I recently had lunch with an old friend who is also the pastor of a large (in UK terms) church – 600 members, grown pretty much from scratch. I was hungry for my Thai curry, but hungrier to learn.
As we mulled over various things, he sketched out some of the basic maps he uses to plot the ministry structure of the church, and how he fits into a large church with a large staff.
One of them was a basic, four-square grid. You’ll need a couple of definitions so you can make sense of the diagram.
Accountability means being held accountable to the vision, values and culture of the church. What you’re doing expresses the church’s DNA.
Control means being tightly managed by someone. There’s little room for error or individuality, because details matter.
So there are roughly four options:
- High control + Low accountability
- High control + High accountability
- Low control + Low accountability
- Low control + High accountability
As my friend talked on, two conclusions became clear.
First, pastors seem to have an innate tendency to put everything in that top right hand box. If we are being kind to ourselves, it’s because we’re dealing with the gospel, everything connects to the gospel, and therefore everything matters. The alternative would be to allow in a false gospel, which would would wreck everything.
That all being true, I think there’s still a difference between saying ‘We need to watch ourselves doctrinally’, and saying, ‘I am the only person I trust to do that.’ Really? You trust everyone else that little? And you trust yourself that much? Perhaps we should ask some hard questions about just how highly we value ourselves.
Second, – and this was a real shock – my friend insisted that the small groups in his church go in the top left box: there is low control but high accountability. They have a huge amount of freedom over what they study (although there are resources provided centrally if they need them), but they are tightly accountable over their attitude to studying the Bible together. Why they learn together is much more important than what they learn together.
He insists this isn’t abdicating, because he has rebuked and disciplined at least one group for their patterns and conclusions which violated the church’s values.
So the exercise from his diagram is a double challenge.
First, sketch out those four squares and see where most things in your church tend to fall. Is the right-hand ‘controlled’ side the diagram over-populated? Is that top-right square over populated? Do you have anything at all in the top left square? And what absolutely must remain highly accountable and highly controlled?
And second, what do you you think of my friend’s determination to keep the small groups highly accountable but loosely controlled?
As usual, pile in with your comments below.