Rod White, an iconoclast by temperament and intention, actively challenges the “top down” tendencies of the Church.
As founding pastor of Circle of Hope, an urban church of five congregations and over 50 cell groups in Philadelphia (Pa.), Rod has turned typical church governance upside down. At Circle of Hope, he explains, “leaders listen to the body and to God; their function is discernment as much as direction.”
To accomplish this, Circle of Hope undertakes a process of “mapping” every spring. Staff and cell leaders prepare a set of directional questions which are disseminated to the whole church, some years by a written survey, in other years as “talking points” for verbal discussion in cell groups.
After two weeks of turnaround time, the leadership group (staff and cell leaders) receive the input, collate the responses, and publish the results. The intention is for the responses is to be an “open book” for all to see.
Within a week or two of publishing the input, the leadership group puts together a draft vision and plan for the coming year. This draft is disseminated to everyone with a week to respond with comments.
After this second round of feedback, the leadership group refines the vision and plan into a final draft which is presented for consideration and approval at an all-church meeting. From start to finish, the “mapping” process takes about 6-8 weeks.
The concepts that undergird this practice are, fundamentally, the priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2:9), and, secondarily, an intention to engage the whole community, a corporate desire to move in step with the Spirit, a commitment to build community together, a thoroughgoing commitment to dialogue, and an undergirding recognition that leadership is a team effort.
With many minds and voices weighing in to shape direction at Circle of Hope, the status quo is always in jeopardy. And perhaps as a direct result, this urban church continues to thrive and expand.
Also see Setting Direction I and Setting Direction II