Nearly every pastor or ministry leader I’ve ever met operates under the same underlying assumption that their main job is to make their church or ministry grow. This assumption is typically not a conscious thought, although it is in many cases. The assumption is highly operative, and uncritically accepted, even though if you asked them about it, they would likely deny it. Nevertheless it is there, and much of their ministry life is predicated upon that underlying assumption… I have to make this thing grow. That’s what success looks like.
These are a few thoughts about that dynamic I wrote in Shrink.
“I have come to believe that there is much more to Christian leadership than chasing success. I’ve come to believe that the most important thing about Christian leaders is not that they are leaders, but that they are Christian leaders. Leading in the way of Jesus is a particular mode of leadership that must adhere to the pattern of life Jesus recommended.
The Christian leader is called not primarily to be effective, but to be faithful and to practice leadership in the way of Jesus no matter what the perceived results may be. The Christian leader cannot simply take leadership principles from the arena of business and plop them down in a church or ministry, because the business narrative and the Christian narrative are built on two different foundations. The word Christian modifies the word leader in ways that should make it incompatible with most of the leadership principles found in the world of business, especially when it comes to the primacy of effectiveness and success.
Most of the church leadership conversation today has its footing squarely in the culture narrative, not the Christian narrative. Leadership today is about getting things done and growing a ministry we can be proud of. As a result, Christian leadership has come to focus solely on best practices. Leaders want to know what we can do to produce the kind of results we desire. We want effectiveness. We crave practical advice that will help us to be bigger, better, and so on.
I have come to believe that this entire line of thinking has little to do with the gospel, even less with the life of Jesus Christ, whom we have been called to imitate.
Here’s the heart of my ethos and the foundation of everything I will say in this book: there’s leadership, and then there’s Christian leadership. Christian leadership is categorically different from any other mode of leadership.
I have become convinced that the Christian leader’s first job is to become a good and virtuous human being and a good and virtuous leader, and then to leave questions of growth and perceived success in the hands of God. Sometimes all God requires of the leader is to do the small things faithfully for the rest of his or her life. How many of us have the tools to even imagine that, much less carry that off?
The Jesus way is down…” (Shrink 24)