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Quantum Servanthood:

  knowing how to lead in chaos

by John O’Keefe



“It’s the end of the world as we know it,

and I feel fine.”



Whether we like it or not we have moved from “Ozzie to Ozzy;” we have moved from the Nelsons to the Osbournes; from Harriet to Sharon, from Ricky to Kelly.  We have moved from the modern to the postmodern/emerging; from the linier/absolute to the non-linier/subjective; from science/evidence to spirit/feelings; from intellect/truth to experience/real; from order/dictated to chaos/reality.  You need to keep in mind that it is not that we are in the process of a shift; we have shifted; the changes are not coming, they are here, now, today.  Because of this shift, it stands to reason that what worked in the 20C just won’t work in the 21C.  Why you ask?  The answer is simple, we think differently, we act differently, and we view the world differently, mainly because we are different.  In a postmodern/emerging conversation we process information much differently, and because of that we respond to situations differently.  This is because in much of our lives we have a different starting point; this not right or wrong, good or bad, it simply is.  Please keep in mind that we are not “anti-modern” as some claim; it is that we are just not modern.  So, it is not that we are “against,” we are just “not.”   It truly does not matter what you call this shift in thinking, postmodern, emerging, hyper-modern, or anything else – the reality is a shift happened, and now as a church we need to learn to minister, outreach and “lead” in it.


Some could spend years telling us that this view is wrong, but it will fall upon deaf ears; we desire conversation, not dictation; do not give us directions, give us a map and let us plan the route we need to take.  The heart, mind and soul of a postmodern/emerging person are just different, very different from that of a modern person.  To reach us for Christ, you need to know the operating system postmodern/emerging people operate under.  Keep in mind, we are emerging from the cocoon of the modern world to explore this new postmodern world with wings; we have become “the butterfly effect.”


“Leadership” in the 21st century

I believe current leadership skills will not do much for the emerging church in the 21C.  Now that I have totally alienated the entire “modern church leadership crowd,” here is why I believe current leadership skills are obsolete.  Current leadership (“modern” leadership, if you will) tends to [and are based on] the military/industrial model.   Most, if not all, of what is believed to make a “good leader” is based on industry, capitalism and profit motives; success of a modern leader is measured in numbers, market share, profit, size and structure of the organization.  Modern leadership is very mechanical, “in charge,” rigid and “sharp.”  Many in the church strive to give modern leadership principles a “Christian edge” by searching for scripture to “back-up” their point of view.  Yet, in reality, is this is impossible.  Modern leadership principles do not start in scripture (though they do strive to “make” scripture fit), they start in the world of business and in American culture.  To be honest, I find that this starting point does not serve the church well; in fact it does not “serve” the church at all.


Without going into great detail and sounding negative about leadership in the current church, let me point out several major areas where I believe current “leadership” fails; my desire over the coming months is not to dwell on the “negative” but rather to focus on the “positives” on a new, emerging leadership style that is developing in emerging churches.


First, it encourages people to play with the data to accomplish the desired results.

When success is based on “numbers” then numbers must be “high” for success to be achieved.  For example, I personally know of a church that proclaimed “we are growing with 90% new Christians.”   Cool, but what does that mean?  The church believes that you must be “baptized by immersion as an adult confessed believer” to be a “true Christian” anyone coming from a tradition that baptized him or her as a infant is seen as a “new Christian,” no matter how long that person has been going to church, and believes in their heart that Jesus is Lord.  Because we desire to play the number game, we need to find a way to “count” people who come from other traditions as “new members.”  By leaving certain info in, and other info out, you bias any decision in favor of your point, 'what do you want it to be?'   Playing with statistics can prove we do not have a homeless problem, a housing problem, or an environmental problem but in reality we know we have these problems.


Second, it does not account for the most important variable, people.

Being “passive aggressive” means that people do not truly count, other things count more; cash, building, capital equipment, image, programs and “things” mean more then the person seeking to be served.  The hardest variable in any decision is people.  Built into the matrix of a modern leadership is the idea that when you are looking at a decision to be made, economic realities take the lead, and people take the end.  Many times, churches have decided not to “do a ministry” because the “cost” would be too much, never mind the importance of helping people.  the current church sees “cash over cause.”


Third, it centers on the unknowable bottom line.

This is related closely to the first and second point in that “numbers matter” and “the bottom-line” is important – an in this point the “numbers” center on the almighty dollar.  Many churches define it, as being “good stewards of God’s money,” but is it?  Current church leadership focuses on the bottom line, not in the real sense of “making money” but being so tight that they refuse to spend a single penny – in many cases it is not “making” money that modern church leaders spend time on, but and “keeping” as much of it as possible.  In a postmodern/emerging matrix “money” is not a driving force.  I am not suggesting that postmodern leaders are not concerned with how they spend the money given, I am saying that they do not see this as a major point – causing major headaches for ministries – because they place people above money – the cost of something is seldom an issue if it can help a person heal or have a better life in Christ.


Fourth, “programs” become the driving force in ministry.

Given the fact that “numbers” are important, “programs” become a needed reality for the current church because they are a way to “create numbers.”  I remember once having an idea about building relationships in the church.  The idea was to tell people, “we will be meeting in the park at this time, join us if you can.”  The idea was simple – let people know when and were we would meet.  Soon, the leaders of the church caught wind and thought it was a great idea also – they instructed me (love that, a key point in modern leadership is to tell others what to do) to “develop the program.”  When I explained there was no “program” and that I was uncomfortable with making it a “program” I was removed from the responsibility and another person was place in charge of the “event.”  What was supposed to be a simple little gathering in the park (a project), soon turned into a huge program designed from start to finish with logo and all; it even had a cool “planned outcome;” increase membership, increase the Sunday offering.


Fifth, church “leaders” have moved beyond serving and see themselves as “self-important” and in need of others to serve them.

This last problem I see in the current church is one that I desire to focus on, and that is the idea of “servant-leader.”  I have to admit that I am not a big fan of the idea of “servant-leader” because with all the pastors I know who tout it as “the leadership style of the church” I know of none that are servants first and “leaders” last. 


I remember once sitting in my office when a woman came in, sat in a chair, looked me dead in the eye, and started crying.  You should have seen the frenzy in the office; people running all over the place to find out what happened and what they could do to help her.  When we finally got her settled down, she said, “I just walked in your office – right past the secretaries, right past the other pastors, right past your assistant and right into your office.  They all said “hi” but no one stopped me from walking in.  In my old church that would have never happened; I could have never seen the Senior Pastor, never mind just walking in without an appointment.”  This disconnection to the people they serve keeps them at a distance from those they need to be on par with.  They believe, for whatever reason, that their time is of great value, of more value then a woman who needs their help because her husband is beating her, or of a teen who is being abused and hurt and is about to end his life because of the pain in his life.  What modern church leaders do not realizes is that there is a shift in the role of a pastor in the church.  Modern church leaders miss the understanding of being connected, assessable, relational, family and community.


“Quantum Servanthood” in the 21C

Well, with all that being said, and its one thing to point out the flaws of the current system of “leadership, “ that’s easy.  We need to ask, what makes a “postmodern/emerging” system different?  What is the foundation of “postmodern/emerging” servanthood?  Why do I see servanthood and being defined as “quantum servanthood?” 


To start with, let me say that I believe a “leader” in the 21C needs to be more servants, poets, artists, creative thinkers and far less “boss leader” to truly reach the postmodern/emerging mind for Christ.  I love the paradox of the term “quantum.”  In general, quantum means “a share or portion; a large quantity or bulk.”  And yet in physics it means, “the smallest quantity of radiant energy.”  It is, at both times, the smallest and the largest, I love that.  What “quantum servanthood” says to me is, being a servant is both something we do on a personal level and on a community level; that we serve Christ and each other.  I love the idea that in a “quantum” reality we can be, when we are in true service to others, a small quantity of the “radiant energy” that is Christ in us all.  I work under the belief that Jesus never called anyone to “leadership.”  Jesus called us to servanthood; “So Jesus got them together to settle things down. He said, "You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads.  It's not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.  Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.” (Matthew 20:25-27); also,  And don't let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them--Christ.  "Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty. (Matthew 23:10-12).


Here is a little fun thing to do, type the words “servanthood” or “servantship” into a word document, it will come-up “redlined” because in USAmerica there is no such thing as “servanthood” or “servantship” because we do not see being a servant as being anything of value, but for Christ service is where all value is placed.  The idea behind true servanthood is a heart that is willing to go last, a theology that says “I am not as important as the people God gave me to watch over” and a heart that is willing to trust that God will bless a “good and faithful servant.”  What I believe as being a servant in the 21C, is very different then the modern church leader.  I believe that a postmodern/emerging servants is:


Visual:  “Come and you will see” are the words Jesus shares.

Attractors:  Andrew went and got his brother Simon Peter to bring to Jesus.

Connective:  Jesus knew the lives of his disciples.

Chaotic:  They do not know the absolute results, but they go anyway.

A Catalyst:  A catalyst transforms things, without being changed in the process.

Be a Multiplier:  Addition is not the way, and subtraction is unacceptable.

A Guide:  They walk along side, and not push from behind

A Story Teller:  They know the story, and they know the community

A Solver:  conflict breeds conflict. 


All this has one very important underlying factor – all leadership in the 21C is organic.  Over time I would like to explore these areas as being an idea of “quantum leadership” in the emerging church.  Keep in mind that I have no desire in making them the “definitive” set of qualities but rather a starting point for discussion.  Over the next few months my desire it to expand upon these and then offer them as a collection to be downloaded and printed.  My original thought was to “write a book” but finding a publisher that would be willing to take a book that discounts current leadership models is very hard (if you know of one, let me know).


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