Thursday, July 2, 2009

Results of a leadership vacuum

I’m involved in several online groups and forums. Some are moderated and some aren’t. Because of recent events on a couple of these groups, I’ve begun to think about leadership and the need for it.

I know that for many of us who are no longer involved in a local church, the thought of leadership brings back some very unpleasant memories. So, before I start sharing my thoughts, let me say that I do NOT agree with the pastoral form of leadership that is used in most institutional churches today. I don’t believe this was the biblical form used by the early church nor was it set in place by the first apostles. Rather than strengthening the church, I believe this form of leadership actually hinders its growth and maturing.

That being said, I think leadership is necessary but should be fluid. The style used will vary and change with the circumstances and I believe the day will come when members of the church will have grown to the point that they will be able to lead themselves. However, if anyone has recently been involved in any online groups, I’m sure you’re aware that many who participate have not developed in self-control and their behavior can become destructive to themselves and to others. For that reason, leadership is still necessary.

However, let me say that I believe the micro-manager style of leadership is NEVER acceptable. A good leader in my opinion should maintain a loose grip over the group and may at times almost seem to disappear into the background. Yet, he will emerge if necessary to deal with issues and to encourage. Then, he will return into the background.

On unmoderated forums, the leader is so far in the background that he almost never emerges and has little influence over how the group functions. That works just fine if the members have matured and are led by love. This style of leadership becomes a problem, however, when the members of the group are not living free and are being controlled by impure motives. In these groups where there is a vacuum in leadership, leadership will ALWAYS emerge. People who are gifted as leaders will naturally begin to move forward and I believe that’s a God ordained flow.

In all of the online groups I’m involved with, I’ve seen this happen. I get excited when I see natural leaders begin to come forward to love and encourage the others. In these healthy groups, it’s not just one person but leadership may move and flow from one person to another to another until the entire group is involved in encouraging and moving the group forward. This is very similar to the V-formation in which geese fly. The geese continually rotate so that each goose take a turn flying in the lead position.

In online groups, the problem usually arises when the group has grown large. Over time, in unmoderated groups, there will eventually arise someone whose natural gift of leadership is tainted by impure motives. They will begin to draw around them an alliance of weaker individuals who will protect and support them. If, at that point the person who has actual authority over the group doesn’t step forward and re-instate order, the group is headed for a takeover. Then, when the takeover is complete, the new leader will rule with an arm of steel to silence anyone who attempts to question them.

We tend to think that spiritual abuse can only take place in an institutional church. However, we need to be aware that spiritual abuse exists outside of the institutional church. It exists whenever a leader forces his own agenda on the group at the expense of the other members. Abusive leaders can infiltrate a home group as well as an online group.

Although the primary purpose of this blog is to share about the life of grace, a secondary purpose is to inform and to encourage those who have been victimized by spiritual abuse. If you believe you’ve been a victim of spiritual abuse, please refer to the resources on my sidebar and don’t be ashamed. There is help and there is freedom available.


Sue said...

Bravo, Aida. Good points all.

I guess there are always going to be immature leaders drawing weak people around them. They do not understand the damage they are doing.

I guess that will never change really, will it? But still, if there could be enough freedom wthin christian circles to understand what real leadership is, the mature leaders could take charge.

I guess life is never going to be as nice and seamless as I would like. Not in this age, anyway (unless Papa has something to say about that, and sometimes I despair that things will ever really change). I just think how amazing it will be to be together like an orchestra :)

Aida said...

Sue, you are right. Until Jesus fully establishes his kingdom, there will always be those who will seek to control and manipulate others for their own purposes.

My goal is to make people aware of the dangers so that they can make wise choices for themselves and their families and not submit themselves to abusive leadership. The damage done by an abusive leader can be far reaching and extensive and healing is often a lengthy process. I say that from personal experience.

Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

Hi Aida :-),
I could hardly believe it when Anne and I read this, especially since you posted it on July 2nd. It reminded me instantly of the conversation we had on July 4th, these are the things that make me know how good God is. He cares, and loves even for a mixed up character like me. Thank you for posting this and for being a good and kind friend! If only some of these "pop-up" leaders knew how much they can hurt an introverted and highly sensitive person with just a few thoughtless words. I hate being blamed for being hurt, the ones who do the hurting are forever pointing a finger and saying we are just to sensitive and have to get ourselves fixed. Maybe thats too direct but its how it has always made me feel rightly or wrongly. Thanks again, I sure have missed being around :-)

Aida said...

Ron, I’m glad this post was an encouragement to you.

Leaders of that type are so wrapped up in their own issues and interests that the needs of others never enter their minds. It’s really all about them and that’s why it’s so hard to get them to understand. I know that’s true from personal experience. I spoke honestly to an abusive pastor as had others but he just wouldn’t hear. I guess the desire to be in control outweighs any concern for others. I think until they allow themselves to receive God’s love, they’ll always be striving to attain and it’ll never be enough. In the process, many innocent people will be trampled upon.

I know you’ve been hurt and I believe healing begins when we stop blaming ourselves. Until then, we’ll just be someone’s whipping boy.

Don’t stress over being mixed up. We all have our areas of confusion. We just tend to react differently. Thanks for you kind words. I always enjoy talking to you and I value our friendship very much.

lionwoman said...

Great post Aida, and thanks for reminding me about the V-formation of the geese. I remember you blogged about that a while back.

Aida said...

Thanks, Amy. I think the V-formation in which geese fly is a beautiful picture of the way the church is supposed to function . . . . everyone taking their turn in leading and encouraging. We'd all get there faster if this was the method used by the church.