Original Research - Special Collection: Missiology and Religion Studies and Spirituality

The end of leadership?: The shift of power in local congregations

Ian Nell
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 71, No 3 | a2934 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v71i3.2934 | © 2015 Ian Nell | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 March 2015 | Published: 14 August 2015

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Ian Nell, Department of Practical Theology and Missiology, Faculty of Theology, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa

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In a qualitative study recently carried out by the author amongst ministers in a Circuit of Dutch Reformed Congregations in a suburban context in the Western Cape, South Africa, respondents were asked whether they sensed a ‘shift of view’ concerning the role of leadership during the past 20 years in their respective congregations. The research results paint a picture of ‘the end of leadership’ at least in some form. One can also sense a ‘shift of power’ over the past two decades in these local congregations, indicating the changing dynamics of leadership. There seems to be a shift of power from the individual leader to the team, the group and the network. The aim of this paper is, firstly, to present some of the empirical results and then to reflect on the underlying reasons for this shift of power by giving a description of some broader philosophical and sociological perspectives influencing this state of affairs. This will be followed by a description of, and reflection on, theological developments on the Trinity and power that might help to understand the ‘end of leadership’ in some ways. The paper concludes with some thoughts on the role of power and leadership processes at work in local faith communities.


leadership; congregation; power; Trinity; Dutch Reformed Church


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