Recently, YWAM has undergone a leadership restructuring, from that of a corporation, with corporate titles, to that of a family, with family-style relational leaders. The former Global Leadership Team is now the Global Leadership Forum. They recognize YWAM is not a hierarchical institution; instead it is a movement with a flatter and more egalitarian eldership. YWAM has many groupings and leadership structures, in many different cultures.
Actually, the terms can be a bit confusing. There are nuances of hierarchy and other “social games” organizations and cultures play. Hierarchy is involved in virtually every large organization. A pure democracy or egalitarian culture is impossible in large organizations. Small organizations can be more egalitarian. However, there are always elders in any culture who have spiritual, intellectual, and social authority, even in small groups.
When a structure is high grid and high group, it is hierarchical. But if the group is not high in priority and the grid (or structure of authority) is very high at the top (where a decision is not or cannot be made without the top leader), then it is less hierarchical and more authoritarian. From the way I read Darrel Guder and other contemporary theologians’ discussion of Church & Mission, I see a rejection of the authoritarian leader and a call for a flatter organization with higher group involvement. Therefore, they are actually calling for a kind of hierarchy for some of the issues and egalitarian game for much of the other issues in the church culture. As I read the Scriptures, including Jesus’ own words, I see the servant leader who goes so far to say, “It’s better for you that I go away.”
Yes, he actually left the hope of the nations to a bunch of uneducated misfits, all of whom still did not understand him or his mission even after they were filled with the Spirit. That’s the kind of leadership the Triune God has modeled for the Church.
So, Servant Leadership is a lifestyle, which may or may not have positional authority in an institutional hierarchy. As our YWAM Foundational Values says: “A servant leader is one who honors the gifts and calling of those under his/her care and guards their rights and privileges.”
In other words: If you are a visionary leader, be visionary for the people, releasing them to pursue the call of God, and remove the obstacles that prevent them or bind them to some structure. Release them to relationship with God, with themselves, their families, their neighbors, their community, their world.
I think the issue may be less about hierarchy and more about leadership style. Perhaps what Guder and the others are saying is that the single leader culture will, of necessity in a fallen world, produce transactional leaders rather than transformational leaders. Jesus spoke of these two kinds of leaders in Matt 20:25, the worldly carnal leader and the leader of the kingdom. (Note: I am getting much of the following from one of the servant leaders I most admire. He is Tom Bloomer, Provost of the University of the Nations.)
Transactional leaders emphasize rules, have a low tolerance for diversity, emphasize hierarchy and departments, withhold information as a method of control, announce rather than process decisions, require loyalty more than truthfulness, talk about accountability without being personally accountable, and use vision to manipulate.
Transformational leaders, on the other hand, possess vision that is liberating, reproduce personal initiative with trust and encouragement at all levels of the organization. Their official outspoken goal is to encourage everyone to fulfill their callings. They promote creativity and diversity, at every age level. Therefore, divergent and creative people feel welcome and stay. They do not lead with rules, but with principles and they encourage people to apply them as they see fit. The leader is not seen as superior to the others. They have a high respect for every individual. Information is share opening with everyone and everyone is truly accountable. Truth telling is encouraged. And all participants are involved in decision-making. Not all decide (that would not help the organization to work), but all can speak out, contribute, and participate. Therefore structure is deemphasized. The structure is subtle and flexible, changing as necessary and as the organization grows.
If we truly are Christian and our organization, the institutional churches we lead, is truly modeling kingdom leadership, then there will be no transactional leadership. There can be no transaction in love. To fail to lead as kingdom leaders, and therefore lead as transactional leaders, will produce Christians who live as though they have a contract with God; they bargain with God in their prayers, their service, and their giving. When bad things happen in their lives, the question what they did wrong or why God would not fulfill his end of the bargain.
Transformational leaders grow churches & missional communities under the radar, quietly, and without seeking control over what emerges. They truly release what grows. Paul said it very clearly, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God made it grow.”
Closing thought: The nations were under hierarchical spiritual authority (Eph. 6:12, Col. 1:16) and Jesus came to break the power of that diabolical control. Jesus broke those powers as a lamb that was slain. He broke those demonic powers when he died on the cross, not when he ascended to heaven to receive all authority. Jesus did not seize power; he was given power. And then he gave that power to us. How do you think he wants us to lead his Church & Mission?