'The Guy' versus the Five-Fold Team
From a webinar by Multiplication
Alan Hirsch, author of 5Q: Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ and The Forgotten Ways, and several other books joined a discussion about church leadership, in particular how it is common to look for “the guy” (used here as a generic term which includes men and women) who will build a “launch team” to “plant a church.” versus seeking to uncover and awaken a new structure, or “wineskin”: the five-fold typology of apostles, prophets, evangelist, shepherds, and teachers (in Ephesians 4) in both small faith communities and in a network. All five voices must be heard and sing in harmony, both at the micro-church level and at the network level.
If you reimagine the church as a decentralized network of multiplying missionaries and micro-churches that fill a city or region with the fullness of Jesus, then this will require a shift from a centralized form of leadership to a decentralized one. The webinar explored the five-fold team as the optimal source of leadership in the new wineskin.
Contrast the different leadership styles:
The church looks and feels like a pyramid. Hierarchies are built for control. Top-down leadership ultimately communicates, “We can do this; you can help.”
Power is collected, especially for the “organization” and a few at the top.
A few lead, and everyone else follows.
Authority and ownership are extended out to the edges, and those circles are reproduced.
Power is treated as a currency that is available to everyone. The goal is for everyone and every expression of the church to reach their maximum influence.
Everyone leads, and everyone follows.
This decentralized form of the church requires a new wineskin: a culture of decentralized, poly-centric leadership with flat structures. Let's dig into the discussion:
There is something new that's happening in the west. We're seeing this return to a primal expression of the church. What does it mean when followers of Jesus are gathering around simple rhythms of worship, community and mission?
Jesus reminds us that you cannot pour new wine into an old wine skin and we're using that as an analogy to help us understand that there's a certain form of leadership that most church leaders in the west have grown up with as normative - centralized leadership, where a few lead and then everyone else follows. It's not that that form of leadership is wrong or evil or incorrect but when you when you use that form of leadership as we make a shift into a decentralized expression of the church then it's likely that will shut down the life of the decentralized network.
Leadership in a decentralized network is about the church as open circles that keep reproducing. It's about everybody reaching their maximum influence.
There's been a lot of energy and resources around church planting and a huge portion of that is about finding 'the guy'. How do we find the right guy who has the right gifts to be able to plant a church that has a significant core group that can catalyze church growth? We've developed leadership pipelines, academies and assessments for that form of the church.
Now we're asking the question of how we activate all of God's people into their mission, where they make disciples who make disciples. That's a very different outcome than 'can we find the guy?'. It's a paradigm issue and that's what we need to address. One of the biggest challenges we face is the issue of the mental map that we retain or informs us. I think where we find ourselves now is recovering something of our most instinctive form of church which I think micro-church is much closer to.
Let's just be honest. Look at all the largest churches. What do they have in common? They have an amazing leader - a person who can cast vision, hear from God, have a profound ability to communicate and teach the word of God and this allows them to capture and then mobilize thousands of people sometimes. One pastor has the capacity to oversee many locations, so of course we want to find those called people.
Would we hire any of the 12 disciples today or would they be too disruptive, too 'on the road'? I suspect not. It's a very different ball game in the scriptures. They didn't have that kind of management-think. Paul was on the road most of the time as an apostle. He decentralizes and pushes power to the function, to the outermost limits, to the edges where everyone in the system is able to reproduce the whole. That's a very different ball game to the way we play it now.
When you look at some of the leaders of the largest churches, they really do have a pretty special gift set. I'm not taking anything away from them. Most people I think feel inadequate to really be able to do some of those things. However, the way we do church generally, by and large, does not produce disciples - we produce attenders and consumers. We design to produce consumers, use entertainment to win people to faith. But here's the problem, you're going to have to do better next week than you did this week. You have to keep entertaining the consumer because what you win them with, you win them to.
We have to fundamentally change our understanding of leadership to get fundamentally different results. We cannot keep doing the same thing expecting different results. Let's look an example.
A large church wanted to ask a distributed church in their city to join them in an event. They asked to speak to the senior leader. The representative they knew, said, "Oh we don't have one. I'm not actually in charge. What we've tried to establish is a network of fivefold equipping teams that are connected as a family around the city. We call them hub teams and we opened our eighth recently. These teams of equippers support decentralized networks of disciple makers and micro-churches. It's not like multi-site - we don't have a mother hub and then everybody is a carbon copy of that.
"The hub teams actually emerge from disciple making out in the harvest and they have Ephesian 4 equipping gifts. We bring all the equippers from all the hub teams together and train in types of apostolic leaders, prophetic leaders, teachers, etc. We've been able to discover is that it's a family of families - it's relational. We have a tiny hierarchy in effect because we have to have a legal board but on the ground it's actually apostolic teams that support the networks of disciple makers and micro-churches."
Let's very briefly unpack the hub teams' gifts - apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, teacher. The apostle is essentially the sent one - a missionary function. Pioneering innovation on the edges - usually pushing outwards, establishing the gospel on your ground. The prophetic keeps you aligned with the purposes of God - prayer, mystical expression, holiness, advocating for the poor, justice issues. The evangelist is the inbuilt marketing department, the recruiter inviting you into the story of Jesus as it unfolds and a very church growth kind of person. The shepherd is the one who creates community and defends it - love, reconciliation, rich relationships. The teacher is one who helps us integrate truth into our lives. Wisdom and understanding are the result of not just intellectual thought but integration of truth. All of these gifts are a package deal and exist in community.
There will be some people in your church that love to take risks, try new things, innovate and they're good at it. They might be babies at it but they want to do that stuff. They are your apostolic-leaning folk. Some people in your church are natural prophetically, very sensitive to God. They advocate for the poor. Evangelists are natural sharers of the song. Look out for them but always think fivefold ministry. There might be times where one function predominates by virtue of the context e.g., pioneering needs apostolic and probably the evangelistic and the prophetic. As you mature you know you're going to need more teaching to become a wise people. It's worth keeping your team as a fivefold because you're going to need the shepherd on team to keep your bonding as you're going out. It's how to love one another.
"One thing we've tried from the very beginning is practicing voice order. So, when we're making decisions or commentating on something in a hub team meeting, the apostles always go last. The shepherds go first, then the prophets second then the teachers, then the evangelists and, lastly, the apostles. That's allowed us to be able to hear more fully all five voices."
If you are thinking about a distributed network, a micro-church network, you absolutely need all five voices equipping that network. It isn't about a great, visionary leader that everyone can rally around. It is about tapping into the five voices that are already there by the gift of the Holy Spirit and beginning to intentionally equip using those five voices.
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