Leadership from the Bottom Up

September 2, 2011

While recuperating from vertigo in Minneapolis last weekend, one of my “test drives” was a walk within the Mall of America with my husband.  All comments about its excesses aside, one of the mall’s imposing features certainly captivated our attention: a 34-foot robot made entirely of Lego® blocks! Peering at it from various angles and levels, we could only conclude that there must have been a plan and that it was built from the bottom up, one block and one body part at a time.

We’ve all had a chance to peer at this “new Reformed body” and the Fellowship of Presbyterians for awhile now, and the question of how a functioning entity will arise from a pile of Presbyterian blocks captures the imagination. Others probably have more organizational leadership theory to draw upon than I do, but biblical theology and ministry experience have taught me a thing or two:

When it comes to the church, the “building” is its people (1 Cor 3:9). If its people grow in faith and knowledge of the Son of God, the “structure” becomes the very dwelling place of God (Eph 2:22). Those people do not just lock arms in fellowship and call themselves the Church. God’s Holy Spirit works on them and in them to each become an essential, strong, and interlocking component of the finished structure (1 Cor 12). Through the dynamic of building, the Lord also raises up leaders, who—if proven faithful in small things—can be entrusted to take more responsibility in the larger endeavor.

Those individual disciples of Jesus Christ were made so by the patient teaching of gifted saints and their incorporation into the church’s common life through baptism (Mt 28:19-20). Their equipping was incomplete, however, if it did not include exposure to the whole counsel of God in the Scriptures, practice at conveying the God’s Story in ways understandable to the present generation, and learning how to live in and live out the grace and truth of the gospel.

While the national movement called The Fellowship of Presbyterians takes shape and form in the months to come, every single Presbyterian leader—pastor, teacher, elder—should start now sorting the pile of Legos® close at hand. This means engaging in a very intentional effort to develop their church members as disciples and future leaders, help them identify their spiritual gifts, give them opportunity to practice faith and ministry as a way of life, and encourage spiritual practices that enable them to function within the covenant community as mature, contributing members.

Further, this bottom-up leadership must be exercised to help evangelical congregations within a presbytery to find each other, discover one another’s gifts and emphases, work with each other for a common purpose, and build a functioning community that can differentiate itself from any troubling waywardness of their presbytery. In my neck of the woods, this has resulted in the formation of an evangelical caucus, which has been addressing matters related to discipline, gracious dismissal, and now cooperation to find a way forward.

The advantage of bottom-up leadership is its ability to adapt to local conditions, build healthy and helpful relationships, and attend to the very real day-to-day issues that make disciple-making such a challenge. Local conditions—or context—make leadership at the local level absolutely necessary, an essential part of the national movement taking shape in the weeks to come. In fact, there are some things top-down leadership cannot accomplish, but pastors, teachers, and elders can. So while you’re waiting for the Seven Dwarfs to formulate a plan for a NRB, you have plenty to do to assemble an arm, leg, or kidney of Christ’s Body where you live!

Tomorrow: The purpose and role of top-down leadership


2 Responses to “Leadership from the Bottom Up”

  1. Mary Fields Says:

    Legos . Logos. Listen.

  2. Mary Fields Says:

    I wanna go to that great mall! Sounds awesome.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s