So far Roxburgh has described what he calls liminality. He develops this saying that these extraordinary changes and challenges tend to be compressed into one point of tension – the church leader or pastor. He or she is the one who feels these pressures most acutely. ‘Recognised’ church leaders used to have huge kudos within Irish Christendom but now their roles are under question. What is a pastor for? What do they do? Are they ‘ministers of the word and sacrament’ (as in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland) or a visionary team leader or something else all together? Chaplain? Coach? Counsellor? Strategist? Marketeer? Professional? Theologian?
What should a theological college be training church leaders to do and to be? [I have more than a passing interest in this question!] Roxburgh’s point here is that all this casting about for role and credibility is reflective of a desire to recover role and identity rather than embrace liminality.
Rather, he argues, we need to see liminality as a place of opportunity and transformation. The future will NOT be a place for:
- Technicians:- experts in the latest 200 sure fire methods of “making your congregation the most alive, fastest-growing, seeker-sensitive, liturgical, charismatic church”.
- Those wanting to be important and powerful:- Christendom bred a culture of power, respect and prestige around church leaders. While much of this persists, church leaders in post-Christendom Ireland face a very different context after Ferns, Ryan and Murphy Reports into abuse within the Catholic Church. Respect, trust and a right to be heard has to be earned not assumed. This ain’t a bad thing. Biblical leadership has never been about power, selfish ambition or pride – a truth that desperately needs to be heard afresh in Ireland.
OK these are a couple of negatives – I’ll follow up with some of Roxburgh’s positive suggestions in the next post in this series. But before I do, what do you think are the sort of leaders the church needs in post-Christendom Ireland?