Friday, January 27, 2012

Rubble University: Part II, Love Don't Lead

I can hear Andy Stanley's voice, "Leadership is a stewardship issue, and you're accountable" - the opening refrain to the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast and I've absorbed them all. According to Bill Hybels, "a leadership crisis" inspired him to engineer Global Leadership Summit which "exists to transform Christian leaders around the world." Do not forget the 13,000 strong Catalyst Conference designed to target the next generation of leaders.  I have also heard, from inside informants, that one reason Churches of Christ are in decline is because we train our staff to be theologians rather than leaders. These examples are a dusting of how my generation of preachers are inundated with leadership propaganda. We learn that leadership brings success.  Leadership makes things happen. Leadership is where it is at...Churches need leaders.

While I agree that leadership is vital for healthy congregations, the supersaturation of leadership pills prescribed to aspiring preachers (and ministers) often leads to an unhealthy and unrealistic view of your role.  As a result, you enter ministry believing your primary purpose is to lead -  to cast vision and raise the sails that will take the community into genuine Kingdom work, to enlighten the hearers with a theology that will transform their life, and to organize staff and volunteers into a well-oiled redemptive machine.  You tend to focus on "moving people" rather than focusing "on people."  You become more preoccupied with results and progress where people are tools to help you fulfill your Kingdom ambition rather than investing in relationships.

I have come to believe that your primary purpose as a preacher is not to lead but to love.  As you settle into a new ministry you should ask yourself, "How can I love these people?"  You should pray, "God, help me to love these people." You should tell the search committee during the interview, "My primary goal is to love this Church!"  Then you should go about the business of loving the people. 

Your "love strategy" will vary according to congregational size and positional expectations, but the task remains the same: to love.  For example, if you are a sole minster in a small church, you are going to be better off investing heavily in the pastoral care of your members, especially at first.  People will forgive average preaching if you dropped by the hospital to check on Nanna.  Or, if you preach at a multi-staff Church, and your role more narrowly defined, express your love for the congregation in public prayers, the language of your sermons, your tweets, blogs, and Facebook status updates. Be liberal but sincere.

If John Maxwell is right and leadership is simply influence then "loving" is the most effective way to lead.  Those who have the most influence in your life are those who you know love you the most: parents, spouses, mentors, long-time friends.  They influence your decisions, your actions, your movements.  You will have more influence in your congregation if they know you are there to love them rather than lead them. 

Jesus, whether you are a Christian or not, is arguably one of the greatest leaders in history. His influence transcends culture, age, time, and race. It spans the globe.  In John 13 Jesus gathers, for one last meal, with his closest companions.  Jesus will pass the torch of leadership to this group of followers.  They will be the first and most important leaders of the church. Jesus takes this opportunity to model a leadership lesson they would not soon forget.  The text says, "Having loved his own who were in the world, he [Jesus] showed them the full extent of his love."  He took off his outer garment, wrapped a towel around his waist and washed their feet.  The LORD, hours before they would all abandon him, lowered himself to the position of a servant.  He loved them, and called them to do the same: to love not lead!

"May the Lord grant you his heart and compassion as you walk with, minister to, and fight for those entrusted to your care."

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