A SOUTH AFRICAN BAPTIST PERSPECTIVE ON LEADERSHIP
The Baptist Union of Southern Africa as the custodian of congregational Church government has up to the mid 1990’s, maintained a very rigid stance, with little room for discussion about church leadership.
In 1984, at the Annual Assembly in Pietermaritzburg, the Hatfield Baptist Church withdrew from the Union, on the basis of the difference in their ecclesiological structure and leadership, (“eldership rule”). As far as the Baptist Union was concerned Hatfield’s form of Church leadership was a Biblical inconsistency with established Baptist congregational principles and it was reason enough for expulsion. Coupled with the Hatfield shift in leadership structure, was the charismatic issue, which did not endear that growing Church to the more reformed and conservative segment, by far in the majority in the Baptist community.
This action in South Africa typifies the elitist attitude among Baptists in general that has prevailed for more than a century, for example a quote from the Baptist Recorder, USA 1851. (www.techplus.com/bkjv1611/bd0415.htm) “Baptist principles have nothing sectarian in them. They are the simple principles of the New Testament, which offer themselves at once to the mind of every reader. They tally with the results of the most rigid grammatical and historical interpretation; but, though corroborated by philological science, they speak for themselves to every believer in Christ.
Abandoned, with the Bible itself, in the night of the great apostasy, by the ruling powers and priest-ridden masses of Christendom, they still gleamed out like changeless stars of heaven in the midst of surrounding gloom – steadfast and glorious witnesses for God.” Despite the claim to non-sectarianism, this typical claim to exclusivity and interpretational purity has characterized many “dyed-in-the-wool” Baptist leaders, when addressing the matter of Church leadership and structure. To even discuss the possibility of a paradigm shift in leadership would be seen to jeopardize a pastor’s standing in the denomination. However evidence at grass roots points to a growing number of churches that are in fact elder/pastor led (Quigney, Christ Community, Pretoria Central)
At the Baptist “Millenium Conference” in February 2000, in South Africa, one of the leading theologians in the Baptist Union described the dilemma: “I am finding it more and more difficult to deny the charge that congregational Church government does hamstring those with a gift of leadership . . . . Do I feel that the actual praxis may not be working? In a nutshell. Yes!” (PEM: 8.2.2000)
From a practical theological perspective in the Baptist Union of Southern Africa, we have a classic example of the problem in a theory/praxis relationship. On the one hand, in theory, congregational Church government seems to progress from the doctrine of the DIRECT Lordship of Christ, as it seeks to emphasize that ultimately every Church member is a minister of God’s grace, and comes under the direct Lordship of Christ in every aspect of their existence. The doctrine emphasizes that ALL people have an important part in the Church’s mission in society, and ultimately ALL are accountable to the Head of the Church. Again, in theory, congregational Church government holds leaders and members accountable to the wider body of the local Church, helping to prevent the rise of dictators and personal empire builders.
However, in praxis, it is difficult to deny the charge that the principle of congregational Church government frustrates the gift of leadership. At the 2006 Baptist National Assembly, a commission brought a proposal to the meeting outlining a major paradigm shift in the leadership of the Baptist Union of Southern Africa in the formation of a “National Leadership Team” whose function it would be to build relationships between pastors and churches, to motivate and inspire churches and pastors to develop Christian leaders, to inspire churches in outreach, compassionate action and missions, and to ensure that the administrative functions of the Union take place by the appointed means.
In spite of the fact that the motion was defeated, there is clear evidence that Baptists struggle with the complexities of leadership, and it remains a challenge. Research in Church BUSA indicated that in spite of tremendous growth in membership, staff, multiple services, budget and missions activity, a small but vocal percentage of the church indicated dissatisfaction with the pastor’s leadership paradigm, and sought to veto every decision, halt any further progress, seek to polarize the church on any minor issue, because of their insistence that the deacons had ceased to be a part of the decision making in the church, and their desire to return to a “deacon-rule paradigm”.
In the 1990’s, increasing numbers of disillusioned pastors were leaving Baptist Churches (Pierce: 1998), many through unresolved conflict and forced termination. But perhaps the less obvious reason was that no leadership and support for pastors was demonstrated at a national level. This has, I believe led to a questioning of the efficacy and functionality of the congregational model of leadership at a national level by pastors.
CONGREGATIONAL GOVERNMENT AND DEMOCRACY
The confusion that exists among Baptists with regard to the structural paradigm “congregational government” could also be the result of a misinterpretation of nomenclature in that the term “government” has connotations of democracy and power, which congregational Church government within the Baptist Church certainly is not.
The word “government” associates the Church with unfortunate political practices all too familiar to present day Baptists, like scandals, bureaucratic bungling and adversarial politics. I do not think that the holding of office in a Church was ever supposed to be the result of a Church vote, but rather the recognition of the gifts and the calling of God upon a person, and the recognition of that calling and gift by the Church, not so much in a formal sense, but in a sense that the “people of God” are “people of faith” – it should be a matter of faith and consensus. The Church for some will always firstly be a divine institution, and as such there will always something of the “mysterium” associated with it. However, when a person thinks about the Church, they usually think in personal terms, i.e. a local congregation, where “Mr Booyse”, “Mr Barkley” and “Mr Ehlers” attend. There is certainly this personal aspect of humanity connected to the Church, made up of human beings.
The Church’s humanity is evident in its character as a political institution, a body of people governed by a constitution, moving towards common purpose. It is in this aspect of the Church as a political institution that the social sciences have provided assistance in the investigation and understanding of the Church.
From this perspective the Church can be viewed as a decision-making institution that affects the lives of its members, and it can be studied from a macro-structural angle as a denomination, or from a micro-structural perspective, as a local Church. So, within the different structures, whether hierarchical/monarchial or congregational, are dynamic elements which interact together to make up a political system.
A key issue in the matter of congregational Church government is whether the Baptist Church has maintained a Biblical example for leadership, or whether they have “jumped ship” and taken the historical, philosophical concept of democracy as a means of improving participatory governance and adapted and elevated it as the model for congregational government, and in so doing mirrored what is happening in society and transformed leadership into management? The claim that an institution is divinely founded in itself, says nothing at all about the structure of that institution.
-The practical theological problem
-The nature of the problem
-The imbalance of leadership
-The Hermeneutic Method
-Limitations to the research
-The need for the research
-The Literature review
-Personal observation and experience
-Summary of Chapter 1
2. The complexity of Christian leadership from a relational perspective
-Problems with leadership taxonomy
-The quantum perspective of Baptist leadership
-The transformational perspective of leadership
-The information-processing perspective of leadership
-Maintaining the imbalance of leadership
-Baptists and the adaptive challenge of leadership
-Summary of Chapter 2
3. Baptist Leadership
-A South African Baptist perspective on leadership
-Congregational government and democracy
-A Baptist biblical perspective on leadership
-The qualities of biblical servant leadership as they relate to LMX theory
-Societal factors affecting a pastor’s leadership paradigm
-Summary of Chapter 3
4. The role of pastor and members in exchange relationships
-The servant leader in the research
-The servant follower in the research
-The results of the research with regard to LMX in Baptist Churches
-The role of entrepreneurial followership in Christian leadership
5. Towards an adjusted praxis