Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Another Loss

About two years or so ago I was involved in a project to create a resource that would help 'stuck' churches get 'unstuck'. Simply put, we were trying to replicate the work an expensive consultant might do with a tool church leaders could use to do it themselves. It was a really good idea and we made great strides with things like clarifying your purpose, identifying your strengths, creating motivational imagery and more. Then it came to the most crucial piece of all, moving ineffective leaders out and putting effective leaders in. At this point the project came to a crashing halt.

Once again we ran into the immutable truth that an organization of any sort cannot thrive with poor leadership. Not only that, but poor leaders that refuse to see themselves as part of the problem won't proactively move out of the way. To make matters worse in a church setting poor leadership will actually drive out those who have good leadership skills thereby denying the church options. Since church is a volunteer organization those with strong leadership skills will only stay for so long under bad leaders before they pack up and go on to another church. Any church unwilling to move bad leaders out of position and allow good leaders to take their place will suffer the loss of good leaders until there aren't any left. It won't be long until such a church collapses and dies.

This isn't just theory. It has happened once again. A strong leader with a heart for his church and a willingness to give time and abundant resources resigned from leadership in his church this week. After a three year struggle to get the Pastor to do something resembling leading...anything...he finally threw in the towel. This wasn't a man who sat in the seats every Sunday complaining and doing nothing. He was active in leadership, provided lots of resources, sought the aid and counsel of many outside experts, encouraged the Pastor and was constantly seeking ways to make the church an effective member of the community. Many churches would pay to have this sort of enthusiastic and talented leadership. This man's church, more pointedly, his pastor, refused almost all the help offered and worse. One of the few proactive things the pastor did was to call the people the man was seeking counsel from and tell them not to meet with him!

That is actively bad leadership. Sadly, this sort of behavior is repeated time and again in churches. I wish it were an isolated incident, but I'm sure that it's not. So, perhaps a bit quixotic, I forge ahead trying to find out how we can get bad leaders out of leadership and invite strong leaders in for the sake of revitalizing churches. It may just be an impossible dream.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I'm in St. Louis at Intervarsity's Urbana Conference. It's a work thing hosting a booth about our various mission opportunities. Although I'm here for work, it's personally rewarding to be surrounded by 20,000 college aged young people excited about mission work. Once again, it is the younger generation leading the way. If you've read my blog for any length of time, you know one of my main concerns is that the Christian church spends too much time sitting around in our buildings and not enough time out doing what Jesus asked us to do.

A word about the mission work of the church is in order. When it comes to disaster response around the world, none do it better or more efficiently than Christian missions organizations. Much of the meaningful recovery work after Katrina and Rita was done...and continues to be done...by Christian churches and organizations. The relief and aid I've seen in South and Central America and Africa by indigenous and visiting Christians is truly inspirational.

There's a sense of adventure and purpose when it comes to missions. Going out to help others is energizing. Making a difference in the lives of others gives a sense of purpose to our lives. I believe churches that aren't fully engaged in a variety of missions (and I don't mean giving money to others doing missions) are cheating those who attend those churches out of the full measure of the Christian experience. And mission doesn't have to involve traveling to far away lands. It can be helping a neighbor. It can be hosting a small group and inviting your friends. To me, mission is a fancy word for caring about other people and doing something to help them.

This help is driven by our faith in and love for Jesus Christ. He's done it all for us and, out of overwhelming gratitude, we do for others. Not to gain God's favor, but because we already have it. This should drive us out of our buildings to address the pain and suffering in this world. Not just when it's dramatic, like after a hurricane, but in every little situation where the love of Christ can make a difference.

I'm going to enjoy this week.