Archives For church

I recently read a post on leadership titled “Why Leadership Training Doesn’t Work” by Geoff Surratt. He talks about two findings he and “church leaders” have discovered about leadership and leadership training.

  1. “It turns out some people don’t make good leaders. Not everyone is a leader.”
  2. “[L]eadership classes don’t develop leaders. At the end of six weeks (or nine weeks or two years), students become graduates, not necessarily leaders.”

I agree with both of his main premises. Leadership classes do not develop leaders, and some people don’t make good leaders.*

But, this post exemplifies how the church misses the boat on leadership. In short, I agree with everything he said, as long as you define “leader” as the one who is “in charge.”  But is that the best definition of “leader?”

What if leadership is nothing more than intentional influence? What if great leaders are those who intentionally influence great numbers of people to accomplish great things?

People can be “in charge” and never lead.  We who write about leadership often refer to those in-charge (whether leaders or non-leaders) as “managers.”  Managers manage. It’s not good or bad, it’s often necessary.  But management is not leadership.

Leaders always influence others, whether in-charge or not. At our core, we influence. We can’t help it; we were created both to influence others and to be influenced. Once we understand God intended us to relate to one another, influence one another, serve one another, we become responsible for the type of influence we have on others.

In the church, because we often talk about “the leader” as the one who is “in-charge,” we separate the position from the person. We tell people to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23), yet little of this relates to being in charge.  We disconnect the simple fact that one of the greatest reasons for doing demonstrating this fruit is so that others “might see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” (Matt 5:16)

We who believe in Christ are all called to glorify Christ. We are all told to work out our salvation. As we work out our salvation we develop ourselves as people who intentionally influence others.  What else could you call that person but a leader?

Even if I’m no good at being “in charge,” I’m responsible for how my life looks to others. As a Christian in the world but not of the world, I’m called to be as good a leader (intentional influencer) as I can be. I should find opportunities to develop as a leader all throughout the church, but it seems the focus there is to get me to join someone else in what they’re doing, rather than find that thing I’m best equipped and most energized to do. I’m constantly either being called to follow, or to decide to be in charge of some sanctioned activity that conforms to some pre-conceived model.

My dream is to find a church where each leader is launched in their own leadership in their own sphere of influence. Imagine a church where members and staff understood clearly that “equipping” means training everyone to be the leader God intended them to be!

We are all leaders. We all influence. And the church, of all communities, should be where we are equipped and challenged to be the leader Christ created us to be, with our kids, with our coworkers (21st century “neighbors”) as well as wherever we’re called, even to the ends of the earth.

Do you feel mobilized and equipped to find your mission?  How can I help you?

Photo © berc – Fotolia.com

* The point of this authors post was about how Jesus trained leaders.  It’s a great call to a mentor or life-based leadership development model based on the life and methods of Christ.  I don’t want to take away from the author’s insights calling us to leave program-based training in place of a life-based model. 

Thinking About Church

June 10, 2012

As a Christian, when you think about your church, what do you think of? Do you think of the place, the people, the singing, the preaching? Do you think about the activities, or the classes, retreats, “ministries?” (What is a ministry anyway?)

Do you think about the overseas or cross-cultural activities that members of your church community participate in? Maybe you think about a ministry to people in another country or people in your local area who are in prisons or hospitals or homeless shelters?

Or do you think about the kids, Sunday school, lesson plans or youth events? Do you think about people getting baptized or making changes in their lives? Do you think about people who leave their jobs, temporarily or permanently to “go into mission work?”

Some questions have come to me over and over in the 10 and a half years since 9/11. On September 11, 2001, I was busy in the pursuit of worldly success in a company that was trying to capture the wealth and potential of the telecommunications industry at that time. I had been a believing Christian for almost 14 years, but that day the eternal became much more real. There was much more going on in the world than just my job and my pursuit of money.

September 11 woke me to the idea that I had subordinated my dream to make a difference to my desire to improve my circumstances. I rationalized it by thoughts like “I can make a much bigger difference when I’m wealthy or when I’m the boss.” But in the weeks after 9/11, I realized that my time was short and if I was going to make a difference, it would be in my circumstances, within my present limitations. No more delaying until the time is right. “Now” is and always will be the right time to make a positive difference.

In my community, it seems few think of our jobs as a place where we can make a difference for eternity. We don’t see our jobs as where we go to serve others and proclaim the glory of Christ (my simple definition of a mission field). In my community, everyone acts pretty much like a Christian, so all of the really important work to make an eternal impact must be somewhere else. Generally, in my community, if you haven’t killed anyone or been jailed for anything, you’re probably a Christian so I don’t have to worry about you at all. Nope, I have to plan my next trip to wherever or go to the bake sale or fireworks store at my church to give my money to “missions.” There’s no significant work for me to do, unless I can take some time off work and go someplace else.

When I think of church, I think of the rest of us that go to work every day. We listen to the Pastor and we sing the songs, and we do the things we’re asked. I think of what we could do if we were organized and mobilized in our jobs. What if we went to work every day intent on giving our lives away in service to our co-workers just so they might see the love of Christ? I wonder what our world would look like if that group of people in every church were mobilized and equipped to show off Jesus in the workplace.

I’m convicted too, that I don’t do this very well. If you’ve ever worked with me you know it. That won’t keep me from trying again today. How about you? Let me know if I can help you in your mission field too. Here’s to action!