Monday, March 15, 2010

Reading on Leadership

In the last month or so, I have read about 1500 pages on leadership, particularly church leadership in the changing context of today. This particular selection of books has a common theme: today’s society is markedly different than previous generations and therefore requires different leadership.

Here’s a few random thoughts:

First, several of these remark that their seminary training of X number of years ago prepared them for ministry in a society that no longer exists. My response is that they had bad seminary training. I have commented on this elsewhere (such as here and here), but I will beat this drum again, particularly for the younger men who may be making choices about seminary.

Choose a seminary where you learn theology, the languages, and how to study. Those things will never change. They will never go out of style. And when the context changes, you will still know theology and the languages and how to study.

If you choose a seminary that has a heavy preponderance of classes (as in more than a half dozen hours or so) that deal with methodology of ministry, you will be hurting yourself in the long run because that methodology will soon be out of date. In fact, it may not even work on the other side of town. You can get that stuff other places.

Second, these books on leadership in the church deal very rarely (almost not at all) with the biblical material on leadership in the church. That is a glaring error. It is an inexcusable weakness. If you are going to talk  about leadership in the church, you must talk about leadership in the Bible.

Third, these books almost completely reject the baby-boomer approach to church of the last generation for the emergent type approach to church. But when reading them, the basic philosophy seems unchanged. It seems that the belief is that church leadership is about practice—that if we organize the church in certain ways, and find good mission statements and the like, the church will take care of itself. It comes across as saying that the problem with your church is organizational (too much power at the top) and lack of clarity of vision (people don’t know what it is about). Again, there is a disturbing lack of interaction with the biblical text on these issues of what the church should be.

Now, my office notwithstanding, I am all in favor of organization and order. A church should be organized. But great organization is not the key to growing a church.

I find these books helpful, but deficient. Learning to lead in a new context is imperative for ministry in our world. Building on the foundations of Scripture needs more attention than it is given by some.


Anonymous said...

Todays' need is for some good old fashion hell, fire, brimstone, preaching by a spirit filled preacher. Most of what I hear today is lectures on the Bible which do very little to move peoples hearts to faith in Jesus Christ. Oh, they are intersting to us who know the Lord, but I am afraid that they do little move the hearts of unsaved people. Many of these churches have done away with spirit led invitations combined with good music such as "Just as I Am", etc.

Larry said...

The Bible never connects "Spirit filled preachers" with what is typically meant by "good old fashion hell, fire, brimstone preaching."

I suppose it depends, to a great degree, on what our faith is in. Is our faith in Christ and his word? Or a particular style of preaching? I would rather depend on the former.

"Spirit led invitations" is also a category that I am not sure where to fit in Scripture. I don't see it there, and throughout most of church history, invitations were not used.

The modern invitation may be the cause of more people in hell than anything else in the modern church. It has no doubt led countless people to think they are on their way to heaven because they walked an aisle and prayed a prayer. That's dangerous, to say the least.