Dwell relies on team leadership to accomplish much of our work - from our eldership and management team to individual home churches.
Plural, collective, or team leadership is an important control that we believe God designed because of man's fundamental untrustworthiness. Entrusting the local church to a group reduces the likelihood that one person will go bad and mess things up. Satan's task becomes more difficult if he must win over a whole group of leaders. Team leadership also celebrates the unity and diversity of the body of Christ, since workers with complementary giftings collaborate and rely on one another to achieve common goals (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12).
Examples of team leadership abound throughout the New Testament. Jesus sent his disciples out to minister "two by two" (Mark 6:7). When the growing church experienced conflict along ethnic lines, the apostles raised up a seven-person team to correct the problems (Acts 6:1-7). The Jerusalem church was helmed by a team of apostles and elders (Acts 15:1-2). Paul often planted new churches with one or more disciples (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1). In the book of Acts, eldership is always plural.
Below are a number of practical and theological considerations regarding leadership plurality:
A group of untrained and immature leaders is no more reliable than a single leader. Only if leaders are trained and mature can we assume the team will be more reliable than an individual.
- We prefer to recognize a senior leader on a team. He or she can make some insignificant decisions without a meeting, making things easier for everyone. A senior leader takes initiative in leading the team - this counters the paralysis that may result from "leadership by committee." However, a majority of the team can overrule a senior leader, so accountability is preserved.
Group size is the most important factor to consider when deciding whether to require plurality of leadership. In very small groups, the ratio of leaders to members would be unnecessarily high if we required plural leadership. Since most house churches at Dwell host between 15 and 60 people, we require plurality.
Most home churches are large enough to have a unique identity. Members sometimes develop loyalty to their home church, more than to the larger church. On the positive side, this makes home churches nearly indestructible. On the other hand, divisiveness becomes a risk. We think plurality of leadership is the answer to this negative tendency. It seems much less likely that an entire well-trained team would decide to divide from the rest of the church. During its history, Dwell has experienced very little divisiveness from home churches.
We believe having couples lead together is healthy for marriages, and we prefer people leading with their spouses.
The size of the average home church suggests that teaching is more appropriate for meetings than mere sharing. Many congregations worry this could lead to doctrinal aberrations. But again, plural leadership with good training is an adequate safeguard. We find very suspicious the thought expressed by many pastors that we should keep leaders ignorant and discourage group Bible study to prevent theological error.
- Another potential liability of team leadership is disagreement. Teamwork requires a willingness to accept limitations on autonomy and decision-making that the immature find irksome or even unacceptable. Leaders must develop negotiation skills and patient communication to find success. Certain self-willed and dominating individuals are weeded out by their inability to function as team players, and this is good. Any individual who is too self-willed to work with colleagues is not welcome to lead in our church.
At Dwell, home church leaders are not empowered to remove other home church leaders from leadership. Only the elders can remove a home church leader. This prevents a majority from overrunning a minority in a team without outside confirmation. Sometimes, the lone dissenter is in the right!
Elders' enjoy leading through plurality and so do most home church leaders. Many workers are more willing to consider being part of a leadership team than going out by themselves.