One of the things we seek to do on Path of Renewal is encourage others to listen to what God is asking of them in their current context - and, having discerned that, to step into that role at God's invitation.
There is no scarcity of God's gifting but sometimes a reluctance or fear or simply blindness on our part to celebrate and release those gifts in others. And that's just part of the adaptive challenge that we are being forced to confront at this stage of our journey in faith.
Often our default mode is, when we see a gap, to seek to plug that gap, a simple, technical fix. Such fixes, however, do not generate capacity in others but help to shore up the myth of our usefulness based on the authority or position of leadership that we hold.
Developing and nurturing spiritual practices that make space to listen to God is an important task to be engaged in both as individuals and as a community. And spending time with the ancient stories of God's people in our sacred texts alert us to signposts that provide way markers for today. There are plenty of stories of the people of God stepping into unlikely leadership roles demanded of them as they journeyed with God learning how to be God's people in each place and time.
One of the things Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his book Lessons in Leadership, explores is the journey of the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land, charting the journey Moses made as he grew into leadership:
One illustration he uses is the description of how, early on the journey, the people complain to Moses about the lack of food and Moses provides food - with God, manna is provided. Moses meets a technical challenge at that stage. The people need food, Moses speaks to God and food is provided.
However, a bit further on in the journey, when the people complain about food again, Moses despairs. He asks God to let him die because he cannot carry this burden. Why such a different response?Because Moses recognises this as a deeper test of his leadership. This is no longer simply about food. It's a revelation of some of the hard battles that are before him, not just taking the people out of Egypt but taking Egypt out of the people!
It is at that point that Moses realises that simply plugging the gap, supplying food is not enough. He is now faced with an adaptive challenge, that of changing the hearts and minds of the people he leads, equipping them to be strong and resilient, ready to face what lies ahead on the journey. They too need to develop leadership skills rather than constantly succumbing to authoritarian figures who, albeit cruelly, have supplied their needs as a people in slavery.
Leadership requires grace that can accommodate the anger of people resistant to change. It also brings out, releases and encourages gifts of leadership in others.
Leadership takes seriously the possibility of learning from all sorts of unexpected sources, being prepared, even expectant for our own growth as well as celebrating growth in others.
Leadership distinguishes between technical and adaptive challenges and recognises that there are often others who are better equipped than we are to take on a task and helps facilitate the recognition and use of different gifts that build up the body of Christ.
Leadership that embraces humility and vulnerability is more suited to responding to adaptive challenges. That is the kind of leadership we seek to embolden and encourage today.
But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.