The Arthur Chronicles—No. 13

Almost nobody would describe Arthur Lough as impulsive. Thoughtful, yes; careful, yes; sometimes almost maddeningly thorough. But surely not impulsive. Except, that is, for his mildly annoying propensity to act on impulse when it comes to placing a telephone call at Cell phone connection technology concept on white background.the moment a noteworthy thought crosses his mind, irrespective of the time of day (or night).

If my phone rings at 6:00 a.m. or while I am eating dinner or at 11:00 p.m., it is usually Arthur, calling to share something he has just read or seen on TV which has provoked him or stirred up his thought processes. Most of the time, the subject matter proves interesting enough to overcome the mild irritation of being interrupted at an inconvenient moment.

And so it was that, last Monday night, just after I had sat down to dinner with my wife, the phone rang. It was, of course, Arthur. We had agreed to meet for lunch at his house on the following Wednesday, and his wife had just reminded him that that would be the first day of Lent, traditionally known as Ash Wednesday. Arthur follows the Anglican custom of observing Ash Wednesday (along with Good Friday) as a day for fasting. There would be no world-famous corned beef sandwiches at the Lough house on that day.

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Effective Leadership And The Rule Of Three

The “rule of three” suggests that groups of things that come in threes are inherently more satisfying or more effective than things in other numbers. It has many applications. Who could ever forget the Three Stooges, the Three Blind Mice, or Goldilocks and the Three Bears?

Three points are generally optimum for a sermon or speech, since they can be used in a progression to create tension, build it up, then resolve it. An equilateral triangle is one of the strongest geometric shapes employed by architects and engineers. And one of the most famous biblical images to make use of the rule of three is found in Ecclesiastes 4:12—A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

The rule of three I have in mind today has to do with the factors which contribute to effective leadership. I’m not thinking so much of the character traits which are absolutely essential for a good leader. I will have much to say about them in the days ahead. Rather, for today, I’m thinking particularly of the context or the conditions which enable a good leader to be effective. And I believe that the most desirable context for effective leadership involves a proper balance between three components: authority, opportunity, and accountability.

By authority I mean all those things which are necessary to qualify a leader for his or her position and which enable the leader to accomplish the task of influencing people to make particular decisions or take specific actions. It includes natural giftedness, formal and informal preparation, and often a credential which may be symbolized by some sort of ceremony, ornament, or attire. Authority assures those who are being led that their leaders have met some objective requirements for their role and gives confidence that leaders are trustworthy and will use their gifts and exercise their influence in prudent and careful ways.

Opportunity is the setting in which leaders operate. It may be an organization, an institution, or simply a situation which requires a leader to use his gifts and exercise her influence for the good of the people involved. It will entail an obvious need along with the potential for resources required to address the need and resolve the situation.

Accountability is the mechanism by which it can be determined whether or not leaders have acted responsibly, prudently, and efficiently in the exercise of their gifts and the use of their authority for the good of those they lead.

I am no expert in effective leadership. I’ve read a few books, attended a few seminars, taken a few courses in subjects at least vaguely related to leadership. But my qualification for addressing this subject lies mainly in the fact that I have been both a leader and a follower, I am a keen observer, and I have learned a few things along the way. That’s where these three components for effective leadership came from. I didn’t read them in a book, at least not one that I can remember. They just seem to make sense.

I believe that failure, inadequacy, and incompetence within the church today, among those who make up the body of Christ—and there is a lot of it about—arises, first and foremost, from failures, inadequacies, and incompetence on the part of those who ostensibly provide leadership to the church. If there is a crisis of spirituality, a crisis of commitment, a crisis of effectiveness in the church, it is first of all a crisis of leadership.

Most of this crisis in leadership has to do with the inner character of the leader. As noted, I will have much more to say on that subject. Some of the ineffectiveness of contemporary leaders among the people of God, however, can be traced to an imbalance among the three components for effective leadership which I have noted above. When one of the three elements is decidedly weaker than the other two, or absent altogether, that imbalance impedes the efficient and productive exercise of leadership gifts and influence. When this happens within a church context or among the people of God, the consequences extend to the effectiveness of the church in embodying the character of the Kingdom of God and advancing the Gospel of the Kingdom.

After forty years of vocational ministry, I am prepared to suggest that leadership among Fundamentalists, where I began my career in vocational ministry, is too often marked by authority and opportunity without sufficient accountability. During more than twenty-five years of ministry among Mennonites, I found leadership to be sometimes limited by opportunity and accountability without sufficient authority to enable leaders to carry out their tasks.

I am today an Anglican priest. When Anglican polity is functioning effectively, there are ample mechanisms in place to confer appropriate authority and to provide for proper accountability. What is lacking is opportunity. Oh, there is plenty of need. There are simply too few resources to enable leaders, with adequate authority and accountability, to take advantage of opportunities, or to initiate the same, through the exercise of their gifts in fulfillment of their calling.

The problem is not really that there are too few resources. The problem is one of distribution. Too many resources are being directed toward too few opportunities. The work of the Kingdom is being hindered because of inequality and disproportionality in the distribution and consumption of Kingdom resources. I have spoken to this situation in earlier posts, and I shall do so again, anon.

Why St. Patrick?

The man we now know as St. Patrick of Ireland was born in Roman Britain in the late 4th century.  As a teenager he was captured by Irish raiders and forced into slavery in Ireland for six years, until, through unusual circumstances which he interpreted as God’s miraculous intervention, he escaped and returned to his family in Britain.  Eventually he was ordained a priest and returned to Ireland where he spent the remainder of his life preaching the Gospel to the very people who had enslaved him.

While Patrick’s life is the stuff of legend, it is virtually indisputable that he was instrumental in the conversion of 5th century Ireland from the tribal paganism of the Druids to the Trinitarian Gospel of Jesus Christ.  His evangelistic success owes much to his willingness to embrace whatever elements of his surrounding culture he could use in the preaching of the Gospel, short of compromising the faith through unwise dilution of the Truth with paganism.  His ministry may be the only historical example of the conversion of an entire pagan culture to Christianity without violence and bloodshed accompanying.  For these reasons, I believe that St. Patrick has set a wonderful example for any ministry seeking to preach the Gospel cross-culturally.  Twenty-first century America represents a cross-cultural challenge for evangelical Anglicans.  I would encourage our new parish, and the ministry center which I have described, to identify Patrick of Ireland as their patron saint.

In my last few blog posts, I have attempted to provide a brief sketch of what the ministry of The St. Patrick Center might entail—a mere framework to give basic shape to the program which could develop in response to genuine needs as God makes resources available.  Some may consider the vision too ambitious or bold, particularly in hard economic times such as those facing Americans at present.  I believe, however, that there are always sufficient resources to accomplish all that God wants to do with us and through us for the glory of His name and for the advancement of the Gospel of the Kingdom.  Moreover, I believe that my gifts, training, and experience over a lifetime of Christian service and Kingdom work, have prepared and equipped me to lead in the development of a ministry such as that which I have outlined here.

I have never thought of myself as particularly creative or “entrepreneurial” in my approach to vocational ministry.  Then again, up to now I have not needed to be.  What I have written here is not some grandiose scheme designed to advance my agenda or promote my interests.  Rather, it is a modest attempt to outline several potential opportunities for fruitful, productive, and Christ-honoring ministry within the “new Anglicanism” currently emerging in North America.  I have set these opportunities against a significant challenge, i.e. limited financial resources, which the Anglican Church in North America will need to address.

Only God can provide the support and supply the resources that will transform this vision from concept to reality.  It may be that God will use these blog posts as a catalyst in the lives of some of His people who have the means to help that transformation come about.  Significant progress in the growth of ACNA and the advancement of the Gospel through its auspices will require both visionary leadership and substantial sacrifice.  If we are up to that challenge, however, I believe God can and will do great things through ACNA for the glory of His Name.

Two Scenarios

When I consider the possibility that a church like the one I described in my previous blog post might actually come about, I envisage two separate scenarios, either of which could give rise to such a church.  In the first scenario, a church planter takes up residence in the neighborhood or community where the church’s meeting place will likely be located.  Over the course of time, the church planter comes to know, and be known by, the community.  A basis for trust is established, and gradually a core group forms, eventually achieves “critical mass,” and grows into a vibrant fellowship.  The key elements in this scenario, of course, are time and a personality suited to the task of developing a community of faith from the ground up through the cultivation of personal relationships.

In the second scenario, the vision for planting a new church is taken up by a church already in existence.  The established church commissions a number of its members who are excited about the prospect of the new church to form the core group for the new church and to devote themselves, for a specified period of time, to the development of the new work.  Some, including the founding pastor, actually move to the location of the new church; many would likely commute.  Some will become permanent members of the new church; many would likely return to the original “mother” church once the “daughter” church was established and growing.  In this scenario, the new church “hits the ground running,” so to speak, and, owing to the positive effect of both people and money from the “mother” church, achieves critical mass, and thus the likelihood of success, much sooner than in the first scenario.

A good friend of mine attends a church in a Columbus suburb which was planted a few years ago following the pattern of scenario two. An evangelical church on the northeast side of the city commissioned a group of its members, many of whom lived on the west side, to establish a church closer to where they live. The mother church also sent one of its pastoral staff to serve as pastor for the new church, and the church was substantially self-supporting from the beginning. The church meets in a high school auditorium and has tripled in size in five years.

I am not a missiologist, but I have been a church member all my life and a servant of the church for most of that time.  The scenarios above do not derive from textbooks on church planting or sociology but from life experience and common sense.  I don’t know if one of these scenarios is preferable to the other.  I do know that both of them can succeed, and both of them can fail.  I also know that, of the two, the second is more attractive to me since, at age 61, an introvert by nature, and unemployed for the past three years, it is difficult to believe that scenario one is at all a possibility.  For one thing, I currently live thirty miles from the community most often considered the likely location for the new church (Grandview Heights), and I am in no financial position, on my own, to relocate at present.

At the same time, scenario two seems equally unlikely at present, since there is apparently no parish in the Columbus area in a position to own the vision I have summarized here in a tangible or substantive way.  Despite that, I am confident I could provide effective leadership for such a venture.  I am further confident that, if this vision is from God, He will raise up the support necessary to make it a reality.