Leader drift?

Tuesday was a good day; I was handed three books to read which had been newly-bought for the college library.  Ostensibly, they are potentially relevant as background to my research, although actually we all know that I’d read as many titles about leadership and church as I can get my hands on.  (They’re always better from a library though; I neither have to spend money on them nor give them housespace afterwards!)

But, in the end, some of the reading was a bit depressing.  One of them talked a lot about the state of evangelicalism in the North American context.  I have only read the chapter on leadership in The Great Giveaway by Fitch so far but it was enough to make me wonder why on earth I have this sense of calling to leadership in the church.

I mean, seriously…  When leadership in the church means nothing other than what leadership in the American business schools means, it makes me want to give up on the church.  At least when I used to work in that kind of professional world, living by those kind of rules, I got paid eye-watering amounts of money and had benefits I could only dream of now.  In fact. had I stayed in my first firm, I’d have been bringing home six figures for several years now.  (Even if I’d also have had no life and no friends outside of work!)

But instead, I chose the church.

And I chose the church for a reason.  Because I believe in the power of God to change people and communities.

But I don’t get where all of this bigger, better stuff comes in.  I don’t know why we think that economies of scale are going to deliver more lives changed by the gospel.

Lives are changed in relationship.

And relationship does not occur when you can listen to the service being piped through the speakers of the church’s in-house coffee shop.  I’m sorry but drinking latte by yourself whilst listening to the disembodied voice of a preacher whose hand you’ve never even shaken does not constitute church.  And nor does sitting in the main auditorium, listening to the world-quality worship band doing their stuff whilst pretending that the person next to you does not exist.

We all know that it would be easier, right?  Church à la carte.  Me, myself and I – and none of those pesky people to spoil my Jesus-fix.

But it’s not how it works.  Not really.  And when we build churches which promote this, when we lead churches in such a way that we are more focused on the management of an organisation, it makes me feel a bit depressed.

It would be easy to level this criticism against the megachurches only but I sometimes wonder whether we need to look closer to home.  In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to be asking myself some hard questions fairly regularly, questions about what I am doing in my leadership and why.

Because I tend towards mission drift.

We all do.  Especially when we are surrounded by books and conferences, speakers and resources, which promote the message that gospel success depends on the efficiency and consumer-friendliness of Church Inc.  In fact, in my own leadership practice, a recent conversation with a church friend has helped me to see how far I had drifted towards organisational priorities in leadership over the life-on-life stuff.  I don’t mean to.  But leader drift happens.

What about you?  What are your priorities in leadership?  And how can we keep our churches and leaders from drift in the face of the messages from many well-known speakers, churches and conferences that promote organisational management, efficiency and the consumer’s needs above all else?

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