Christian Leadership by Steve Lourey
"What then is Christian leadership? I must admit I am always apprehensive when the
gospel of the good shepherd is read (John 10:1-15). For in Australia we know
that sheep are stupid animals moving in large flocks herded by sheep dogs that
snap at the heels of any that dares to go off in an independent direction. Many
Australian parish priests in the past behaved like sheep dogs, snapping at the
strays! Now the approach is likely to be a little more subtle, but some priests
still think they can assume the role of "director" of the moral and Christian
development of the fellow Catholics and there are still very few priests who
have integrated a genuinely Christian approach to leadership.
True Christian leadership is that discussed and live out by Christ in the Gospels.
Saint Peter advises his fellow presbyters: "Never be a dictator over any group
that is put in your charge, but be an example" (1 Peter 5:3). Thus the leader of
the Catholic community (whether he be Pope, bishop or priest) is faced with the
self-effacing task of helping others to discern their gifts, creating an
ambiance for their use, supporting them in their ministries and drawing the
whole together to give a sense of unity and direction to the work of the Church.
This is no small task. Increasingly Church leadership will need training in
process and facilitation. Persons who are uncertain about their own identity, or
who have lower levels of tolerance of frustration, or who tend to dominate
others, or who are psycho-sexually immature are unsuited to any leadership role.
It is easy to talk about Christian leadership, but as I myself found
during a brief stint as a pastor in a large urban parish, the institution has a
way of possessing you. Christian leadership so often becomes bogged down with
details concerning the maintenance of the institutional structures of the Church
and bishops and pastors are more often the slaves of the Church than its
dictators. Many of them have good will toward the implementation of
participatory structures but they become so immersed in ad hoc details and
crises, in day to day administration, that they lose both the focus and the
energy required for a more truly Christian form of leadership.
If love, the service of others, joy, peace, a critical openness to reality, strength and
courage are integral to faith, then the Christian leader must symbolically
incorporate something of each of these virtues. Consensus involves the
discernment of God's will for the community. The Church is not a democracy, nor
is it a dictatorship. The basic task of the community is to decide the way in
which God is leading. Votes will be taken, but the real task is to obtain as
inclusive decision as possible. Discernment, however, does not mean
accommodating the lowest common denominator. At times leadership will be forced
to take hard decisions in the face of a majority whose views represent
mediocrity. The leader in this case acts as a prophet".
Quote from Paul Collins "Mixed Blessing: John Paul II and the Church of the Eighties". Penguin Books, Australia.