Leadership and the Missional Church

Back in the 80’s I had a very wise and forward thinking pastor. His name was Dr. Wayne McDill, who is now Senior Professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

I was looking through some old journals for a specific piece of information. As I’m want to do, I got sidetracked reading notes and observations from the past including an item Wayne shared in a disciplining session for his elders. Using the illustration below, he talked about two models a pastor or leadership team could use to “build” a faith community.

The viewpoint of the pastor or leadership in the exploitation model is that people are the resource for the work. Note that the focus is on the leadership directing and using people so they can “build a great church for God.” The common lament is, “If only the people were more committed.”

The viewpoint of the leadership in the edification model is that God is the resource and that he will build his church. The focus is on God and Eph. 2:10 and Eph. 4:11-16 would be the guiding ideal.

I was recently reading a paper by Krista Petty titled, “Making Good Ideas Happen: How to Help Your People Unleash Their Best Innovations,” where she talks about flipping the common church leadership paradigm and equipping and guiding the people of God to launch new ministries. Like Dr. McDill, she sees two models.

Using the first diagram below, Ms. Petty explains, “The senior minister, staff or leadership are paid to come up with the vision and direction, followed by the events, activities and programs to make the vision a reality. Often, leaders have the ideas and together with the people, they do the work.”

Instead of this American triangular organizational business model with top-down results, Petty suggests that “shared-vision leadership can present itself more like a diamond as both leaders and individuals shine with vision and passion to reflect blessing to the community. As individuals are impassioned with service ideas, successful church leaders will not be the only keepers of the vision; they will also serve as a conduit and encouragement for helping others develop in Christ and for community ministry benefit.” Sounds similar to Dr. McDill’s edification model.

I really don’t think many in the modern institutional church realize just how much American business models and theory have seeped into and permeate the way we go about the work of God. Our dependence is all too often on the right model, marketing effort or program (a business model) instead on God and his people.

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22 Responses to “Leadership and the Missional Church”

  1. Jerry says:

    Rick its posts like this that make me wonder why I blog! You come up with the best stuff.

    I need to modify my most recent post to include a pointer to this one.

    So I give up! no more blogging for me! LOL


  2. Makeesha says:

    fantastic! thanks for that. I reproduced a generous portion of this on hungryandthirsty.blogspot.com – fyi :)

  3. Rick Meigs says:

    Thats is super Makeesha!

  4. Rick Meigs says:

    Noooooooo Jerry, don’t you dare stop blogging! I know you said that with tongue firmly planted in cheek, but seriously, we need everyones voice.

    Sorry that you post didn’t get up immediately. It was caught in my spam filter.

  5. Jerry says:

    LOL thats ok rick!

    Since my server was hacked no ones spam filter likes me!

  6. Webb Kline says:

    I really like the comparison. Back in the early 90s I was part of a church where the pastor went a way on an extended mission trip. The elders weren’t “good” leaders nor good speakers, so one Sunday they came before the congregation and asked, “How can we as elders help you to fulfill the visions that you have for ministry?”

    People came out of the woodwork with years of suppressed dreams of how they wanted to serve God and community! The elders complied the information and put people together with similar visions and the church became missional overnight. It was an amazing time. I’ve never experienced anything like it in institutional church.

    Then the pastor return with a “new vision” which was really a top-down control system that required complete financial disclosure of the congregation, and complete leadership control and vision of any and all church ministry even though nothing bad had happened in any of the new ministries. In fact, he never even took the time upon his return to find out what had been happening.

    The great missional revival ended and 6 months later the church ceased to exist, the pastor left the state and took a job in a corporation, never to return to ministry and the congregation scattered, many never returning to the institution. It was ugly.

    But for a moment in time, it was indeed a wonderful glimpse of how things could be.

  7. Rick Meigs says:

    But don’t you just love it when God lets you peak in on what it can be! Even six months is worth it because I bet a few of those people got a taste that is still with them today.

  8. Adam G. says:

    Rick, GREAT POST!

    Webb, your comment was REALLY SAD!

  9. Rick Meigs says:

    Thanks Adam.

  10. Mike Brown says:

    Wolfgang Simpson has a similar comparison chart in his book, ‘Houses That Change the World’. It is eye opening to see how much of what we call ministry is built around supporting the system itself, and using people to that end.

    Just a thought about why this happens, as I have seen it all too often. We become busy with building the church, , etc. and we need people to fit into the mold that we have already established. When people come to the church leadership in this model with ideas for new ministries or new ways to reach out to the community, they are encourged to join one of the existing ministries (under the guise of ‘being faithful with the little’) because the church has no idea of what to do with them. So they languish as an usher or greeter, assuming that service was never meant to be enjoyable, never guessing that they have been used.

    The alternative is to let God build His church around people, using the myriad of ideas and creativity flow that come from them, and relinquish control of The Church. I suspect this is why the paradigm shift is too much for many pastors and elders to make.

    Sad indeed.

  11. Rick Meigs says:

    Really great insight Mike. Thanks for sharing and I think you are right about how hard the paradigm shift is to make for many.

  12. John says:

    I’m an associate pastor in a church experiencing the transition from a strict business model to a more missional approach. I’ll be sharing this post with my team. Thanks – diagrams are worth at least 500 words.

  13. Rick Meigs says:

    John: I’m a visiual guy also, so diagrams for me are woth at least 500 words :-). I’ll be praying (really) that your transition goes well.

  14. Wayne Mcdill says:

    Hey, Rick. What’s happening with you these days. And with the family. How’s Fran? It’s been only 18 years, brother.

  15. Rick Meigs says:

    Hey Wayne. Glad to see you out “surfing” the web and reading blogs. Eighteen years. How time flies. I’ll drop you a direct email to catch up.

  16. Jonti says:

    Very important points that deserve plenty of discussion! Does this mean that our leaders should not give too strong a steer – and that we should not be too organised?

    John (associate pastor) – how did you get on?

  17. Rick Meigs says:


    I think circumstances will have a lot to do with how “strong a steer” leadership will need to give. A faith community primarily make up of young (in the Lord) Jesus follower may need more direction than a community of strong mature Jesus followers.

    Further, the type of guidance from leadership should not be that of creating programs based on their vision that they then attempt to get the people to buy into and staff. Leadership should focus on creating an environment where the people hear from God and seek the churches help in implementing the ministries God has called them to be involved in.

    Did you have problems getting on to the Leadership Network website?

  18. B. Miller says:

    I really think the article is right on. One thing it does not discuss, is that either model is a business model and what does that mean to the church?
    The Church should define the way we operate (do our business of fulfilling the Great Commission) based on desired outcomes. The most typical business model is based on concentrating power at the top and having a strong command and control of the organization. This is not very effective model for accomplishing the goals of sanctification and reproduction (make disciple). This model keeps the “machine” operating and cannot as effectively broadly develop and unleash people.

    The Missional Model is a much more effective way to include people at every level in serving, growing, leading, and reproducing in accordance with the Great Commission. I currently go to a church that is transitioning to be missional and work in a consulting Firm that has a lot of missional characteristics that have given it exponential growth. For example, at work, I expect my people at work at evey level to take ownership for setting the vision, developing those more juniors, empowering, and developing themselves and others. I see many of the characteristic as part of the missional church.

    My point is that the church should inform the general culture, not the culture informing the church. Whether we call it a business model or not, the missional model is a business model. Being a Bible college grad in the management/IT consulting industry, I find it very effective to rely heavily on Biblical Truth to help me run a productive business. At our best, we, the Church should be the trend setters and build our models on Christ and not adopt models that meet specific purposes and are sub-optimal for fulfilling the Great Commission. Recognizing that we have multiple business models (Traditional Business Hierarchy, Missional, etc) may be helpful in examining and successfully executing our objective.

  19. Tim Morgan says:

    Sometimes the best changes come when there is a periodic removal of the empty traditions that creap in! I mean in our own lives and in the community of churches as a whole. Never easy to to go through a periodic cleans, but necessary. The best results come when there is a team of creative hearts and minds that deside as a team to become a “Missional” force in the community. Many churches can not make this shift without a little painful change. BUT IT IS WORTH IT. Keep going my friends.


  20. […] Leadership and The Missional Church […]

  21. I am deeply concerned about the church structure and organisational processes which keep people as those who make used of the church in providing opportunities for worship, community life, some service projects, etc., an in all these, the Pastor guiding the people. I see the People, Being the Church as the people and the pastor owning responsibility to God for being His body in the world, and going out into the world, where God is present and working, to join him in all avenues of work, wherever each one is placed to Be the Church six days of the week, and on the 7th meeting together to share our faith experiences and to nurture each other.
    I have also used a Large Scale Interactive Process model of organisational development in 3 Congregations to bring the whole congregation together so that they may come to ‘one heart, one mind’ on what it means to be the Church.
    More, if people are interested to know more !

  22. […] Traditional to Missional by Brad Brisco; (2) a brief but insightful article by Rick Meigs entitled “leadership and the missional church”; and Chad Hall’s article on the Leadership Journal blog cleverly titled, “Missional: […]