I was on the “Resignation of Eve” teleconference call last night, and someone said something that didn’t come back to me until today.

They mentioned the whole idea of church leadership being about power…and the absence thereof for women in particular.

As I was driving today, that sentence suddenly hit me.

What if we are trying to create communities of power instead of influence? What if we are pulling things to ourselves instead of distributing the gifts God has given us with generosity? What if the idea of a ministry career is just so much huey – not because being in ministry is bad – because it isn’t, but because we aren’t successful until our life meets the picture in our head, and if the picture in our head is based on a power model instead of an empowerment model, we are climbing the wrong pyramid.

A long time ago, I thought that the church needed a change in models. To date, we have been using the business model, supposedly in reverse – we call it the upside down pyramid.

The problem with the upside down pyramid is two-fold – 1) the guy on the bottom is now on the top, no matter how we believe it is different – he/she still holds the power and direction for the organization. 2) When you have a linear structure, there is a propensity to want to be in the “in crowd”. The problem is that the pyramid narrows towards the top/bottom, and therefore fewer and fewer people can be part of the group. Therefore, if an extremely gifted person comes into the model, but there is already someone with similar giftings at the apex of the pyramid, he or she will promote themselves right out of the model, looking for a place to fit.

What if we had a different model – more like an L shaped arrow or an arm. At the top of the arm is the connection to Life (God). At the other end of the arm is the outreach, or how we interact with people who don’t know Jesus. Instead of being at one end or another, pastors work in teams to gift people throughout the organism to be the best at being the person they were called to be. Some will find their sweet spot in being closer to the top, focused on worshiping God and disseminating what He is saying. Others will stand focused on people who don’t know Jesus and finding ways for the church to make a real difference in the lives of those around us. An arm that isn’t well connected to the Source is useless – so is an arm that is so focused on it’s connection that it never moves. Pastors move throughout the model, equipping, disseminating information, connecting those who are focused upwards with those who are focused outward so as to make a working team.

This isn’t a necessarily a big church model. Big church requires a common, focused identity. This model assumes that each person who is a part of the church is a minister, and the focus is on equipping them to minister where ever God has placed them. In order to grow larger than about 250 people, it would take an extraordinary leadership team that is able to see the direction God is moving the congregation and empower people, not just by releasing them to ministry and giving them resources to do the job, but by showing them how they fit together with everyone else.

I believe strongly that leadership is by permission – this means that you aren’t actually leading unless people are following you. However, sometimes following isn’t the best word. Sometimes people are moving in the direction we point them because we have led them – we have garnered influence and used it to help them become who Jesus called them to be. Helping people work together can sometimes look like we open the doors for others, letting them explore the Spirit’s call and discover how their inner world meets with their outer world. As they live the life Christ called them to, we see God making a big difference in a world that is desperate to know Him.