I am not a church planter. But I do not see why church planters should get all the bright fresh wisdom for leadership.

I was deeply touched recently by a post from “The Junia Project” called “Midwifing the Church” by Christiana Rice. Rice’s words should be read in their original version at http://juniaproject.com/midwifing-the-church/

Rice issues an important challenge for leaders to think carefully about the metaphors we use to describe our leadership. For church planters Rice suggests using the metaphor “midwife” and offers “5 Postures to Midwifing Local Expressions of the Church” that offer a refreshing vision for church leadership.

As a person who labours in a traditional church model, I find Rice’s “postures” equally helpful in reflecting on my leadership. Here are Rices five postures, with a few quotes form her original article and my reflections:

  1. Ready your heart and leave your agenda behind

As a midwife is acutely aware that her own worldview and biases can and will impact the way in which she enters a birthing experience, so we learn to become aware of what we bring and what we need to leave behind.

As she steps into a context for birth, the midwife commits to regularly centering herself and leaving all agendas, preconceived notions, opinions, prejudice and expectations at the door. She goes into the birth with an open heart and with open arms, ready to receive whatever may come.

I cannot think of a more important insight for church leaders no matter the stage of the community in which we exercise our ministry.

Any leadership that seeks to nurture an openness to the work of God’s Spirit must, by definition, start with an openness to God’s Spirit, ie. “Ready your heart.” I need to ready my heart to be responsive to what is actually going on in the situation, not what I might wish is going on but the reality of what is actually taking place. This requires deep listening.

The one thing perhaps more than anything else that will hinder my ability to listen and be responsive is my determination to cling to “my agenda.” When I start from the place of believing I know what must be happening, I cannot be open to what is happening. I need to acknowledge that I have “a worldview and biases” that shape the way I see what is going on. This is no doubt important for visionary energetic creative church planters; but, if anything, it is even more important for old tired stuck-in-their-ways church bureaucrats.

After 35 years “in the religion business,” the things I need “to leave behind” will be different than for a person just starting out. But, without a doubt I have entrenched ideas, visions, demands, needs, and insecurities that Jesus calls me to let go of every day in order to make room for the fresh work of God’s Spirit.

As a midwife, my first job is always “centering” myself in that deep inner place of my being where I desire only to live in response to God’s work. It is tempting…. well it may be tempting for some people, after 35 years, to think I know how this religion thing works. There might be times when I feel I can navigate the unpredictable and tempestuous seas of church life in my own power and with my own wisdom. No matter how skilled I may have become, this will always be a disaster. I must stop, retreat for a moment and come back to the centre, acknowledging my need for God’s wisdom, guidance, strength, and peace before launching into action.

There is no way to get to the right outcome starting in the wrong place. When I start from my agenda, my needs, wants and desires, I will always end up with manipulation, abuse, and violence. When I start from the still quiet centre of my being, I will always be moved towards light, beauty, gentleness, healing, and reconciliation.