What Does an “Open Source” Leader Look Like? by Bill Yaccino

As one who worked (many moons ago) in the field of information technology, I recently made a connection between “Open Source” software development communities and multiplying leaders passionate about building the future of the Church.

Open Source Communities

Open Source communities produce software (like the Linux operating systems) then they give the software and the source code away! This seems counter intuitive to our consumer culture. Why would people contribute their time, talents, energy and resources to simply give the product away for free?

I often wonder why more people don’t use Open Source software. Why do people continue to pay hundreds of dollars for operating systems when they can get Linux free of charge? What compels us to spend so much money on commercial Office Suite software when Open Office is free? Some are uncomfortable with things that go against the dominant thinking of our consumer culture. We think quality is somehow directly proportional to the amount of money invested. This faulty thinking may lead us to also doubt what we get in exchange for investing our time and talent into effective disciple-making future leaders. But what if we focused on the process instead of the product?

 The Real Aim is to Create a Community

The MAC vs. PC debate is fun and produces great TV commercials showing one as the obviously superior product. But purchasing either does not make one a better computer user. Linux approaches things differently. Those who develop Linux want to create passionate, life- long contributors to the project instead of passive consumers of a product. So the (ultimate) goal of the Linux development process is not to create a better Operating System–that is a byproduct. The real aim is to create a growing software development community populated with better computer users, programmers, developers, and contributors. The strength of that community rests in creating an open, collaborative environment that allows people to contribute in multiple ways to this ongoing process.

It is not difficult for me to make connections between this Open Source development process and developing Christian leaders who open- handedly expand the circle and give the ministry away. Learning to release control and share influence with others may be one of the most sensitive and difficult changes to make in your leadership style—at least it has been for me. In the past I have “lead” task forces with a predetermined goal in mind. The task was decided upon before the group was ever convened, and contributor efforts were largely limited to that task. This pastor-centered, controlled vision approach to leadership is what I had been taught.

Open Source Disciplemaking

I now believe “open source” discipleship development is the only way forward because it creates a gift-culture community that values the unique contributions of all, and believes giving the ministry away means empowering “users” to become co-creators. This requires shared history and shared contribution. Appreciation for our diverse theological “hardware and software” meld us together instead of pulling us apart. This requires a community that is committed to contributing—in more ways than one—to supporting the disciple- making process. Everyone is involved in this process of making disciples who make disciples!

The Whole is Greater than the Sum

The whole is always greater than the sum of the parts, but without the individual parts, the project would not even exist. True multiplication thrives on giving and receiving generously. Leaders that give the ministry away are evidence that the world is changing. ‘Open Source’ leaders don’t require titles and positions to influence the culture. In this movement, our privilege is to make space for others on the team and to be co- learners and co-creators of God’s mission in the world!

Bill Yaccino is a pastor and collaborative leader in the big-“C” Church. He believes that by connecting

people and resources, the big-“C” Church will multiply and make a greater kingdom impact. He’s served at Willow Creek Church under Bill Hybels, The Bridge Church in Fresno and Journey Church in La Mesa, CA. He currently serves at NorthBridge Church in Antioch, IL. You can email him at billyaccino@gmail.com.

So are you an open-source disciplemaker? Please use the comment feature to tell us what has frustrated you most or benefitted you most from your experience…



9 thoughts on “What Does an “Open Source” Leader Look Like? by Bill Yaccino”

  1. Richard Faulkner

    Amen, brother!

    I have been open source from the beginning, starting with writing and sharing code and games in BASIC as a student in the late 1970’s. I am still open source as a Linux user and use that model in ministry. I seek partnerships that support that model as the Bible itself is the ULTIMATE open source resource!

  2. Randall Ishida

    Isn’t “Open source” or another term may be “decentralized” systems really going back to what Jesus intended His Church to be in the first place?
    How do we change what has been a presupposition in the Western Church for generations. To change behavior within the Church and to think differently we have to change beliefs in leadership so I really like your example of changing software.
    I believe it’s starts with of course the senior Pastor. At first we must be willing to practice decentralized desicion making and leadership, we may loose some efficiency at first, so leadership needs to allow us to “fall forward”. (I’m being general in my explanation, leaders should mentor and not control)
    But in the bigger picture isn’t this how movements begin?
    I think functioning in that way is keeping with the biblical vision of people who have been coshapers under God for His Church.

  3. Hi Bill. I find your article particularly relevant. Are the sons of the world wiser than the sons of the light in this domain (Luke 16.8)? We are not building our church but the Church, we are not forming Christians but disciples that make disciples. And what to think about those who developped a discipleship method, and sell it for hundreds of bucks? What about Pr 11.24, and Mat. 10.8?

  4. I really enjoyed this article for it resonates with the philosophy of “Let Go Of The Ring” and “as each part does its own special work it helps the rest of the body to become healthy and growing and full of love.”

  5. The “Open sourced,” leaders concept sounds very similar to being a Servant Leader. When we lead by example and give more, than we ask of people, most will follow this lead. It becomes natural to reproduce what we have been shown. It is a win win situation.
    I’ve had good and bad managers, I think we all have in our professional careers. Focusing on what worked is much more rewarding than complaining about what’s went weong. Open Source focuses on the good and rewards it. This draws people in. Once drawn in, great disciples can we made.

    1. So true about the link to servant leadership. I recently watched an open-sourced pastor leave a church in the hands of a CEO. Everything changed, permission dried up and people felt forced instead of encouraged… sad!

  6. All in all, I feel like God has blessed me to see and begin to be an open source kind of leader. But it seems like so many want to follow conventional ways (easy church) and not subcribe to (kingdom expansion). How do we get folks to try and appreciate “Open Office” when “MS Office” has been marketed so well?

    I am a covocational guy. I do something called industrial hygiene in chemical manufacturing. From my early 20’s I recognized that my direct reports did not work for me. I worked for them. Through the years I have watched those same friends flourish. I never had a big staff but I have watched folks move from technician and clerical positions into engineer, department managment and even plant manager roles. God gave me the insight to take care of them, and in a sense, give them away.

    I always noticed it was struggle initially for my coworkers to take on my responsibilities. I always told them that I needed to work my way out of my job. The motivation was to promote and expand them and help them get where they wanted to go. I assigned the work and they did it, and I supported them along the way. I can recall many a conversation when they would show me what they were doing and ask if it was “what I wanted” or “how I would do it”. When I said, “it did not matter what I wanted, how I would do it”, that frustrated them. I would say, “does it get the job done.” If the answer was “yes”, then it did not matter. There are many different ways to get an effective outcome.

    With one guy in particular there was great frustration when his way didn’t match the way I would do it. But, we continued and we were successful. He runs his own consulting successful business now. I don’t know that any one of those friends would attribute any of their success to me but I know God used me to do something small but impactful in their lives. I am so grateful to Him for that.

    My second vocation is serving the kingdom. My wife and I did this on a “voluntary basis” basis for 30 years. Two years ago we stepped out to Plant a church in our local community. I have been struggling to carry this mindset and application into our local body. I keep encouraging folks to do what God puts on their heart to do. I am telling folks I work for them. I tell them I am a resource and our local body is a resource to move them forward for what God wants.

    I am discipling four and encouraging them to disciple others. We have one lady who is discipling four but she has really been struggling with three of them. We have baptized 10 in total, but 3 of them have fallem completely away. I continue to promote personal discipleship for every believer. Our process is to start each new believer with a read together through Purpose Driven Life (40 days). We pray “who’s your one” and teach “3 Circles” for sharing our faith. We struggle here.

    Our simple strategy for reaching our area is to employ loving our neighbor. Neighboring (invite a neighbor for dinner, game night, or help neighbor do something they’re working on, help them is a minor or major crisis) is something we are really struggling with. I cannot seem to get buy-in.

    Our goal is to plant a church at 3 to 5 years. This may just be mostly my goal. We will see how much buy-in I have later this year. We have not identified a leader or a team to send yet. By the way. We started with 10. We have about 55 folks now. We have picked up a few unchurhced believers and some transfers.

    I am asking God to show us what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong. I am not frustrated but I am concerned. I know sowing and tending and reaping is a process that sometimes takes a while to produce fruit. I am concerned I am not leading us in some of the right ways. I am not sure what needs tweaked or perhaps completely reworked.

    1. Brent, I love reading your story. Hoping that many others will follow in your footsteps. I just created a Facebook group for folks like you to share ideas. I’d be honored if you should choose to join. It’s called Multipliers: Light from the ancient future. The focus will be on disciplemaking and church multiplication with a special focus on freelance church planters and the microchurch phenomenon.

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