For a term at university I had a tutor for history who was Polish. This meant that he was one of a tiny number of people to correctly identify my surname as Lithuanian, and that he really didn't like Russia. Whenever Roman Abramovich sacks another manager at Chelsea, I'm reminded of this guy teaching me about Peter the Great as the typical "strong man" of Russia, an absolute ruler whose tyranny many Russians continue to prefer, despite the horrors of Stalin's perfection of this idea. Vladimir Putin and Abramovich himself are of the same mould. I hear people describe Chelsea as Abramovich's toy but he more likely considers it his nation state, an expression of his will.
Other leaders in the news week, those attempting to run the Church of England, have a different set of problems.
At my church this Sunday evening, my friend Daniel and I will be appointed as "elders", joining Matthew and Dan as the senior leaders of King's. The four of us will be ultimately responsible to God for the church: its members, its mission... everything, really. I've been struggling to find the words to describe how I feel about this. People have asked if I'm excited but that doesn't seem like the right question. I think this is because I feel so aware of the holiness of what's about to happen. As with when I got married, I'll be answerable to God for more than myself from now on. That's a profound difference. What a privilege too. Helping others, building God's community, bringing change, protecting and teaching, challenging and releasing, demonstrating godliness and pointing people to Jesus - and all with the promise of God's sufficiency, and a load of people whom I love and trust and enjoy being with. "Exciting" seems a little too shallow for the scale of the seriousness and the joy ahead.
Apart from the inconsistent facial hair (the Old Testament word for elder is "bearded one", incidentally), I hope there are no similarities between Abramovich and me as leaders. For one thing: Matthew, Dan, Daniel and I know that King's is Christ's church and that it exists for His glory, not ours. For another, we're not about imposing our authority: Christian leadership works by being received, welcomed. It's also not about working out how to accommodate everyone, the CofE's unenviable and perhaps inevitable struggle. It's about following the God we love and pleasing Him - the great task of life.That's probably the word I'm looking for to describe eldership: with its several meanings in mind, this will be great.