Rethinking Leadership

How many workshops, conferences, videos, and books have you experienced about “leadership?” Ten secrets of that, nine habits of those people, or seven principles about leadership that are sure to transform your ministry? Those who present or write those books seem so competent, so successful, so energized.

I want to tell them, “Chill out, won’t you? Stop with adrenaline already!”

I have long been disenchanted with the evangelical world’s obsession with leadership. Leaders have developed an entire (extra-biblical) leadership science. These secular principles are often “baptized” with Scriptural examples to give them an air of authority.

The emphasis on leadership means spotlighting particular leaders. Both the fundamentalist and evangelical communities are noted to gravitate toward the “personality cult,” a modern day version of, “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos.”

Some people are drawn to the mystery and otherworldliness of the great leader. They are looking for someone who is above the fray of normal human existence. It is easy to admire a well-known speaker and/or author who is verbally gifted, filled with unbounded energy, and motivational.

But you don’t know what his family is like, what he is like when he is out of the limelight or in a grouchy mood. Perhaps unlike your pastor who serves a small church and is ready to quit every Monday, the mystery celebrity pastor seems a model for what could be, a man who has mastered life.

But all is not well in Camelot. As we hear about one famous leader after another (in both the Kingdom and in secular society) apologizing for sexual harassment, propositions, affairs, scandals, control-freak behavior, or addictions — the light bulb over our heads is beginning to blink a little.

It is dawning upon our society that ethics matter, and that perhaps developed leaders (who have been first faithful in little) are preferable to born leaders (many of whom must lead because they are incapable of being content while following).

This article from Forbes magazine suggests that even secular society has had enough of the over-energized, decisive, arm-twisting born leaders. Rob Asghar writes:

Good, skilled followers are able to nurture good leadership, by invisibly helping keep a novice leader upright and on track. It’s a lost art in our narcissistic times. There is a conundrum in leadership: Most of the people who naturally gravitate toward leadership roles don’t have the humility or decency you’d want in a leader. And most of the humble and decent people that we might want to see in leadership roles quickly feel chewed up by the tensions, the criticisms, and the thanklessness of the job. They soon retreat to safety or they end up curled up in a ball in a corner office. And only their more ruthless counterparts are left to compete for supremacy. If we want to have any hope of changing this, we have to do a better job of building up the people who aren’t natural leaders but who have qualities that can serve our organizations and our communities. (forbes.com)

The Bible has many examples of leaders, and helps us to understand that strong leaders often carry with them strong weaknesses. Samson, for example, got the job done, but was not a model leader. Neither was Saul. As a matter of fact, David and Solomon were compromised to varying degree. None of these leaders would have been qualified to serve in church leadership, according to the criteria of 1 Timothy 3:1-7.

I am not saying that “born leaders” cannot be godly, mature, or ethical. I could name several that, in my view, meet all the important criteria. In Scripture, Peter was an example of a born leader who was godly, albeit sometimes undependable.

Results do not vindicate a man’s character or walk with God. The 3 B’s (bodies, bucks, and buildings) do not a successful servant make. It is still the criteria of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 that are God’s rubric, and qualities like faithfulness, godliness, balance, relational skills, and wisdom that reign. Marketing expertise, charisma, decisiveness, or “ability to inspire” are not in the mix.

In the past, when we heard of highly successful Christian leaders who later were proven unethical, we marveled in unbelief. Nowadays, we add them to the ever-growing list. Our “results-driven” house of cards is beginning to tumble.

One example of a developed (rather than “born”) leader is Timothy, introduced to us in Acts 16:1-5. Timothy was a developed leader; he came up through the ranks. He was a young man of character, faithful in his local church. Because he was faithful in little, he had potential to be faithful in much — a great young man for Paul to mentor.

The Forbes article referenced above also explained why developed leaders seem so few. Born leaders usually come with a tough hide and amazing resilience. Born leaders do not struggle as intently with their self-esteem or doubt their competency, but often struggle with pride. Godly born leaders become more mature by growing in humility; godly developed leaders often must grow in confidence and develop that tougher hide over time — if they survive.

The sad truth is that churches can become meat-grinders for developed leaders. Few pastors enjoy critical church members. But developed leaders take criticism and discontent harder. Since they are — by nature — more humble, they are also more vulnerable. Many of them are driven out of ministry by sharp tongues and constant complaints.

Interestingly, according to the Forbes article, the same dynamics are at work in the corporate world. Discontented underlings (much like church members) make the work of the developed executive unpleasant and unbearable.

Thus corporations and churches lose some of their best potential leaders and are left with a higher percentage of “born” leaders. Although some born leaders are certainly ethical, others are not.

To escape this vicious circle, we need to stop admiring Christian leaders we don’t know and start modeling ourselves after godly Christian leaders (closer to home) we do know. These leaders may not be “super-human,” but they are more likely to be genuine. If your house is on fire, it is a real fire fighter who will help you — not a fictional superhero.

Second, we need to nurture our leaders and treat them as human beings, not functionaries who merely exist to get the job done.

Just as many ignore the criteria of 1 Timothy 3:1-7, so we tend to forget the family-like approach we are admonished to take toward church life (1 Timothy 3:5, 3:15, 5:1-2). The church is a body, a family, and a kingdom of priests — among other things; it is not a corporation, factory, competitive business, or production line. Developed leaders are often best when it comes to a family-like approach, because, they are by nature, family oriented (1 Timothy 3:4).

As long as the church continues to value the qualities of the corporate world, it will have the same kind of leaders as the corporate world.

Ed Vasicek Bio


Ed Vasicek was raised as a Roman Catholic in Cicero, Illinois. During his senior year in high school (1974), Cicero Bible Church reached out to him, and he received Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone. Ed earned his BA at Moody Bible Institute. He has served as pastor of Highland Park Church since 1983. Ed and his wife, Marylu, have two adult children. Ed has written many weekly columns for the opinion page of the Kokomo Tribune, published articles in Pulpit Helps magazine, and posted many papers at his church website. Ed has also published the The Midrash Key and The Amazing Doctrines of Paul As Midrash: The Jewish Roots and Old Testament Sources for Paul’s Teachings.

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Aaron Blumer's picture

Good food for thought, Ed. I appreciate it.

I've personally benefited some from the work of leadership gurus and celebrity pastors, and I appreciate that you acknowledge that some "born" leaders are good leaders (at least, I think I saw that).

I see a big idealism problem in our thinking about leadership. A tendency to look at leaders in a binary way: as models in every sense, and "trustworthy," or as bad human beings. Other than Jesus Christ, zero of the leaders in the Bible are like that. They are all flawed. Many of them make very serious mistakes. (Peter denys Christ no less than three times and yet Jesus recommissions him: "feed my sheep.").

Western egalitarianism + western celebrity worship seems to be closing in on = respect and appreciation for no actual leaders at all.

TylerR's picture

This is another example of why I'm grateful the Lord didn't incubate me in a Christian, pastoral bubble. When I speak of "leadership," I'm not talking about the vacuous madness that passes for "leadership" and is marketed as such by the hip, evangelical sub-culture. I'm actually referring to the ability to plan, strategize and design a path to move your organization from where you are to where you need to be, coupled with the ability to motivate and inspire employees, subordinates (etc.) to follow you to get there.

I'm referring to the constellation of skills and abilities that allow good leaders to thrive in the military, and in state government, for example. I'm not talking about a book written by a celebrity pastor. So, I'm wondering if we actually have two completely different things in mind, Ed! 

When it comes to books, I thought Mohler's recent book on leadership was only so-so, and reflected the limitations of Mohler's experience in Christian academia. The best thing I've ever read is by Robert Gates, an ex-Secretary of Defense, an ex-Director of the CIA, and ex-President  of Texas A&M University System.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Jay's picture

When it comes to books, I thought Mohler's recent book on leadership was only so-so, and reflected the limitations of Mohler's experience in Christian academia. The best thing I've ever read is by Robert Gates, an ex-Secretary of Defense, an ex-Director of the CIA, and ex-President  of Texas A&M University System.

Are you talking about "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War"?  I read that and thought it was pretty good.  "Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior" (Yes, I know - bad title), "The Way of the SEAL: Think Like An Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed" by Mark Devine, "Starship Troopers", and even "Ender's Game" are all good as well.  If I remember right, the last two books are in the libraries for our Military academies and on the recommended reading lists for promotions.  True, they don't have an explicitly Christian focus...but maybe that's why leaders should not be novices (1 Timothy 3:6).  If you can't integrate basic Christian doctrine and teaching with some secular leadership principles, you'd better not lead anyone. I have found that most of those books' teachings can be traced to Biblical principles

"Conviction To Lead" was good, but not as helpful as I'd thought it would be.  MacArthur's "Called To Lead" was better, in my opinion.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Ron Bean's picture

I've known many leaders who would have been better named drivers. They sometimes led by personality, manipulation, intimidation, or other forms of coercion. (Examples available on request.) It took getting into the business world for me to learn how to lead and teach others to lead as well.

One of those lessons involved finding "First Followers" who were integral in initiating the mission and keeping it going and allowing the leader to disappear into the group. 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

T Howard's picture

The pastoral leadership books I've read often portray the man who can "cast a vision" for his church and get his leaders and congregation behind his vision. These books spend most of their time detailing how to "vision cast" and "get people on board" instead of addressing the qualifications of Scripture. The assumption in these books is that the pastoral qualifications mentioned in Scripture get you in the game, but they are not enough for a pastor to lead a growing, successful church.

Honestly, as Ed's article mentions, most church members agree:

Ed wrote:
Some people are drawn to the mystery and otherworldliness of the great leader. They are looking for someone who is above the fray of normal human existence. It is easy to admire a well-known speaker and/or author who is verbally gifted, filled with unbounded energy, and motivational.

Here's what I have found working closely with both types of leaders mentioned in Ed's article. The "born leader" pastors (I'll call these men Davids) need other people around them who can hold them accountable in how they live, lead, shepherd, and manage. They need other elders in their own church who are not afraid to confront sin, address leadership blind spots, and think through / push back on "the vision."

The "developed leader" pastors (I'll call these men Gideons) often need other people around them who can encourage them, provide suggestions/recommendations on how to move forward/improve, and help them push through hard situations and make difficult decisions. They need other elders whom they know they can trust, but who are willing to give a swift kick in the pants when needed to keep them from naval gazing or wallowing in self-doubt.

Churches benefit greatly from both types of leaders, assuming there are people in place who can provide the type of support each leader needs. When "born leaders" are unaccountable to people in their own church and are surrounded by "yes" men or people who either don't have or don't exercise real oversight, they go off the tracks. When "developed leaders" don't have the support system they need, they often become complacent or feel chewed up and spit out.

T Howard's picture

Again, from what I've witnessed, pastors who tend to be driven, type A personalities really need to take heed to (or have others in their lives who help them take heed to) these passages:

Prov 18:17

Mark 10:42-45

1 Peter 5:1-5

TylerR's picture

The book I was referring to is "A Passion for Leadership," by Robert Gates.

When it comes to "leadership," depending on who you talk to, I think we're talking about three overlapping, but distinct models of leadership. I'll label and describe them as follows (and, by the way, these are certainly not comprehensive descriptors and, to a large extent, they rely on generalizations!):

  1. Professional Pastor Guy. Many people here (I suspect), when they see discussions of "leadership," think immediately of "pastoral leadership." That's the paradigm for many Christians; especially pastors. I understand. It's what you know, so that's the framework that makes the most sense to you. This paradigm often comes packaged by celebrity preachers who try to encourage you to "cast a vision" (as THoward mentioned). I've never found anything of any real value from the literature from this realm. Nothing. What I've read, including some great stuff by conservatives, is often vague, abstract, and has little substance. Generally, my experience is that pastors are the worst leaders I've ever seen in my life; in part because so many chase after foolish fads. Therefore, it isn't a surprise to me that a great deal (not all, to be sure!) of the literature I see from them is of little value on this point.
  2. Military-esque. I don't know what else to call it. But, this is what I "came of age" with in my professional life, and it's what I mean when I refer to "leadership." There's a mission, there's a need to strategize about how to best accomplish that mission with the tools and resources you have, and there's a need to motivate and inspire your people to follow you as you accomplish this mission together, as a team. There is a high premium on self-empowerment, and initiative is rewarded and encouraged.
  3. Corporate. This can be characterized by extraordinarily ruthlessness and ill-morals. The bottom line drives everything. Backstabbing may be common. Etc., etc.

So, depending on who you talk to and where they're coming from, we may be talking past each other. I think Ed is referring to the "Professional Pastor Guy" model in his article. I'm referring to "Military-esque" model. They're not the same thing.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

T Howard's picture

TylerR wrote:
Military-esque. ...There's a mission, there's a need to strategize about how to best accomplish that mission with the tools and resources you have, and there's a need to motivate and inspire your people to follow you as you accomplish this mission together, as a team. There is a high premium on self-empowerment, and initiative is rewarded and encouraged.

Corporate. This can be characterized by extraordinarily ruthlessness and ill-morals. The bottom line drives everything. Backstabbing may be common. Etc., etc.

Tyler, not that I disagree totally with your characterization, but after reading Dereliction of Duty by H. R. McMaster, I'm not convinced "Military-esque" leadership is as rosy as you make it sound. Further, having spent the last 20 years under/in corporate leadership, I've seen some great leaders with a strong moral compass, and I've seen some absolutely terrible leaders. At the end of the day, regardless of "system," great leaders accomplish their mission and their goals (whether that's taking out the enemy, operating a profitable business, or making more and better disciples) while doing what is right for their people, their organization, and their society.

Greg Long's picture

Wouldn't military-style leadership be completely different from the kind of pastoral leadership called for in 1 Pet. 5?

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

TylerR's picture

I knew I shouldn't have called it "military-esque." People often have a "Full Metal Jacket" idea of the military in their heads that makes a discussion pointless. Greg's comment shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what I'm talking about. I get that, though - our backgrounds are completely different.

I feel that way when I talk to other pastors. I don't feel like I inhabit the same world they do. I've never fit into that mold very well. I don't understand the decisions other pastors make, or get why they are the way they are. I've never fit in well with other pastors. I believe it's because I didn't grow up as a Christian, and don't come from the Christian bubble and sub-culture so many pastors hail from. That's not bad, just different.

We all come from different places.

Some people will understand what I was getting at in my descriptions of leadership. Others never will. Ciao.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

A good friend of mine from high school, bound for West Point, noted that in some battles in WWII, the life expectancy of a lieutenant was measured in seconds.  He was expected--and equipped--to lead, not to do the fighting himself.  One sign of that was the 1911 on his hip instead of the M1 or Thompson in his arms--a sign that German snipers learned to heed to make leadership difficult, for reference.

Now certainly some military leaders--say Xerxes of Persia, who infamously put his best troops in the back so they would kill reluctant front line troops--had a different idea of leadership, to be sure.  That noted, historic good leaders in a military sense fought more from the front and took horrific casualties as a result.  It's probably not as bad a fit for pastoral leadership as one would think.  

Regarding leaders chasing fads, absolutely.  One joke that makes its way into the quality engineering books I reads is that MTBF actually means "mean time between fads", as there have been so many fads in the profession and leadership in general.  It's supposed to mean "mean time between failures" for repairable items, for reference.

 

T Howard's picture

TylerR wrote:

I knew I shouldn't have called it "military-esque." People often have a "Full Metal Jacket" idea of the military in their heads that makes a discussion pointless. Greg's comment shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what I'm talking about. I get that, though - our backgrounds are completely different.

I spent time working at WPAFB in the public affairs department before I officially began my corporate career. There is certainly something to be said about working together toward a shared mission / goal and being part of a "band of brothers." When you're living/working/leading with a group of people who are willing to take a bullet for you (literally), that provides a different perspective about leadership than when you're leading people who are willing to jump ship over the color of the sanctuary carpet.

That being said, leadership within the military is very political when you hit the senior enlisted / commissioned grades. Further, there tends to be a lax command selection process that allows competent yet toxic individuals to be promoted up through the ranks. Another aspect of military leadership I didn't particularly care for was that some military leaders go along to get along even when they know a command decision is flawed. Finally, as others have pointed out, "The personnel bureaucracy in the Pentagon is destroying the human capital invested in its troops, bleeding good people out into the civilian world but bleeding even more talent internally through mismanagement."

TylerR's picture

The problems you speak of are universal, and endemic to bureaucracies. I see it with the State of Washington, too. My main point is that there are different models. The popular pastoral model is to cast a vision, and other stupidity.

The form of leadership I saw modeled in the military, and "grew up with" as an adult, is based on leading and motivating people to give their best in pursuit of a worthy objective so that, as a team, you can lead your people to achieve the organization's goals in the most efficient way possible. This isn't what the popular pastoralia literature is about. The military equips and empowers young men and women in the enlisted ranks to have, hold and exercise responsibility in the real world, and lead others while doing it. Officers don't run the military; at best they're program managers. Enlisted managers (i.e. E-6+) run the military.

My own observations are that there is likely no model on earth that can replicate this training environment. The corporate world can't do it. State government can't do it. I (and all my peers) were exercising more authority and responsibility at 20 years old than some of my employees with the state have done their entire career; and they're nearly twice my age!

Pastoral ministry certainly can't do it. The popular model today is the single-man model, which (for reasons I've outlined elsewhere) is ill-conceived, foreign to the NT, isolationist for the pastor, and cuts him off from sustained critical, constructive interaction from his peers.

I believe this is a vicious circle:

  1. Many local churches have the single pastor model
  2. Consequently, the elder often doesn't have the time or energy to identify, cultivate, mentor and train young men for ministry in a sustained way.
  3. Therefore, the elder often doesn't model and cannot teach leadership principles well to his young men - because he himself wasn't mentored or trained by his role models, either!
  4. So, he outsourcse training to seminaries, which try their best to include leadership topics in requirements and electives for the MDiv
  5. Young men then take their first pastorate ill-equipped with exercising real leadership in the real world
  6. and the cycle repeats.

I am quite convinced this is why the shlock that passes for "leadership advice" in pastoral circles sells so well. Pastors sometimes don't know where else to turn to. They often have no frame of reference or context to understand other models (e.g. my "military-esque" model, above). They might have never seen it modeled at all. Their pastoral sub-culture hasn't prepared them. I am very glad I'm bi-vocational. I was never more ill at ease or uncomfortable than when I was a fulltime pastor. I'll never do it again. I love being bi-vocational. I don't get isolated from the real world.

Food for thought. I'm done rambling.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

T Howard's picture

TylerR wrote:

My own observations are that there is likely no model on earth that can replicate this training environment. The corporate world can't do it. State government can't do it.... Pastoral ministry certainly can't do it.

The military leadership training model is certainly unique. One thing that makes it unique is that it is supported by the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice). That allows you, as my superior officer, to throw me in jail, reduce my pay grade, give me extra duty, or give me a dishonorable discharge if I decide I don't want to follow you. In corporate America, you just give your 2-weeks notice and go to the company down the street. In pastoral ministry, you just claim "God's call" to go to another ministry or to get out of pastoral ministry altogether. Coercion does have its benefits.

However, as was mentioned earlier, pastors are ultimately stewards and shepherds, not CEOs, dictators, generals, gunnery sergeants, or "vision casters." When faced with recalcitrant sheep or staff, we should not resort to threats, recriminations, or "lording over" them.

I appreciate your perspective, Tyler. You're not rambling.

TylerR's picture

It's worth noting that the military justice system is anything but capricious. It's a formal legal system, charges must be supported by rules of evidence that largely mirror the federal rules of evidence, and the punishments handed down must be appropriate to the offense committed. It's much, much more regimented, formal and bureaucratic than many people realize. The subject largely has full right of appeals, and there is a graduated series of forums to resolve criminal issues (e.g. Article 15 hearing, summary, special and general courts-martial).  Above all else, it isn't based on coersion.

But, to be sure, the military makes offenses like "not showing up for work" (Article 86) or "failure to obey a lawful order" (Article 92) punitative. They're jailable. However, in the real world, these will not be pursued for formal action unless there's a pattern of deliberate misconduct. Even then, we're tallking about an Article 15 hearing, which is non-judicial because rules of evidence, strictly speaking, are not required for these.

The point is that, in the military, you don't lead by coercion. It wouldn't get you anywhere productive if you tried. Anyone in the military who tries to lead by threatening someone with punitative action has either (1) lost control of the situation, or (2) is dealing with a deliberate troublemaker and some form of corrective action is appropriate. 

But, please hear me - leadership in the military is not exercised by coercion. Of course, you can find idiots who claim it is; there are knuckleheads everywhere. But, effective leadership is never doen by intimidation. If they don't want to follow you, then you won't meet your organization's goals. You can't intimidate someone into producing quality work. You can motivate and inspire them to do it, though. That's leadership. That's what the military teaches NCOs and expects them to model. That's what I'm talking about. And, that's part of what's missing from the generic, conservative pastoralia literature on sale today.  

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

Yes, this is way trite, I confess, but bear with me.  I've had the feeling that a lot of churches are far more comfortable with the epistles than with the Gospels for a long time; that the lists of do/don't do are easier to preach than the subtlety and relational dynamics of the Gospels.  I wonder if a lot of the nonsense we see in churches would be mitigated--not ended, but maybe mitigated--if we had a renewed emphasis on the earthly ministry of Christ.

T Howard's picture

TylerR wrote:
The point is that, in the military, you don't lead by coercion. It wouldn't get you anywhere productive if you tried. Anyone in the military who tries to lead by threatening someone with punitative action has either (1) lost control of the situation, or (2) is dealing with a deliberate troublemaker and some form of corrective action is appropriate.

Tyler, I would argue that while you don't lead by coercion, coercion is at the very least implied in the order because the order is enforced by the UCMJ.

TylerR wrote:
But, effective leadership is never doen[sic] by intimidation. If they don't want to follow you, then you won't meet your organization's goals. You can't intimidate someone into producing quality work. You can motivate and inspire them to do it, though. That's leadership.

You can intimidate and coerce people, even in a church, and get what you want (i.e. to catch the vision). However, you have to violate Scripture to do so.

T Howard's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Yes, this is way trite, I confess, but bear with me.  I've had the feeling that a lot of churches are far more comfortable with the epistles than with the Gospels for a long time; that the lists of do/don't do are easier to preach than the subtlety and relational dynamics of the Gospels.  I wonder if a lot of the nonsense we see in churches would be mitigated--not ended, but maybe mitigated--if we had a renewed emphasis on the earthly ministry of Christ.

Bert, it's not an issue of preaching the gospels versus preaching the epistles. Even in the epistles, you see how Paul interacts with recalcitrant sheep. More times than not, he doesn't rely on his position and authority as an apostle, but rather relies on his personal relationship with his audience.

TylerR's picture

I recently preached a series of messages about the marks of a good pastor from 2 Timothy. "Leadership" is a good summary of the constellation of commands he gave in that book. I may convert these into front page articles in the near future.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

TylerR's picture

Ed wrote:

The sad truth is that churches can become meat-grinders for developed leaders. Few pastors enjoy critical church members. But developed leaders take criticism and discontent harder. Since they are — by nature — more humble, they are also more vulnerable. Many of them are driven out of ministry by sharp tongues and constant complaints.

That's why the dual-elder model is important. It isn't one guy alone against the world.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

mmartin's picture

The person I learned the most about leadership from was The. Worst. "Leader." I've. Ever. Seen.  He was your typical Type A, "Big Man," never-ever admit mistakes, blame others manager.  Toxic is an understatement.

It has crossed my mind a few times to do a study of the gospels of Jesus as a leader.  How did Jesus lead?  How did He manage, inspire, develop, & mentor the people around Him, particularly His disciples?

Does anyone know of a good book or study on this topic?

Ed Vasicek's picture

Sorry I haven't been interacting, just got back from Reston, VA.  Had a great time at the Museum of the Bible in D.C.

When it comes to leadership, the Biblical picture is most often that of a shepherd and sheep.  So much of what we embrace as good leadership principles comes from sources outside the Bible, and we need to keep that in mind.  For me, Peter Drucker's "The Effective Executive" (and the Practice of Management) left an imprint on me.  But I remind myself that our modern paradigms of good leadership are not derived, really, from Scripture (although many good principles can be found in Proverbs, and certainly the rest of Scripture, particularly the epistles that address the church). Because someone is a Christian leader who is numerically successful or well-known does not mean he is the last word on leadership.

How someone who is not a natural leader is trained is beyond what I have tackled, but I guess another point is this: a "not born a natural leader" type should not model himself after a "born leader" type.  We err greatly, IMO, because it is often naturally born leaders who write the books -- not only on leadership, but a host of other church topics. Theological books and commentaries, etc., are more welcoming to other personality types.

So Aaron is correct in saying that I leave room for godly born leaders -- there are many such people.  But I am saying that the Bible leaves much more room for different styles of leadership.  So let's stop going ga-ga over the born leaders, and let's stop trying to be like them.

If we ponder these matters, the relatively new obsession with leadership means that pastors centuries ago were, of necessity, poor leaders.  They did not intentionally plan to "cast a vision." They did not use terms like brainstorming, marketing, public relations, etc.  Sure, some of those concepts may have been partly practiced under different names, but my point is that most of what we call "leadership" is of recent, western origin.

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Aaron Blumer's picture

Definitely agree in spirit. Much depends on the answer to the question "leading whom to what?" If a leader is, at the end of all the analysis, simply "someone who has followers" (I think I read the Chick fil A saying that recently), the difference between good leaders and bad leaders is partly where you're going and partly how you're getting there. You can lead very effectively to nowhere good, but if you lead very ineffectively, it probably doesn't matter where you're headed. You won't get there (at least, not with anybody following).

A lot of the high octane leadership stuff I've seen is frustrating for us average people because it's mostly the product of people who are already in the 95th percentile of leadership effectiveness trying to achieve still more excellence.

But, to circle back: as believers, it's never enough to lead to the right place. We have to lead to the right place in the right way (arguably, if we didn't lead the right way, we aren't really reaching the right place either. Its character has been altered by the journey and the travelers).

Disclaimers, though: I've learned more about leading than I've acquired in leadership skill. Maybe this is partly because I learned it by process of elimination: by personally messing up and watching others also mess up.

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