CEO, CFO, visionary, master communicator, fundraiser, long-range strategist, author, social media icon, shepherd, counselor, and so much more—being a successful, twenty-first-century pastor requires an extraordinarily diverse skill set. An increasingly complex world has produced some of the most extraordinary leaders the church has ever seen. Many pastors have become global leaders, capable of leading networks of churches that spread far beyond the parish churches of previous eras.
With the advent of technology that allows one master communicator to teach in multiple locations at the same time—or anywhere around the globe at any time—the very nature of the pastor seems forever altered. No longer are we searching for a shepherd for a flock. Instead, we seem to be running our own version of American Idol, with our pastors competing against one another so we can celebrate the most exceptional. We are searching for the perfect mix of celebrity, theologian, visionary, and social media darling.
The rise of the global pastor raises an important question. What if there aren’t enough great leaders to save the church? If the future of the church is dependent on the rise of a class of truly exceptional, never-before-seen leaders, then isn’t the church doomed? There aren’t enough of these leaders to go around. If their style of ministry and their global impact are the model being packaged and sold across the world, then what hope is there for the average leader? Who can hope to lead reasonably well in a world dominated by superstar leaders? Who can take programs, models, and teachings—crafted by a team of experts for exceptionally skilled pastors—and truly execute them as they are intended?
Matching the ever-changing organizational structures of the corporations that shape worldly culture, churches have become increasingly complex, and this complexity has brought innovations that have led to significant gains and breakthroughs. But these gains may be fool’s gold. They may mask the true struggles of the church in the twenty-first century and create a whole series of new issues. Complexity leads to lack of adaptability and reproducibility. Lack of adaptability and reproducibility will result in a leadership shortage because there simply aren’t enough leaders capable of effective leadership in these complex organizations. What if the twenty-first century church is dying a slow death of exceptional leadership?
Leading business innovator and professor Dr. Gary Hamel talked about this in an interview:
So here we are in a world of amazing complexity and complex organizations that just require too much from those few people up top. They don’t have the intellectual diversity, the bandwidth, the time to really make all these critical decisions. There’s a reason that, so often in organizations, change is belated, it is infrequent, it is convulsive. Because, typically, in those traditional structures, by the time a small team at the top realizes there’s a need for fundamental change, by the time a problem is big enough or an opportunity clear enough that it prompts action, that it breaks through all the levels, commands the attention of these extraordinarily busy people up top—it’s too late. So if we want to build truly adaptable organizations, we have to syndicate the work of leadership more broadly.
In a world of increasing complexity, what if the future of the church is in raising up a generation of average leaders instead of generation of superstar leaders and a host of others trying to imitate them? What if the future of the church is in simplicity and easily reproducible models that make the average leader in the church—regardless of whether they are clergy—believe they are capable of leading change and experiencing breakthrough?
These churches have in common a willingness to risk and to fail in pursuit of innovation and breakthrough.
In Edison Churches, we tell the stories of exceptional churches where innovation has taken place on a variety of levels. But the exceptional nature of these churches is not reliant on superstar leaders. Often these churches are exceptional precisely because they have empowered everyday leaders and congregants to believe they are called and equipped by God for the mission of the church. We tell the stories of churches of all different sizes—from house churches to medium-sized churches to mega-churches—that have launched movements across continents. These churches have in common a willingness to risk and to fail in pursuit of innovation and breakthrough.
In their stories, we have discovered incredible moments of transformation that have emerged from simple changes, everyday leaders, and previously unheard-of locations. We hope their examples will encourage more leaders to put aside the inferiority and frustration that come from trying to imitate superstar leaders and embrace the power that belongs to all of us to bring the good news. The story of God at work in the world has always been marked by God’s choice to use unlikely people to do extraordinary things.
Edison Churches tells the story of ten churches (of different sizes and denominations) who are experimenting and innovating, failing and succeeding, and working out new paradigms of being the faithful new church our world needs. They are motivational proof that the Spirit is alive and well and that the church is being born again right in our midst.