Leadership of domination

Posted: December 5, 2012 by J in Church, Theology

There is a subtle agreement in many churches: the pastor needs people to tell what to do, and some people want to be told what to do. This combination makes many churches work perfectly. David Hayward, at The Naked Pastor

It’d be good before pressing on to more positive matters, to let the negatives sink in a bit.

What sort of leadership does Jesus warn us against? From our last post on Luke 22 we can say

1. Leadership of domination.

2. Leadership that makes a big name for the minister.

1. Leadership of domination:

This is where the people, instead of gaining freedom through their church involvement, actually lose their freedom to the minister/s. They become helpers in his ministry.

People come in two sorts: clergy and laity. Clergy has the vision, laity are expected to buy in. Clergy makes The Plan. Clergy articulates The Plan. Laity listen and follow The Plan. Clergy ideas are good ideas. Laity ideas are bad ideas, to be avoided. Clergy knows they’re bad ideas, because they did not come from clergy.

Laity are a necessary part of the church because clergy have neither time nor energy to do everything. Volunteer helpers are needed. It’s not a perfect world we live in. Laity are thus a kind of imperfect extension of clergy.

But laity need careful handling to make sure they further and do not disrupt The Plan. This generally means giving them responsibilities but witholding authority to make decisions. It is not safe for laity to make decisions. They are not qualified. Decisions are for clergy.

There should be love between laity and clergy. Laity should love their clergy as a child loves its parents. For in truth, laity are like children. They mean well, but they need a lot of careful supervision. The more impressive the clergy are, the easier it will be for laity to love them in this way. If this love has a drop of worship in it, that is natural enough.

The best laity are the ones most like clergy. They are not clergy, but if they are willing to shape themselves to be like their clergy, they can becomes very useful. Those that share their leaders’ doctrinal views most closely can even be allowed teaching roles. Those who most support The Plan, show that they can be trusted with responsibility.

The most effective tool for dominating a congregation is a weapon of overwhelming power. Like the Bible. If clergy can maintain control of the Bible-discourse in the church, they hold all the cards. Their voice will be difficult to distinguish from the voice of God. Then laity will know that they ought to submit.

Where laity do not behave properly, such as asserting ideas of their own, questioning The Plan, or other dangerous behaviours, there is no need for painful confrontation. After all, clergy hold all the power.  Sidelining has been found to be a particularly effective, non-confrontational approach: clergy can simply stop giving responsibilities to these laity. No bible study groups to lead. No service-leading or bible reading or other similar gigs. Clergy interactions with the offender are minimised. The person quickly becomes aware of their unsound status, and can then take steps to rehabilitate themself.

This, put in Anglican terms, is leadership of domination. At the heart of it is the built-in divide into two kinds of church member, which is not at all unique to Anglicans, but is found in most Christian churches, whatever they call their leaders. The category ‘clergy’ is a power structure, which mainly functions to enable a leadership of domination.


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