Wednesday, September 23, 2009


The Nature of Leading

Jennifer Rubin wrote a blog post back in May about the President's "leadership" style that I thought was quite enlightening when it comes to Christian leadership:

Self-Promotion Isn’t Leadership

Fred Barnes observes:

Let’s stipulate that President Obama is a wonderful speaker, vigorous in promoting his policies and even eloquent at times. But there’s a problem: He’s not persuasive. Obama is effective at marketing himself. His 64 percent job approval (Gallup poll) is a reflection of this. But in building public support for his policies, Obama has been largely unsuccessful.

As Barnes and others have noted, there is a significant gap between Obama’s personal popularity and the popularity of his policies. On Guantanamo, spending, bailouts and even his Supreme Court nominee the public doesn’t “take Obama’s word for it.” They are making independent judgments and don’t like a significant portion of the agenda. Or they like it a lot less than they like him ( and largely along party lines).

I love the title, I think it so much reflects what is happening in so any churches right now - promotion versus leadership. It raises all sorts of interesting question I think. We have gotten very good at promoting church, building momentum, filling pews, but are we producing anything? I think most people would answer "Yeah," but I wonder if we are producing it with a long term view. Are we leading people anywhere or are we just "capturing" them in the moment?

Further, what are the ramification of how the church is doing things now? Later in the piece, Rubin says:

In short, if you are selling what voters aren’t predisposed to accept, and you don’t give them well-argued reasons to change their minds, they likely will remain wary of your policies.
Which is an excellent point, I am wondering if the church in all its efforts to promote church, and maybe the gospel is not creating less fertile soil for the gospel, ala Elmer Gantry. We may be doing it with the best of motives, but we are still doing it.

Genuine leadership is a difficult thing. I want to list just a few things to consider:

Where are we leading people? Most people would say we are leading people to Christ, but are we? I think in most cases we are leading them to church an hoping they find Christ there. That may not be an all bad strategy, if the church is concentrating on making Christ evident there, but most are just concentrating on bringing in more people.

How would Christ be evident in a church? Phrased another way, is Christ evident in growth? I think He can be, but I do not think that a de facto reality. Lots of things grow, many of them quite unwholesome. No, there must be something about growth that makes Christ evident in it. I'm thinking the evidence would be in the lives of the people in the church, growing or not.

So, if the key is changed lives, the last question should be:

How do we lead people to change their lives? Well, one thing is for sure, we need to have been there first. We need to present hard evidence that this stuff works. The church needs to be something unique and substantively different in the world.

I am struck by how the Reformation was sparked becasue the church was little distinguishable from another kingdom in Europe. People longed for Christ, not just another potentate. People are longing now, right now, for Jesus, not just another self-promoting institution.

How come we do not want to give Him to them?

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