Doing Church Differently: Leadership Factors

One of the challenges that must be confronted in doing church differently is leadership. The church in the United States has taken its form and identity from that Christendom worldview, yet our context is increasingly post-Christendom. This shift must cause us to examine our paradigms of leadership. The radical separation of clergy from the laity is certainly a holdover from Christendom. In his book, Unfinished Business (originally published as The New Reformation), Greg Ogden supports this idea by noting that while the Protestant Reformation reclaimed the Scriptures for the people, it did not reclaim leadership and ministry for the people. 

Follow the leader
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Daniel Kulinski via Compfight

Jesus was clear in the Great Commission that the role of every disciple, not just pastors, is to make disciples. There are God-ordained offices and roles of leadership for the church, but the unintended consequence of a professional clergy is the perception that only those in the office do the work of ministry. Paul dispels this notion in Ephesians 4:11-12 where he says that the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers equip the saints for the work of ministry and to build up the body of Christ.

The idea of a professional clergy and the question of who gets to lead can be a challenge to unleashing church members to be on mission for several reasons. First, the lay person feels uneducated and unqualified to make disciples. After all, the church member reasons, the pastor is the one with the formal theological education. He is the expert, not the church member. In order to do church differently we must ask hard questions about training: How much is needed? What constitutes a disciple who is equipped to make disciples? What is the role of theological education?

Second, the pastor is technically an employee of the church. Since the pastor is paid, he must be the one who is expected to do the ministry. A salaried staff is a two-edged sword. Paying a pastor a full-time salary gives him the freedom to focus all of his efforts on ministry (Paul may have been supporting such in 1 Timothy 5:18, 1 Corinthians 9). At the same time, this salary brings with it the mentality among some church members to say to the pastor that evangelism, ministry, and mission is “what we pay you for.” In addition, the idea of raising support for a church planter can force that planter into being a fund raiser more than a disciple-maker. Jesus told us that we could not serve God and money, yet the conventional funding paradigm can force pastors and planters to try!

A third issue we must tackle to do church differently is the issue of control. A professional clergy gives the perception of control. True church planting and disciple-making movements around the world are happening organically with little imposition from institutional authority or professional pastors. If we want to see a rapid expansion of the church in America, we must discover more ways to empower others, flatten organizations, and be content with not knowing all that is taking place. Such suggestions lead to valid questions about accountability, safe-guarding doctrine, and preserving healthy DNA. We need to have discussions about these issues and test our assumptions through solid research and experimentation.

Doing church differently will require us to raise up leaders differently. We will have to change their expectations and our expectations of them. So, what would it look like if every member of your church saw himself or herself as someone with the potential to start a disciple-making movement? And what if they felt they had permission to do it? Wouldn’t that be different?


  • This is a WONDERFUL article!

    • BrianUpshaw

      Thank you, Derek!

  • Don Brown

    Great article and encompasses some of the things I have been thinking as of late!

    • BrianUpshaw

      Thank you, Don!