Here’s how the dissertation ends (at the moment), applying what’s happening in house churches in Japan to… well, us.
Finally, do the Japanese house churches have anything to say to church government outside of Japan? I believe that they do.
In our analysis of house church leadership, we have been able to trace a straight line from the paterfamilias leadership of the New Testament house churches, through the network-connection understanding of apostleship in UK house churches in the 1960s, to the emerging house churches in Japan today. As we have previously noted, this is a very different definition of leadership to that found in most Western Christian literature, which emphasises vision, direction and so on.
But perhaps the prevalent thought on church government, and on leadership more generally, in the West is actually a temporary aberration against the mainstream of leadership-as-relationship-management—albeit an aberration which has lasted for two centuries. Certainly the overarching metaphor of command and control which permeates Western leadership thought reflects the mechanization of the Industrial Revolution. (Morgan, 2006) As we move into a post-industrial society, with its renewed emphasis on human relationship, (Holt, 1995:19) perhaps we shall see a shift in the notion of church leadership similarly away from the vision-and-encouragement model and more towards what the Japanese are already doing in terms of relationship management. (see Barna, 2001:56)
We have already seen the rise of the networked organisation as a new model for church and mission, (Tiplady, 2003:112ff.) which will require a new set of leadership skills—those who are used to wielding considerable power and influence within their own organisation may find it difficult to adjust to an order in which achieving their goals requires a much higher degree of co-ordination with other organisations. At the same time, postmodernity places a high emphasis on personalization and individual choice, (Herangi, 2002:3–5) and successful leaders of postmodern church structures will need to be able to, in Taka and Foglia’s (1994) words again, “permit or encourage others to proceed to the life force through their own work;” in other words, take into account the diversity of individual choice and thereby trust the specializations of their subordinates, something which Taka and Foglia identify as a key factor in Japanese leadership style. Leaders operating in this model will tend to be catalytical, rather than positional, and will increase an organisation’s effectiveness through their ability to network those of different specializations and thereby giving others the space for synergy, as described by Brafman and Beckstrom (2006).
It is therefore my contention that successful leadership patterns within the Japanese house church would provide a useful model for leadership within non-Japanese forms of church, in particular the more postmodern, emergent expressions of church in the West, and eventually more widely as Western church patterns are gradually reshaped by their prevailing cultural context. We will, I surmise, be looking to ideas such as those of Ōtsubo (1998), Kado (2008) and Kobayashi (2007) to develop a renewed model for leadership in this milieu.
I apologise for using the word synergy, but I’m doing a leadership course so I think I get marked down unless I use it at some point.