As part of my preparation for attending Cape Town 2010 I’ve been reading the advance papers. The latest is Local Leaders in the Global Church by Paul Joshua Bhakiaraj. Below are a few highlights and then my comments.
Paul challenges the leadership models that the Church has more recently used. He starts by highlighting how Jesus chose twelve followers, trained them and sent them on a mission. As this practice has been developed by Paul and many others over the centuries this has been critical to the development of the church.
Having highlighted the importance of leadership development, Paul goes on to challenge the concept of leadership involving the exercise of authority over others:
In Christian mission “authority” resides in Christ alone, not in the missionary’s experience, nor his economic power, or his theological/technological acumen. Ours is the claim, not to authority, but to be covenant partners of Christ, the one who now stands as victor over sin, death and the devil. Leadership in mission is therefore not exercising authority; rather it is standing under the all pervasive Lordship of Christ and following with gratitude and in obedience to his calling.
Whilst I understand the need to see through a priesthood of all believers that we are all leaders and servants, as he goes on to stress:
The church and world desperately need leaders who will serve and servants who will lead.
For me this section was over-stressed, and loses the importance of structure, and the understanding that as an organisation grows it has to develop structure and therefore models of authority and responsibility for the continued cohesiveness of an organisation.
Paul, very helpfully, goes on to look at the need for a polycentric faith:
No longer can we think of Rome and/or Canterbury and/or Colorado Springs as the primary representative centres of Christianity. To be true to this new reality called World Christianity we will now need to accord Buenos Aires, Chennai, Lagos, Nairobi, Santiago, Seoul, Shanghai and other such places equal if not more importance.
This excites me, although with so many denominations and organisations I think it will be difficult to see this actually happen, I can’t, for example, see the Archbishop of Canterbury moving power to Africa, Asia or Latin America. And yet as Paul writes, it is imperative:
unlike the previous era the gospel cannot be represented by a western image and Christian history cannot be guided by a western master narrative, political, economical or theological.
This paper leaves me asking more questions and looking forward to the discussion it will bring in Cape Town.