Charismatic Leadership

‘Leadership’ is all the rage. Many seminaries offer programs that boast courses on ‘leadership development’ and such. Many books on leadership I’ve seen are based on secular business methods. The problem is, what are pastors/priests? Are we religious CEOs or something else? Are we the ‘non-anxious presence’ of systems theory?

Two books on my shelf are bucking this trend. The first (which I have read twice) is Empowered Church Leadership by Brian J. Dodd, and the second (which I am currently reading) is called Soul Mending by Fr. John Chryssavgis.

Dodd is a evangelical church-plant type and Chryssavgis is an Orthodox priest. Dodd uses the apostle Paul as his model of leadership and Chryssavgis the desert fathers. Both point to ‘charisamtic leadership,’ but not in the sense of slick and ‘crowd pleasing.’ They speak of charismatic leaders who are filled with the Holy Spirit and the presence of Jesus. Leaders who are followed and even obeyed, not because they are gifted ‘people persons’ but because they are gifted by the Spirit of God. As one father of the desert put it, ‘Obedience responds to obedience, and not to authority.’

8 thoughts on “Charismatic Leadership

  1. God made Moses a leader. I think that is the best lesson about leadership from Exodus. I love the relationship between God and Moses and how they talked with each other. Moses was humble and knew his weaknesses, but he had faith in God and that was his strength.

  2. The problem of leadership is one of submission. Priests and laymen are called to be servant leaders. This is absolutely wise. If you are following Christ, others will follow you. If you are following your own ego or someone else, some may follow you…until they realize you aren’t going anyplace. Then they will move on. If they expect you are following God, they’ll stick. In Moses’ case, the pillar of fire, the cloud and his glowing face were dead giveaways. The people followed for fourty years or so, whining all the way, but following nonetheless.

  3. If you are following Christ, others will follow you. If you are following your own ego or someone else, some may follow you…until they realize you aren’t going anyplace. Then they will move on.

    I do agree with you, but I question this statement a little bit because I see people following leaders in the church who I have a hard time relating to Jesus. Televangelists for example…they have a huge following, but sometimes point elsewhere than Christ…I want to think that if we follow Christ others will follow us, but people will follow imposters too.

  4. …until the realize they are not going anyplace. Then they’ll move on. Or, do I repeat myself.

    My wrinkle on this is that God has put a hole in man that can only be filled by Himself. We’ll try to fill that hole with a lot of other stuff, but it won’t work. Thus, it is very sad to see someone trying to fill this hole with anything other than Jesus Christ, even one of his clergy, the denomination, the music, our brothers and sisters. No one and nothing else will work.

  5. Chris, I think that Morpheus’ point was the same one you are making. If your ministry is about showing people Jesus (in the Eucharist, in an example of discipline, in your love for others, etc…) than you’re doing well. Televangelists tend to rely more on a cult of personality, which is exactly what Morpheus seems to be saying is the problem. You bet people follow imposters, which is why vocational discernment and selection is so important. For churches where anybody can pick up the title of pastor, there is great danger of many imposters.

  6. I agree with Neo. The problem with church leadership today is the emphasis. Pastors are being taught to act like CEO’s instead of…pastors. Pastoral leadership should focus on shepherding people through the Word and Sacraments, prayer, and spiritual direction.

    Some of Eugene Peterson’s books have helped me in this regard. But it sure is difficult to apply when many (most?) of the people in the pew these days want to be entertained by the pastor rather than cared for and shepherded by the pastor. Does anyone even care anymore if a pastor is filled with the Spirit if he makes people laugh and can draw a good crowd?

    Regardless, I will seek to fulfill God’s calling on my life as a pastor, not a CEO, for the good of His people.

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