new way of training, evaluating, and communicating backwards so that the older churches can understand and allow the new wineskins to grow.
David Garrion's book "Church Planting Movements" is helpful, since he is observing similar problems in India and China.

"Church planting movements are at home in their environment. They dont have the smell of foreignness to them. Their leadership is local; they worship in the community's heart language; they meet in their own homes.
There are at least three ways that Church Planting Movements can succumb to alien abduction:
1. by forcing new believers to exchange their cultural forms for alien ones
2) by creating a welfare system of foreign dependency, and
3) by injecting foreign elements into the life of the church that cannot be locally reproduced.
Any one of these alien invaders can cripple a Church Planting Movement."
page 252-253, Church Planting Movements: How God is redeeming a lost world, David Garrison

So what i am thinking is this:

The old hierachical model of leadership may be a foreign element to emergent churches and therefore will cripple any future growth or reproduction.


Accountability and leadership are dispersed in the emergent model. Leadership is dynamic, and everyone in the organization is equipped to innovate at the right time. Accountability is mutual and even those leading for the moment are not beyond the accountability system of the whole organization.

Enter the foreign system - in which a 'Qualified Person' is singled out, raised up, ordained, told to send reports on behalf of the emergent church to a foreign group of people. Now we have a two-tiered system of leadership - the "Leader" and the "non-leaders". We have not only withdrawn leadership and innovation from the new group, but we have done something even worse - we have removed the mutual accountability system and therefore crippled the governing ability of the whole organism.

If this is true, and i am just thinking out loud - i might be wrong - in fact i hope i am wrong - but if this is true, then we need to

1. still attempt to maintain unity with the wider body of Christ
2. at the same time realize that mixing foreign elements can be dangerous
3. focus on new wineskins for the new wine.
4. Get used to the idea that emergent churches will have an emergent system of government that will be different to their predecessors, and yet still be anchored into the pages of the Bible.

In fact, the idea of multiple elders and mutual accountability is probably a lot more biblical than the more recent 'senior pastor' model which doesn't seem to appear in the New Testament.

(not to say it is wrong- i believe we have ecclesiastical freedom to use the forms that make sense and work- which is why we should be tolerant of older church forms)

Anyway, what do you think??????