Monday, March 02, 2009

Alpha Males and Church Leadership

Following up from my previous post, I want to nuance what I said about church planting in Sydney. We are quite prone to planting churches of one particular type - that is churches which are led by alpha males. If one of our churches starts falling behind, we parachute in one of these guys and expect their ability as a 'renaissance man' to turn everything around.

These men are typically assertive in their leadership, and can generally command the loyalty of their church by sheer force of personality. (To generalize even further, they are sporty - or at the very least are well built and handsome). You can see this in many of the leaders in our diocese. Rather than being the softly spoken kind of guys, these men are often seen at church holding court - they are the center of conversations, with younger guys hanging of their every word. And so the next generation of church leaders emulates the current crop of alpha males. They often come across as brash and assertive, and the next thing you know they are late to lectures because they're playing touch or cricket.

Remember too that the Apostle Paul was not a great speaker. He wasn't a great surfer, shuffle around in his designer clothes or have a tan to an enunciate his rugged good looks. Instead he was a poor speaker, ship wrecked and beaten a few times. It is in our weaknesses that He is strong.

I'm not saying that all our ministers are like this. There are many men in ministry who definitely aren't alpha males. They're scrawny and softly-spoken, and full power to them. But if we continue to plant churches where all the men are expected to be die hard rugby fanatics, then that is a significant portion of the population that we are marginalizing and excluding from our churches. We should not let one particular type of manhood become the exclusive picture of Christian maleness. Especially when it is already hard enough for men like this to fit into church.


Watcher said...


You've touched on a matter that has concerned me for some years. The church seems to be following the world not only in whom it chooses as 'leaders' but in the very concept and its use in church. Sometimes an attempt is made to modify this to 'servant-leader' as though this brings the idea into line with the Bible.

I don't believe that it does.

The Bible consistently talks about servants, and service, not about leaders. Indeed Christ warns us against them, something we hush up! There is some mention of 'leader' in the NT, but the perponderant concept of the local church is a body of service, with elders, not just one (man) coming from that body to serve it, with multiple participation in all aspects of the life of the church.

This is as far from episcopalian practice as one could be.

I think we need to radically reform our concept of how churches form, grow and are organised; what church life is, and how we all particpiate in the body. Reference to the NT, rather than the heritage that comes by way of Rome unreformed, would be a great start.

Mike Bull said...


Of course you are right, but in my experience it's the sporty types that actually need to get into church, not the studious types who stalk clergy.

I'm definitely no Alpha male, but when I teach the Bible I teach it with authority, not personality. And the students respect the Word because I do.

Some people are born "connectors", and if that is their gift, so be it. But it should never be just a veneer.

I know pastors who struggle because they really are not people-people. This includes John Piper - but he speaks the Word with authority and tears.

What we need are Omega males, like Paul - the ones on the other side of the breaking of bread - the elders who have suffered and are willing to become poured out wine for the next generation. These are the true elders.

Joshua Saxby said...

I think your right and like Mike's point.

I think this is partly a Holy Spirit thing. When a preacher is personally convicted by the Spirit, Gods message comes out with authority. When people lack humility and dependence on God they must rely on their own wit and charisma to lead. I think this is encouraged by much of our training that mistakes intellectual growth for spiritual. THEY ARE NOT SYNONOMOUS!

Mike Bull said...

You inspired me to write a post on Omega males.

Rod said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rod said...

Does God call females to lead church plants?