One evening when our adult kids were home for Christmas, we entertained ourselves with Google translate by translating phrases back and forth to see how they might change. Communicating clearly and effectively is both important and challenging for church and ministry leaders. How often have you conveyed a key message and then been shocked at how it was misunderstood by others? Probably far more often than you would like.
The most serious injury I ever had playing soccer was momentary, but it still scared me to death. While I never lost consciousness, I lost my vision for about two minutes. Before that, I had approached my health with the cavalier nature of a teenager. Unfortunately, many of us make the same mistake. We think we’re physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy until an event happens that gets our attention—until we get blindsided by a different reality. What can we do to prevent that life-altering event?
Like the hyperdrive on Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon, there are leaders who propel their churches forward at breakneck rates, helping them journey great distances and achieve impressive results. In the leader’s mind, the idea of being a “visionary” excuses their obsession with results and the tunnel-vision that accompanies their success. When this occurs, a hyper-driven leader creates vision-weary people and may be authoritarian, autonomous, and even downright mean.
Why would otherwise great leaders act in such destructive ways?
One of the best parts of getting a PhD in Leadership was being required to read widely on the subject. From time to time, I get asked what some of my favorite leadership books are. So, I thought I would take the time to answer that question here and accompany my answer with a fairly through review.
If stranded on a desert island and given only one book from which to teach leadership, I would choose a lesser known book called Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership by Lee Bolman and Terrance Deal.
How many new church plants start to decline after they acquire a permanent building? I recently received this question in an email. Though I don't have the statistics, I do have stories. These are stories of churches that have slowly started their decline after completing building projects and others that have built and are still thriving today. But what has made the difference?
Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:1-3 that in order to walk worthy of our calling in Christ Jesus, members of the church body must work diligently to keep the spirit of peace which holds us together. But why? Why is the unity of the church such a major doctrinal concern? If it is “work,"—and especially if it is a work in need of “diligence,”—then there must be something larger at stake when unity in the church is failing. Why is unity important in the church body? Allow me to offer three biblical reasons from Ephesians 4.
Why is this discussion of a leader’s power so important? Recent issues have made this question extremely pressing for us. Power is possibly the greatest asset towards leadership. It provides leaders with the potential to do good or bring harm. Power allows leaders to build trust and thus gain the voluntary and legitimate permission of people to influence them, or power can be used in such a way that it undermines trust and legitimacy. Abraham Joshua Heschel writes, “Nothing is more useful than power, nothing more frightful.”
Since this is true, the way a leader uses power is the truest test of his or her character. God gives power and position for the sake of his people, not for the privilege of the leader.
I just finished the 1st of The Houston Chronicle 3-part series on sexual abuse within Southern Baptist churches. Like other SBC pastors and church members, my response is one of grief and sadness for the victims and frustration for those who were never brought to justice. Yet, I also understand that while calls for a response and a denominational fix have been given for years, the nature of church autonomy—as addressed briefly in the article—puts the SBC in a unique position as compared to other denominations. Nevertheless, denominational polity is not something that will concern most readers of the story. For those who are victims of such abuse, it shouldn't.
What if we did away with harmony in musical worship? Is it, or any other artistic expression, really necessary to the way we function as a church? Probably not, but most note beauty definitely adds something to the experience. Good art can help better articulate the gospel and move our affections towards God.
In the same vein, I wonder what other expressions of worship we may be missing. Are there some art forms we could use to help us better feel the depth of God's story or understand His person? How might leaders use those mediums to teach, to disciple, and to better explain the faith?
Leadership is a learned skill. Much of the learning takes place experientially, but books can also provide valuable learning. Since reading Steven B. Sample's The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership, "Work for Those Who Work For You" (Chapter 8) has become a guiding leadership principle for me. More than 20 years after first encountering Sample’s work, I still have 2 green sticky notes marking pages in that chapter. On one, I wrote ”service” and on the other “access.” They are reminders that help me even today.