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leading the free: an elders tale

leading the free: an elders tale

i didn't really want to be an elder, they said that was why i was right for the job. i knew the church, i had imbibed its ethos. i knew the people and loved them lots, they seemed to trust and listen to me. i had time and had some ideas. i had been going to leadership meetings for about a year and didn't have a good reason not to so when asked i submitted to the church and became an elder.

to use an apt cliche my ordination was a humbling experience. in front of the church, people speaking about me. they asked big questions. i said yes.

Mosaic is a free church. for good or ill we don't have many rules or traditions. leadership is not a big thing. participation is a big thing. folk get involved, or they don't. there are not many shoulds and oughts. people are free and growing in freedom, that's been my experience at least.

about 6 months after i was made an elder gathering some of the congregation for a decision. there was a big issue in need of resolution. we had been thinking and praying about it for months and came up with what seemed like a good way forward. it was too big a deal for us to decide alone, we were looking for agreement from the congregation. by the end of the meeting we had a consensus. our plan was soundly rejected and we left with a clear mandate to take things in a quite different direction to what we had concluded.

a few of months later, there was another decision, another big one, though quite straightforward, we thought. we elders had considered and reflected and settled on what seems like a good option. there was a gathering, an unexpectedly broad conversation and in the course of it we reached a consensus. a decision could not be reached, the community needed more time. our proposal was sidelined.

after this second gathering i was simultaneously delighted, exasperated and confused . delighted because it had been a great unexpected discussion that covered a lot of interesting ground and eventually led to a exciting generous conclusion. exasperated because we had had a plan it seemed so simple and we had thought and talked about it a lot and then from nowhere a whole huge question had swallowed up our simple decision and now we had no idea what was coming next. confused because i could not tell if this repeated circumstance was a sign of our incapacity as leaders or the freedom and maturity of the congregation.

now after just over a year as an elder i am more settled in what it is to lead a church and to be led by a church. leaders do not need a cast-iron vision, management tactics and a road map to get everyone there. in a healthy congregation we all lead and we all follow. its not a 5 steps to an easy this or 7 marks of a certain that but 1 step this way and 3 steps that. it is a dance. the people of God moving together. leading and being led together. responding to the Fathers initiative together. discerning Christ way together. so relax, stay close and feel where the wind of the Spirit will lead us all next.