There has been a bit of talk going on in the “blogesphere” about whether or not leadership is actually help for the mission of the church. I had a pretty enjoyable twitter debate (yes, apparently those exist) with Bill Kinnon and my friend Dave Fitch this afternoon. Bob Hyatt was in on it too and […]

There has been a bit of talk going on in the “blogesphere” about whether or not leadership is actually help for the mission of the church.

I had a pretty enjoyable twitter debate (yes, apparently those exist) with Bill Kinnon and my friend Dave Fitch this afternoon. Bob Hyatt was in on it too and I think he’s on my side here. (Side note: I’m pretty sure Bob promised a blog post on the topic later today. Hopefully my calling him out here puts some pressure on him. The world is a better place when Bob blogs – Here is Bob’s post as promised).

You can follow most of the conversation from Dave Fitch’s excellent post which resides here.

The more I interact with Fitch and Kinnon the more it is clear that we 100% agree on everything. Okay, that’s probably not 100% true. It’s more like 50% true 100% of the time. Eh, whatever.

Here is the thought process as I’ve seen it go so far:

  1. Pastors read a lot of leadership books. (True)
  2. Pastors sometimes read more leadership books than they read the Bible. (Also unfortunately true)
  3. Pastors tend to hold big conferences on leadership and hold business leaders up higher than they hold of the witness of the Biblical text. (Sadly, this is way too true)

Okay. I’m tracking with that so far. If all that is true (and I believe it is) than we have a serious crisis of leadership in the church.

But it seems to me the conclusion is this:

Secular leadership books and theories are bad and has nothing to offer the church.

Now, I’m a big fan of over-statement to make a point. And, sometimes we will find that we have departed so far from the right path that we need to treat the topic like it is over weight man on the end of seesaw.  Wait, what? Did I just say over-weight man on a seesaw? Yep.

You see the purpose of a seesaw is to have balance on each side so that you can experience the joy of how it was intended to work.  But, when you’ve got a huge person on one end and a much smaller person on the other, you’ve got a problem. Everyone just sits there. No movement.

Therefore, you sometimes have to drop a semi-truck on the end that is up just to get things moving again.

In my opinion, that’s what Fitch and others are doing with leadership and I’m actually okay with it…to a point.

The church has suffered a lot from unhelpful views of leadership. But I believe that we still have a lot to learn from non-church leadership theories. I’ll continue to interact with this stuff.  But, I’m going to interact with a critical eye. Just like I do when I interact with anything that is “extra-biblical.”

Yes, if we have to choose between the Bible and leadership books, we should choose the Bible. But we don’t have to choose. Fitch lays it out perfectly when he channels his inner Barth and said in this tweet that “the direction of discernment must follow from Jesus to business.”

We start with Jesus. Absolutely.

We have a problem with leadership in the church. We have a problem with pastors playing the role of top-down, positional authorities and yes, part of this has developed from pastors spending more time in leadership books than in the witness of scripture. Bad, bad pastors shame on us!

All that being said, at the end of the day I’m okay with us questioning leadership itself.  I say that because I believe that we need leadership in the mission of the Church. This process of questioning can be a good opportunity to get the lower end of seesaw off the ground.

To end, I will say this: David Fitch’s stuff on leadership on submission is pure gold.  I’ve seem his church live this out from afar and it goes directly against most forms of popular leadership models. It seems to me that if we get radical and mutual submission right, we’re going to be headed in the right direction.

  • Matt Tebbe

    Todd –

    What would your grandpa say to all this? (I haven’t read his book yet…)

  • Todd, I’m with you that there can be some usefulness in business books, but I’m also one that would use the rhetorical sledge hammer of railing on church leadership being too informed by business leadership theories.

    It’s not that wisdom doesn’t exist, but more that in my experience, people just run after the new thing, we don’t run it through the Jesus filter and instead start looking more like Steve Jobs or Trump or Seth Godin than Jesus.

    I think it’s a much needed corrective right now in evangelicaldom. (As well as a purging of apple products, but that’s a different crusade 😉 )

  • Brian, i would argue that our problem with people running after the next new thing is a problem with our seminaries more than (or at least as much as) it is a problem with business and leadership books. i agree, its a much needed corrective. That corrective requires some serious discipleship.

    also, i don’t have a problem with apple products.

    Sent from my iPad 😉

  • I can agree with that to a certain degree Todd, but I think it goes beyond seminaries to a lack in discipleship in general. Just my opinion.

    Of course you don’t have problems with apple products!

    Sent from my Windows 7 Development Machine

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  • len

    What? Me lagging in this conversation? Sorry eh.

    Yeh I am totally with you. I have found great value in the leadership and business stuff I have read. But I’m pretty selective. Margaret Wheatley, Peter Senge, Willard and Drath, Chris Lowney ( a study of the Jesuits), not to mention those edgy looks like “SUrfing the Edge of Chaos.” Great stuff in these, stuff that works, sometimes only partially articulate, with something like a biblical view of humankind. Come to think of it, the implicit anthropology in the best business and org science books is more biblical than that in most churches. Go figure.