Thursday, January 19, 2012

Leadership vs. Discipleship

What do you do when your leadership principles seem to clash with your discipleship principles?

Well, I know the stock answer I have heard in several churches. "This is business, and we will handle this the business way." What that CAN mean is, "Now you are about to see the church respond and handle a situation in the FLESH!" When that happens, political processes replace biblical community, leaving excessive carnage.

Our leadership team at church just finished Bill Hybel's (leadership guru) book on that subject entitled When Leadership and Discipleship Collide.

What a fresh, honest, thought-provoking book!

I completed a doctoral thesis and years of research on the subject of how people who have been abused, misused, and mistreated by the church can heal and move forward positively. As a result, I learned a whole lot about the unbiblical approaches many people take to leadership in church work and ministry.

People take routes in the name of leadership that are sometimes shocking and breathtaking . . .

Like the pastor who wanted his church to relocate. They disagreed, so he paid his son to burn down the building!

Or the senior adult church librarian who disagreed with the senior pastor's leadership. As a result she was told that she was no longer needed as the librarian and that the library would be closed and turned into bathrooms! When her husband calmly went to the church to talk with the pastor, he was told to leave and that if he stayed they would call the police and have him arrested!

The pastor who had people write down the names of people who disagreed in business meetings with his ideas.

The senior pastor who taught his people that their job was to submit to him and obey him - even if he was wrong!

Or the denominational worker who came in to handle a church conflict between a staff and the senior pastor, and he and insisted that the women who worked in the church office were not allowed to discuss with their husbands what went on in the church office!! (That is a huge red flag, and it reeks of manipulation. The Bible says that a husband and wife are one flesh.)

Those are just a few of the many, many nauseating situations I have heard of, experienced, or read about.

I've seen or heard it too often. People decide to take an approach that works well in the military or even in the secular workforce. An, in order to handle conflict, we are going to get everyone 100% behind this person or thing - and anyone who gets in the way will be removed.

There is a problem with that, however. We are the Body of Christ - not the military! We have shepherds and spiritual leaders, not Donald Trumps! This is not the military nor a business. This is the Bride of Christ.

Hybels makes an excellent point:

In those rare cases when the human laws of leadership and the scriptural demands of discipleship do collide, decide on the side of discipleship every time. Decide on the side of discipleship every single time. Trust the promptings of the Holy Spirit, for they will help you at these deadly intersections.

Much of the published leadership literature these days has come from secular leaders in secular arenas. While we can learn a lot from people in business and athletics and government and the military and so on, we cannot forget that, ultimately, Christians - in whatever arena they lead - are trying to build God's kingdom. From time to time, leadership lessons from the secular world do not translate well into the arena of kingdom building, and, as ministry leaders, we must remember that our operating values and our ultimate marching orders come from only one book - a book that is God-breathed, Spirit inspired, perfect in its content, unchanging in its ability to transform lives.

When the demands of discipleship articulated in the Bible collide with human laws of leadership, read my lips: Defer to the Bible. Trust the Bible. And obey the Bible . . . every time.

So, our leadership team has discussed since reading this short book, how might we be tempted to choose leadership over discipleship?

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