Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ –
May grace and peace be yours in abundance (I Peter 1:2a). – ….. –
In February I began a series of brief articles on the Marks of a Missional Congregation relying heavily on Stephen P. Bouman’s, The Mission Table: Renewing Congregation & Community (© 2013 Augsburg Fortress).
Each article includes Scripture, questions for reflection and discussion, and a prayer. Perhaps your church council, adult study, youth group, coffee group will use these monthly writings as a time to engage in learning, discernment and reflection together. Previous month’s articles are available on the synod website: www.albertasynod.ca
A congregation in mission nurtures communal leadership.
In Exodus 2:11-12 we read that Moses killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew. A familiar interpretation of this story is that when Moses saw that the coast was clear – “he looked this way and that” – he killed the Egyptian. Hillel, a rabbi and contemporary of Jesus, offers another understanding. He said that Moses was looking for help. He looked left and right, and when he saw that he was alone, he reluctantly fought and killed the man. Hillel believed that the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures are about this story, about the building of community so that Moses and Israel would never again be in the position where “he looked this way and that way, and [saw] no one….” Indeed the Passover narrative is about a diverse group of slaves journeying through the sea and the wilderness and becoming a people with a communal identity.
Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, seeks to help Moses be a better community organizer and argues for communal leadership (Exodus 18:13-27). “Are you crazy, Moses, trying to discern the issues of everyone all at once all by yourself? Why don’t you organize with a team of leaders?”
Jerome, who lived in the fourth century AD, said, “Ecclesia non est quae habet sacerdotes,” which translates roughly, “There can be no church community without a leader or team of leaders.”
Mission today will be led by teams of leaders with a deep reservoir of gifts and talents that build up the leadership of the body of Christ. Leadership that takes its cue from the apostle Paul: one body, many members.
In his book, Reclaiming the Great Commission, Episcopal Bishop Claude Payne writes of “total ministry,” which exists where the pastoral leadership of the congregation belongs to the whole community and there is a commitment to the development of a strong collective of lay leaders. Congregations are enriched by lay leaders, many may have participated in our Synod’s Lay Pastoral Assistants courses and program.
In Colombia, our companion Synod, Lutheran congregations have teams of leaders. There are local leaders (usually spiritual leaders who come from the community), diaconal ministers (many who are trained as social workers), trained musicians, social ministry organizations, clergy, and so on.
Whether in Colombia or in the urban or rural contexts of our Synod, the trend for lay and pastoral leadership will continue to be toward homegrown leaders.
Where mission flourishes, leadership multiplies.
Read and Reflect: Exodus 18:13-27
Discuss and Reflect:
- What in this reading leads you to say, “I wonder about…?”, or, “I noticed…?”
- Comment on the statement: Where mission flourishes, leadership multiplies.
- How does your community of faith share and develop leadership among a variety of people?
Pray together: Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, but always to your glory and the welfare of your people, through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen. (Commitment, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 86)
The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).
In Christ Jesus –
The Rev. Dr. Larry Kochendorfer, Bishop
Synod of Alberta and the Territories
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada