Brian Stiller



Global Ambassador @ WEA

Brian Stiller



Global Ambassador @ WEA

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Looking for Leaders

March 30, 2000 Articles

I could tell my friend Kent was deeply concerned by the way he leaned across the dinner table. With furrowed brow and somber tones he commented, “Our real problem in Canada is leadership. We just have too few of them.”

“Yes,” I thought to myself, you don’t have to convince me.” It was such a concern of mine that in 1983 I proposed to Dr. Leighton Ford that we do a world-wide conference on younger leadership and, as so often happens, I ended up running it: Singapore ’87.

However the problem is there is so much blarney cooked up in our legitimate concern that the issue – “What we really need are more leaders.” – gets skewed. In the end, we lament the issue without having exegeted the problem.

Here are two issues which need consideration.

First, the “Canadian” issue. Not much of a surprise I suppose, but usually ignored. Caught between the American fondness for charismatic leaders and the European proclivity for the understated we end up not quite sure what we want in our leaders. While we have many Canadian models, we chose to emulate those ideas flowing from the actual works of Americans. Not unlike the recent testing of Canadian youth regarding their heroes – who chose Michael Jordan over Wayne Gretzky and the American President over the Canadian Prime Minister – the power of American models crushes the search for an indigenous model.

Added to that is that some of our finest end up in the US. Leaving to attend American colleges and seminaries, they get married, are offered positions and then stay. Others, having built a reputation for leadership in Canada seem unable to resist the lucrative and challenging offers of the south, or they just plainly “hear from God.” In either case we lost them.

So we not only lose some of our finest but end up being culturally swamped. Publishers, radio/television networks, colleges/ seminaries and organizations promote Americans. Not having a Canadian book publisher, how does a Canadian build up their reputation so others will want to hear what they have to say? I know that to run a successful conference in Canada, a strong American speaker is most often needed or you’ll have a tough time drawing a crowd.

Then there is the matter of what kind of leader is a leader? Church battles are fought out of confusion by not understanding our ecclesiology – meaning our biblical vision of the church. The two opposites of church models for evangelicals are the Episcopal (examples, Pentecostals and Christian and Missionary Alliance) and congregational (examples, Baptists and Mennonites) models.

For the Pentecostals and Christian and Missionary Alliance, while their ministers are voted on by the congregation, the pastor is held responsible for running the church, much like the priest in a Anglican or Catholic church, or in business, a CEO. In the PAOC churches for example, the bylaws state that the pastor is to chair of the Board of Elders or Deacons.

On the opposite side are Baptists and Mennonites who are congregational. In this model, it’s the congregation which runs the church – by committees – and the pastor is the person hired to serve by way of preaching and pastoral care.

So what kind of leader do you want? Well, it all depends on your tradition and expectation. One Sunday while preaching in a Christian and Missionary Alliance church a member of the board took me aside and described the problem he was having with their current pastor who he saw as too dominant. I learned that this church member had been raised in a Mennonite church and from that had a clear vision in his mind of what a pastor/leader should be. “What we really need is a servant/leader,” he said. He wanted his minister to conform to the servant/leader of his own past.

In surprising juxtaposition just weeks later while speaking to couple from a Baptist church, they describe their disappointed in that their minister didn’t show “strong” leadership. “He waits for church committees to report, but he doesn’t tell us what he’s hearing from God. We need strong leadership,” one said to the nodding agreement of the other. They had been raised in a Pentecostal church and were used to the minister running the board and providing the church with strong direction.

Who is right? Of course between these two polarities of Episcopal and congregational models there are many varieties. But caught is the pastor whose congregants come from backgrounds in which another model flourished. These members bring into their current church their sense of what “Godly leadership really is,” assuming that what they have learned and experience is what is both right and best.

So before we protest to the lack of leadership, define expectations and what is meant.

This, however, is more than an issue for leadership in the church. We also decide on what we expect from leadership in the wider community.

Brian C Stiller

ChristianWeek March 2000