polycentric leadership | JR Woodward

I'm reading through portions of JR Woodward's Creating a Missional Culture—where the experienced church planter paints his view of how to lead the church. He spends much of the book arguing for the virtues of a polycentric leadership approach. Polycentric leadership is neither a flat leadership structure or a centralized leadership structure, says JR. Instead, multiple mature leaders "interrelate and incarnate the purposes of Christ."

Love that phrase.

This view is high contrast with the CEO-celebrity model of pastoring we see so often. It's such a common model that it's easy to forget that the senior pastor on a central stage with huge video screens may be doing something more than simply amplifying the sermon. It's a cultural structure that gives us the YouTube loop what we think leadership should be. It seems plain normal, that big stage—and our hip, charismatic, blog-if-you-see-them-in-person-getting-coffee leaders.

Okay, but why do we need a change?

Culturally, we're shifting, says JR.  And it's not just one thing:  it's a Media Shift from Print to Broadcast to Digital (yes! I said aloud as reading), a Philosophical Shift to suspicion of power, a Scientific Shift to systems thinking, a Spatial Shift from rural/local to urban/global, and Religious Shift from Christendom to pluralism.

What do we need?

  • Instead of leading from over, we lead from among
  • Instead of leading from certainty, we lead by exploration, cooperation, and faith
  • Instead of leading from a plan, we lead with attention
Or some words like these:
  • collaborative, grass-roots, open-source, unscripted, personal, familial, approachable, agile, networker, touchable, missional, transparent, sustainable, resilient, mutual

Okay. But there's more questions than answers so far.  Is this practical or effective?  And shouldn't we start with scripture instead of culture?  Sure.  JR does both those things... including an important question:  aren't there examples of big central leaders in right there in the Bible?

I'll get to that one next.