Blog Dropping

This post is a version of a response I made on my pastor’s latest blog incarnation. He and I were kicking critiquing Andy Stanley in absentia, and Pastor Stanley showed up. I love blogging.

Anyway, one of the results of that was the post you see here on the spiritual aspects of leadership in the church. Your opinions may differ. Prepare to defend them.

First of all the thing I love about the blogosphere is that guys like Andy Stanley are reading it and taking it seriously. Let God be willing that we are all serious about what we are saying.

Second of all, I’m a fan, Pastor Andy – and I’m a big fan of my own personal pastor, who is Tad. That’s not a quality judgment but simply my commitment to him personally. I am sure you have fans in your local body who would say the same about you. Let me be on record to say that I love your books and we promote them in our little bookstore (which is not affiliated with Harvard Avenue Baptist Church), which include It Came From Within and The Best Question Ever.

So that said, Pastor Andy said this:
| Great conversation. So help me out
| guys. What is distinctly…and that’s
| the operative word here…distinctly
| spiritual about the leadership you do?
It’s a great question. And before I answer it from my perspective (as a guy who teaches Sunday school, is a husband, and is a leader at church and at work, but not a pastor), I think Andy offers some important qualifications:
| Keep a couple things in mind. There
| are Christian business men and
| women in your churches who see the
| marketplace as their sphere of
| ministry. There are business owners
| who see their business as a ministry.
I would rank myself among these people.
| They are not just in it for the money.
Nobody said the group you just outlined – the disciples of Christ who are ministers in the workplace – were. Let’s not confuse them, however, with those who use spiritual methods of leadership for secular gain – because those people exist, and not just on TBN.
| Now, what is distinctly spiritual about
| your leadership as compared to the
| leadership conducted by the group I
| just described?
Here’s where I think you put the cart before the horse, Andy: your assumption is that what Christians do in the secular workplace is inherently secular and not spiritual when you admit in your premises that they do not “do it for the money”. My challenge to you is that I think there are strong spiritual forces at work that are transforming the secular workplace, and that there are people glomming the methods of spiritual leadership for worldly gain.

Let me give you some examples. About 4 years ago in Inc. magazine, they did a cover story on a guy who is a CEO of the “old school” – he’s the kind of guy who, frankly, I would run away from even if he had the last job on earth. His ideal for leadership was to make people work as many hours as possible without regard to any other aspect of their lives in order to enhance the financial value of the company without compensating them relative to that financial enhancement. Anyone who needed a day off had a commitment problem – rather than, for example, a medical problem or a marriage they were committed to. He didn’t have any legal-based ethics problems, but clearly he had God-based ethics problems.

The reason I bring this guy up is not to say that he is like a Purpose-Driven CEO of some church: the reason I bring him up is that he’s not the kind of guy “experts” promote as the model for leadership in secular corporate life.

The question is “why”? It’s because this guy doesn’t understand the value of human capital (which is the secular term, right?), and he doesn’t know how to sustain human capital. The question the experts ask is: who does sustain human capital?

The answer, btw, turns out to be in books like the Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable laws of leadership.

Before I say another word, I anticipate that you, Andy, will say, “we are in actual agreement and we are quibbling over semantics.” If that turns out to be true, I will be glad for it. I don’t think that’s the case.

See: Five Dysfunctions is a secular book which unfortunately doesn’t really understand the principles it is very excited about. For example, while Patrick Lencioni says that the foundational principle of management effectiveness is “trust”, he doesn’t ever really say why except in MBA terms. And, for the record, trust was a factor in effective management of a specific kind a long time before there were any MBAs to quantify it. Also for the record, that kind of leadership was not business management.

In the case of Maxwell, I find an interesting irony. John Maxwell is, in my esteem, a Godly man with a great gift of communication and a heart for people through Jesus. No question. So when we read a book like 21 Irrefutable Laws, we (you, me, Tad) know why he thinks, for example, that leadership = influence. This is a Gospel principle – and John Maxwell is a servant of the Gospel. But here’s the question: does Maxwell tell people that this is a principle based on the example of Christ, or does he say it is a principle based on something else, or does he just not say?

I think he just doesn’t say.

And in the crosshairs formed between Maxwell and Lencioni, we have the heart of the problem: recognizing the source of a certain kind leadership method.

I am sure you have never read my blog, Andy, and if you’re smart you’ll stay away from it because it’s a blog. But one of the things that makes me crazy is when we try to spiritualize things which aren’t inherently spiritual, and in the end that practice winds up overlooking the things which are actually spiritual and discounting them.

But in this case, the source of the kind of leadership advocated by both Lencioni and Maxwell in foundationally and inherently spiritual. For example, to be willing to invest authority in others at the expense of one’s own prestige or direct authority is servant-minded. To bank on trust rather than fear or retribution is loving and merciful. To gather a multitude of counselors is ... well, it’s Prov 11.

The source of this kind of leadership is specifically spiritual in nature. But it is also inherently spiritual in objectives as well. When I read Lencioni’s book, it made me laugh a little because his view is that there’s a financial goldmine in them thar hills – as if the basis for trust could be the quarterly statement to shareholders. Spiritually-minded leadership can only be spiritually minded in principle if it is spiritually minded in objective.

Taking that to the examples you provided, Andy, there is no question that there are men and women in the workplace today that are seeking to minister there. But let’s not set up a false choice about what they are doing. They have no objective of harming the financial objectives of their companies, but their primary objective in bringing the Gospel to the workplace is not a 4-point increase in comp sales: it is to seek and to save – to bring the Good News to people who would never otherwise set foot inside a church. If it is not – that is to say, if their goal is to make comp sales by implementing the Gospel – they do not understand the Gospel. It’s not a marketing tool or an H.R. strategy. Those who have employed it to that end will have a rude awakening when shareholder equity and the dividend are the object of the discussion.

And before this response to you becomes a pamphlet, let me bottom-line (heh) what I think: I think that Paul was advocating spiritually-based leadership in the letters to Timothy and the letter to Titus. And I think some of those principles have, by hook and by crook, been implemented by accident and in a crude form in some secular workplaces. But for us – the Christians, who culturally are the source of those methods – to then see secular leaders who are aping spiritual leadership in order to make a buck and then fail to discern which of their practices are spiritual and which are secular speaks volumes about us and what we believe about the Gospel.

To answer the question you phrased in short form, “What is distinctly spiritual about the leadership that I do personally – and that I witness Tad do even though he’s a paultry 30 years old – is that its source or point of reference is spiritual, and its objective is incarnationally spiritual.”

I think this will instigate more dialog, and I hope I have been kind to you as I admire you and value your contribution to God’s work. Thanks for your time and interest.