Sunday, December 21, 2008

Older Congregants Boost Growth


I am doing a deconstructionist critique of Christian transformational leadership. Among other things, this means that I study the footnotes. Here’s a particularly interesting one from Eddie Gibbs (Gibbs E 2005:200). He writes: “In a personal email [Peter Brierley] writes, ‘Your comment that churches making a significant impact among under 35-year-olds needing folk in the 70+ category was proved by our research from the 1998 English Church Attendance Survey in a report we wrote in collaboration with Springboard called Growing Churches in the 1990s. We found [that] 42 percent of churches grew when 25 percent of their attenders were 65+, the highest percentage of any age mix.’” QUESTION: What would older congregants do for growth? And how would one effectively accommodate them with under 35-year-olds?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Priesthood of Believers

The International Coalition of Workplace Ministries in the USA has posted an article by Eric Swanson, which proposes ten paradigm shifts for the Church (see http://www.icwm.net/articles_view.asp?articleid=1395&columned). An interesting observation (paradigm shift no. 3) is that, if churchgoers are not given the opportunity to minister, they drop off in time. I think this is true. But there’s an interesting twist. Swanson writes: “In the typical church, lay people are asked to serve in five or six capacities: Teach a Sunday School class / Work in the nursery / Lead a home Bible study or small group / Sing in the choir / Be an usher or greeter / Serve on a board or committee.” These “five or six capacities” go unquestioned by Swanson, except that he notes an important need to add “ministering to ... the needs of a community”. This is good -- yet why such a short list of “five or six capacities”? There would seem to be a big gap here. There’s a multiplicity of things that churchgoers can do besides: leading the prayers, giving spiritual messages, welcoming guest speakers, preaching the sermon, and so on. We ourselves do this within a fairly “traditional” context. Not to speak of what people can do in groups. QUESTION: Why is it that Swanson’s list is as short as “five or six capacities”? Why, apparently, does he not see so many more?

Bubbling Under

Despite months of neglect, I have noticed that Leadership South continues to pop up from time to time among the South African Top 30 Religion blogs. Perhaps it deserves to be revived -- although it is unlikely to receive diligent attention. It also deserves to be less obscure. Given the time, I might rework some of the older posts to be more intelligible.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Cause of Stress in Ministry


In my previous two posts, I highlighted the extraordinary strain that Christian leadership represents, at least in large circles. An obvious question is: what is the cause? On this, the Christian leadership literature is clear. It is the need to influence followers, and the resistance or opposition that this brings about. The “greatest trial” for the Christian leader lies in driving values and visions against the status quo (Wofford J C 1999:85,86); there is a “depth and pervasiveness” of malaise among leaders over resistance to change (Roxburgh A J and Romanuk F 2006:16); instituting change is a draining process, even under the best of circumstances (Murren D 1997:205); leaders may be decimated by negative reactions to innovation (Barna G 1997:207); casting a vision is a daunting challenge, and opposition is hard to deal with (Hybels B 2002:41); selling vision is “an onerous task” (Blackaby H and Blackaby R 2001:65); and about 10% of followers will “predictably” not only resist Christian leadership but seek to sabotage it (Hunter J C 2004:75). Emotional strain is therefore clearly linked with the notion of the Christian leader as a person whose responsibility it is to influence followers through values or visions. QUESTION: What lies at the root of needing to drive “values and visions”? The diagram shows Wofford’s conception of the process.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Most Pressing Issue

The previous post referred to the “Herculean effort” of Christian leadership. This will inevitably go hand in hand with the effect of such effort on the lives of Christian leaders -- and here are some examples. Hybels (2002:231) writes: “The single most pressing issue [for Christian leaders is] enduring.” Ford (1991:131) asks: “Is there enough strength to stand then?” Christian leaders are under enormous pressure (Blackaby and Blackaby 2001:5); many have a sense of desperation (Blackaby and Blackaby 2001:31); and there are countless leaders who would quit today (Blackaby and Blackaby 2001:3); deep depression is not uncommon in Christian leadership (Engstrom 1976:100); the burdens of pastoral ministry are onerous (Jinkins 2002:39); it is demanding and exhausting (Jinkins 2002:50); the Christian leader faces grief and abandonment (Jinkins 2002:45) and the desire to flee resistance and sabotage (Jinkins 2002:44); and many are overwhelmed by the challenge (Gibbs 2005:139). Sanders (1994:53) suggests the prayer: “God harden me against myself,...”; Thomas (1999:135) is guided by the prayer: “Lord have mercy”; while Jinkins (2002:32), quoting Eugene Peterson, calls for Christian ministers to be lashed to the ministry mast. Of course, Christian leadership would be expected to involve some strain -- but these examples surely qualify as “abnormal strain”. They represent intense emotional conflict. Again, all the authors quoted here represent Christian transformational leadership, a popular Christian leadership model of the Global North. QUESTION: Why does this model of leadership engender such strain? Again, would this be true of all Christian leadership?

Monday, July 28, 2008

The "Herculean Effort" of Christian Leadership

The subject of my M.Th. thesis is Christian transformational leadership. With this in mind, it is interesting that Christian transformational authors consistently emphasise that such leadership requires a superhuman effort: it requires a “Herculean effort” (Blackaby H and Blackaby R 2001:7); it requires courage “of the highest order” (Sanders J O 1994:59); it comes with a high price (Gibbs E 2005:173; Hunter J C 2004:144; Sanders J O 1994:19); it involves heavy struggles (Engstrom T W 1976:14); it requires a great deal of motivation (Hunter J C 2004:19), and enormous efforts (Hunter J C 2004: 157); it demands personal suffering (Thrall B, McNicol B and McElrath K 1999:128), in fact “more than sacrifice and suffering” (Wofford J C 1999:164); it may face incredible odds (Munroe M 2005:209); it represents a daunting challenge (Gibbs E 2005:26); it requires a ribbon of steel running through one (Jinkins M 2002:30); and it demands superior spiritual power (Sanders J O 1994:28). In future posts, I hope to focus on the personal impact that such demands have on leaders. QUESTION: Is the above true of all Christian leadership? or is it something specific to certain types of Christian leadership? For those not familiar with “transformational”, this is possibly the most popular leadership model in the USA.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Strengths and Abilities"


Henry and Richard Blackaby, in their book Spiritual Leadership, quote the promise of God to Joshua in Josh 1:5-9. This includes the famous words: “Be strong and courageous!” Then they add this comment: “God did not flatter Joshua, nor did he encourage Joshua to draw courage from his own strengths and abilities. Rather, God made it abundantly clear to Joshua that he need not fear his own inadequacies because God would be in control. Joshua could lead the Hebrew nation with absolute confidence, not in his own leadership skills, but in the assurance of the Lord’s presence” (Blackaby H and Blackaby R 2001:95). QUESTION: Does this mean that our “own strengths and abilities” are not needed? What is the meaning of “the Lord’s presence”?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Transformational: Mods to the Theory

Following on from my previous post, my academic supervisor has emphasised that my critique of transformational Christian leadership should propose constructive modifications to current theory. How, therefore, would I modify current theory if I could? High on my list, I think, would be to seek to break the causal link between influencer (the leader) and influenced (the followers), and to restore the direct influence of God on followers (an aspect which is de-emphasised in the literature). In other words, rather than the horizontal relationship between influencer and influenced (which in my view leads to a constellation of serious problems), there would be a triangular relationship between influencer and God on the one hand, and God and influenced on the other. QUESTION: Would this be in keeping with Biblical emphasis? Could leadership realistically function without the purpose of influencing others?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Transformational: What Is It Really?


Elsewhere on this blog, I suggest a definition of transformational Christian leadership. This might, however, give a different impression to what it really is. Each of the quotes which follows is drawn from a stock of many more: Transformational Christian leadership holds that leadership is personal influence. This influence is based on character (in the sense of “integrity”, but also “persistence”): “Character is foundational if a leader is to influence people ...” (Clinton J R 1988:74). The purpose of such influence if to fulfil a vision: “If you want to become a leader, vision is not an option [i.e. it is mandatory]” (Barna G 1997:47). Such vision tends to be what defines a Christian leader’s calling, and it needs to be seen through. This, however, tends to place an extraordinary burden on the Christian leader: “Perhaps the greatest trial for the transforming Christian leader is in challenging the status quo ... [i.e. is in] values and visions” (Wofford J C 1999:85,86). In the literature, there is a marked de-emphasis of the Triune God in exegetical passages, and of faith in the sense of the human response to God. This would seem to fit with transformational Christian leadership’s emphasis on personal influence. QUESTION: Assuming you are familiar with this leadership paradigm, how might the above be modified or enlarged? The picture (from Senge P M 1990:151) illustrates the “vision tension” particularly well.

NOTE: “Transformational” may have a very different meaning in Southern Africa. What is referred to here is a popular Global North leadership paradigm.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Definition of Religious Persecution

I have been closely involved in discussions surrounding the establishment of the World Evangelical Alliance’s (WEA’s) International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF). At the same time, an academic publisher hired me to proofread a text: Re-Examining Religious Persecution. Here is the author’s definition: “Religious persecution should be understood as an unjust action of varying levels of hostility directed at a believer or believers of a particular religion or belief-system through systematic oppression or genocide, or through harassment or discrimination which may not necessarily limit these believers’ ability to practice their faith, resulting in varying levels of harm as it is considered from the victim’s perspective, each action having religion as its primary motivator” (Tieszen C 2008:42). I’m not sure, though, about religion as the primary motivator. Is this doing justice to what happens “on the ground”? Some examples (both of these actual): a pastor reveals corruption discovered through counselling, and is framed; or a Church dismisses an employee for unchristian practices, and is summoned. I might try a definition like this: “Religious persecution is suffering at the hands of others for religiously grounded practices”. Of course, there might be religiously grounded practices for which one deserves to suffer. QUESTION: Can religious persecution be restricted (Chambers Dictionary) to suffering for “religious or political opinions”? Are such definitions adequate? What about the suggested one-liner?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Simple, Simple, Simple?


Best-selling management researcher Jim Collins (Good to Great) proposes the “hedgehog concept”. This is popular today as a Church growth principle. A hedgehog does just one thing really well: it rolls up into a ball, and so outsmarts the slyest fox. Therefore, writes Collins, if you want to know how to succeed in an undertaking, discover your hedgehog concept (Collins J 2001:90). In Collins’ view, Einstein, Darwin, Marx -- not to speak of the “greats” in business -- “took a complex world and simplified it” (:91). So it’s all about “simple, simple, simple ideas” (:95). Yet Collins notes that a simple idea needs to be based upon “deep insight” and “deep understanding along three key dimensions”. These dimensions, it so happens, are each subtle and far-reaching -- as an example, one’s personal emotional make-up, which even Collins describes as “soft and fuzzy” (:109) -- not to speak of that “deep understanding”. In fact, did not Einstein, Darwin, and Marx -- apart from the others Collins presents -- have a wizardly understanding of their so-called “simple, simple, simple ideas”? In short, while the hedgehog concept may have some merits, Collins himself would seem to say too much that undermines it. QUESTION: Is a hedgehog concept really that “simple, simple, simple”? May it genuinely be useful?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Management Subtext


The management literature, I find, frequently seems to subvert itself. Here’s an example. Ichak Adizes wrote the classic work, Managing Corporate Lifecycles. Yet one continually stumbles across asides in this book, ever so briefly deposited, which would seem to subvert the text. Adizes states that “the tools for diagnosing and treating ... organizational behavior -- to change organizational culture and consciousness -- are in their infancy” (Adizes I 2004:10). That is, they are still in the earliest stage of immaturity. On the core subject of the “integration” of companies (getting it all together as a well-functioning whole), he states that this “remains elusive and an ongoing subject of inquiry” (:254). To be elusive means of course “to escape one”. He writes that “when I watch spiritual leaders, I am in awe” (:396). That is, the organisational guru himself would seem cowed by what spiritual leaders are able to achieve. Such comments are scattered throughout the book -- and indeed other such management books. QUESTION: What is the meaning of such qualifiers? What does this really say about the merits of management theory?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Blighted Blog

Over the past year, the state of the Internet in South Africa has, in parts, considerably deteriorated. My ISP puts it down to the telephone system -- which, it states, affects “any connection (dial up or ADSL)”. This has seriously affected my ability to blog -- to the extent that I am unable to post at all from my own connection. What to do? For the time being, I shall do my best to find workarounds. However, this blog could be on the endangered list.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Doctoral Proposal

I handed in a doctoral proposal today. While I have not finally completed my M.Th. thesis, some universities prefer an early start to the doctoral process. The title of my dissertation is provisionally: Fact/Value Dualism: The Role of Language as Reconciling Factor. The difficulty can be stated simply: “How can facts lead us to values?” Fact/value dualism has been described in various terms. Chisholm (1977:60) sees it in Kant’s analytic vs. synthetic propositions; Capra (1982:21) describes it as rational vs. intuitive knowledge; Lyotard (1984:64) refers to it as denotative vs. prescriptive language games; Toulmin (1990:200,201) describes it as abstraction vs. humanism; Davey (2001:31,32) refers to it as devalorization vs. valorization; while Korten (2001:234) refers to it as materialistic monism vs. transcendental monism. This dualism is, I believe, the most important conceptual problem of our time. It has also deeply influenced recent theology. Anyway, a number of eminent thinkers have proposed a reconciliation of this dualism through a study of language, and this is the route that I propose to take in exploring the problem. QUESTION: So you have all the facts of a situation. How do you evaluate it? On what basis do you act? And why? What examples are there of people who have the facts, or data, yet do not use them appropriately?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cultural Diversity = Theological Renewal


Thomas Oden lists what would seem to be a rather generous forty-seven propositions for “theological renewal” of American Protestantism. Proposition seven states: “Christianity is a universal human community embracing all languages and all cultures, in which cultural diversity is essential to its universality. The renewing church reaches out to embrace every class, every culture, every historical and social situation, while seeking to maintain union with Christ” (Neuhaus R J ed. 1988:76). One wonders whether this is stated against the background of the alternative “homogeneous principle” first proposed by Donald McGavran of Fuller Theological Seminary (see elsewhere on this blog). Oden clearly considers that cultural diversity is essential to the renewal of the Church. Being the minister of a multi-cultural Church, I heartily agree with Oden’s proposition -- given, that is, that a Church exists in a multi-cultural environment. QUESTION: Just how does cultural diversity renew the Church? And just how does one "embrace" other cultures?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Primacy of Character

Here’s something from my M.Th. thesis (considerably abridged). Faith receives an uncommonly strong emphasis in the New Testament. This uses the term “faith”, and related terms, some 500 times. The centrality of faith is frequently self-evident, e.g. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God...” (Heb 11:6). The New Bible Dictionary observes: “In the New Testament faith is exceedingly prominent.” This includes those epistles which specifically deal with leadership. In 1 Timothy, for instance, the word “faith” has a 100% “relative density”, i.e. the highest density in Scripture. The Christian leadership authors I have studied (forty or fifty in all, and all of the Global North) typically prioritise a single leadership quality. However, not in one case do they advance faith as such a priority. In all cases, it is character, or aspects of character. Wofford (1999:107) states: “For a church leader, no attribute is more important than character”; Jinkins (2002:36) considers: “The minister’s activities are grounded, first, in the minister’s character,...”; Blackaby and Blackaby (2001:53) consider: “The first truth in leadership development is this: God’s assignments are always based on character”; De Pree (1992:10) states: “Integrity in all things precedes all else”; Clinton (1988: 75) states: “Character is foundational if a leader is to influence people for God’s purposes”; and Gibbs (2005:114) summarises the Pauline requirements for leadership as “character first and foremost”. QUESTION: So what happened to “faith”? Should it be there? Is it properly excluded as the priority for Christian leadership? And what is it?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Godly Perspective


“Either you have a big God or you will have big problems. Oftentimes, our challenges become problems because we lose perspective of the greatness of God.” (Halcomb J, Hamilton D and Malmstadt H 2000:199). Assuming this to be true, it is an important statement. QUESTION: How do we “lose perspective of the greatness of God”? How can we restore it? The photo shows the book from which the quote is taken: Courageous Leaders.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Censorship?

A friend at Fuller Theological Seminary sent me a professor’s paper, which forms the basis of the professor’s teaching this semester. Like me, my friend is completing a Master’s degree in the field of leadership. The material is very interesting, from the point of view that it would seem to show where Fuller “is at”, and it contains theological and conceptual content which would particularly lend itself to debate on core issues. However, it threatens legal action if any content whatsoever should be “publicly posted” without written permission. That, of course, includes this blog. QUESTION: Would it be in the interests of the Church or public for such material to be quoted without special authorisation? Are there real reasons to control the disclosure of such material? What would constitute reasonable restrictions on its use? Might a Creative Commons copyright better apply?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

That Vision Thing


George Barna writes: “A person who attempts to lead others without vision is simply playing a dangerous, arrogant game” (Barna G 1997:55). I asked my mentor, a well known minister, whether he had a vision. He said, “We’re a family. Like a family, we just muddle along.” He has a postgraduate degree. He’s been in his present Church for more than a decade, and it is vibrant and prosperous. It would also seem to have its heart in the right place, having just taken in some 200 refugees (see my ministry blog). QUESTION: Is the vision of one man or woman really necessary? Might it not engender resistance? or place an undue sense of burden on a minister? Could it not be stirred by the Spirit among all? The photo shows George Barna.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

God and Church Authority


Andy Stanley, in The Next Generation Leader, relates an incident where he disagreed with a major decision of his elders. He writes: “I was really tempted to do an end run around the elders' decision. But I had been brought up believing that God works through channels of authority. ... Now, five years later, when I think back on how close I came to ignoring the advice of that discerning group of men, it makes me feel sick” (Stanley A 2003:97). In my own Church, the official view is that the decisions of the Church Meeting (the whole membership) are “those which Christ Himself imparts”. Personally, I take this further, and believe, with Stanley, that the decisions of the elders and deacons are given by God, both when I agree and disagree. I take a dim view of those who pick a decision apart, asking who decided what why and how. QUESTION: Agreed? How is a Church to know God's will through its routine governance? Could the prudent decision of a meeting be the wrong one in God's plan -- and vice versa?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Coercive Leadership: Mixed Signals

Transformational Christian leadership generally disavows coercion. On the surface of it, that is. My M.Th. thesis has required a semantic analysis of the literature, which reveals the following. On the one hand, the literature explicitly rejects (I’ll put all the citations in one place) power, force, authoritarianism, power-seeking, control, command, coercion, domination, cajoling, and manipulation (Banks and Ledbetter 2004:86,108; Engstrom 1976:40; Wofford 1999:92,182; Hunter 2004:16,53,55,108; Jinkins 2002:24; Thomas 1999:19; Halcomb, Hamilton, and Malmstadt 2000:219; Thrall, McNicol and McElrath 1999:21; Ford 1991:43; Munroe 2005:43). On the other hand, it regularly describes transformational Christian leadership in terms which suggest much the same: power, forceful power, authority, inducement, enforcement, control, and strength (Hunter 2004:62,63,67; Hybels 2002:64; Halcomb, Hamilton, and Malmstadt 2000:46; Stanley 2006:118; Munroe 2005:76; Maxwell 1998:36,70). Leadership, writes Engstrom (1976:114), is “to control others”, while Wright (2000:16) considers that it is “the exercise of power ... Power is at the heart of leadership, ...” Servant leadership (which is generally synonymous with transformational leadership) “does not avoid the exercise of power ...” (Banks and Ledbetter 2004:108). QUESTION: So which is it? Why the apparently conflicting language -- often by one and the same author? What would represent a genuine alternative?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ordained by God


Ted Engstrom is one of the “early” writers on Christian leadership. In The Making of a Leader, he states: “That God ordains men to serve is clear from Psalm 75:6,7: ‘Promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God ... putteth down one, and setteth up another’” (Engstrom T W 1976:35). QUESTION: What is the meaning of “putteth down” and “setteth up”? To what extent, then, is leadership dependent on a leader’s contribution to the leadership situation? And how would one discern that one is ordained by God? (also see “Definition of the Call/Calling”). The photo shows Ted Engstrom.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Is It Manipulation?


H.B. London Jr. quotes Lyle Schaller: “Three-quarters of all church ministry is significantly reduced because of nonproductive conflict.” He then recalls a meeting with Dr. Norman Shawchuk: “He told me the number one reason for conflict is that leaders generally have poor interpersonal skills. A second major reason is that many congregations are determined to resist change even though they must inevitably come to grips with the sweeping changes all around them. When a church resists a leader's efforts to change strategically, it is only a matter of time before the church becomes riddled with conflict” (Barna G ed. 1997:118). But notice the language. The leader needs to exert “efforts”, and these need to be applied “strategically”. Further, such efforts are necessary in view of apparently widespread “resistance”. Presumably therefore the need for the “interpersonal skills” to gain the advantage? QUESTION: Is it manipulation? Can the priesthood of believers be reconciled with “efforts” applied against an intransigent Church? Why should the Church be intransigent in the first place? And why is the leader apparently thought to have a special advantage of foresight? The photo shows H.B. London Jr.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Professed Agreement


There’s a fascinating object lesson of the difference between Global North and Global South in Global Missiology for the 21st Century (Taylor W D 2000). It is the contrast between the introductory paper of Samuel Escobar (a South American), and the response of Jonathan Bonk (a North American). Escobar highlights eleven major themes. Bonk then follows up with professed agreement on all of them: Escobar is “right”, he is “absolutely appropriate”, and so on. But on closer examination, a different picture emerges. Here are just three examples which go to the core of the differences: Escobar emphasises the need for "spiritual power " among Christians (:38). Bonk responds that, yes, Christians need to be "powerful advocates of ... values" (:49). Escobar proposes that poverty will be solved “only [by] the redemptive power of the gospel” (:33). Bonk replies that, yes, the gospel is the solution through the “sharing of resources” (:52). Escobar considers that, in all its diversity, the Church has unity through "the work of the Holy Spirit" (:28). Bonk responds that, yes, the Church is united through various “elements” in its midst (:48). Bonk, as a matter of interest, does not refer to the Holy Spirit even once, where Escobar does so many times. And so the fundamental contrasts pile up. In the very process of “agreeing” with Escobar, Bonk demonstrates just how far he is away from him. QUESTION: Do you see the incongruities here? If so, why Bonk’s professed agreement on all points? What is happening here?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Naïve Faith in Leadership


I often encounter in ministry what I would term “naïve faith” as opposed to “mature faith”. Naïve faith is a faith in outcomes (e.g. “I have faith that God will heal me”), while mature faith is a faith in the God of outcomes (e.g. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Job 13:15). Yet in the leadership literature, I repeatedly come across an attitude to leadership that would seem close to naïve faith. Here are a few examples. Oswald Sanders states that “faith is vision”, where faith merely refers to “the goal” (Sanders J O 1994:55,56). Bobby Clinton considers that faith refers to a “God-given vision” that is about “some future plan” (Clinton J R 1988:117); while Walter Wright defines faith as “a vision that makes a difference ... seeing tomorrow so powerfully that it shapes today” (Wright W C 2000:66). It is not hard to see that this is, in each case, a faith in outcomes. QUESTION: Is it possible to distinguish such an approach to leadership from naïve faith? How would Christian leadership look different with mature faith? The photo shows Bobby Clinton’s The Making of a Leader.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Theological Excluded Middle


It was Paul Hiebert who first introduced the term “excluded middle” to theology. This is originally a philosophical term which refers to the exclusion of “middle cases" between logical alternatives (Blackburn S 2005:125). The theological “excluded middle” has been a pervasive characteristic of the Church in the Global North. The Church in the Global North has had “a theology of God in cosmic history” (Hiebert P G 1994:198) -- that is, a God who is “the origin, purpose, and destiny” of all He has created (:199) -- and “an awareness of God in natural history” (:199) -- that is, a God who ordains “social relationships [and] the natural world” (:199). However, it has tended to exclude “a theology of God in human history” (:198). This may refer either to the reality of “the spirit world” (:200), or to God’s present acts in “human history and . . . personal biography” (:218). Thus missionaries of the Global North have frequently found themselves in situations where they have been unable to address questions of “the middle level” (:198), to relate the gospel e.g. to demonic influences or the need for divine guidance. However, Hiebert considers that there are two extremes against which we must guard. The first is to tend too much towards “denying the spiritual realm” (:200). The second is “a Christianized form of animism in which spirits and magic are used to explain everything” (:200). QUESTION: Are God’s involvement in the spirit world / human history / personal biography on your leadership menu? Should they be? The photo is a recent one of Paul Hiebert.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Words, Words, and Leadership

Friedrich Waismann said that “language is the knife with which we cut out facts” (Parkinson G H R ed. 1968:57). It would seem to me much the same when one considers the language that theorists choose to describe movements or organisations, and the so-called leadership that exists within them. As it happens, the model of leadership I am studying for my present thesis puts the leadership-followership distinction at the centre: “There are three basal elements of leadership: leader, followers, and situation” (Clinton J R 1988:182); “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers” (Hunter J C 1999:124). Yet there is other language one could apply. For instance, one might think of a movement e.g. as a divine operation (Banks R and Ledbetter B M 2004:37), or as a living organism (Gibbs E 2005:28). QUESTION: How necessary is the leadership-followership distinction to organisational theory? Is it possible that it is altogether the wrong terminology? What are the consequences of different language that may be envisaged?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Superior Beings?

Is the leader a superior being? I sense that Christian leadership authors would generally deny it. Yet the literature may suggest otherwise. Oswald Sanders considers that leaders have “superior spiritual power”, and “the Spirit works in and through [them] to a greater degree” (Sanders J O 1994:28). Henry and Richard Blackaby consider that leaders have “greater characters” than followers (Blackaby H and Blackaby R 2001:53). John Maxwell believes that leaders are “stronger” than followers (Maxwell J C 1998:70). Andy Stanley considers that Christian leaders wear an “invisible badge” that, presumably, others do not (Stanley A 2006:118). Its name is “moral authority”. Often, leaders would seem to know better than followers what is for their good (Hunter J C 2004:31), or what God intends for them (Clinton J R 1988:26). Personally, while leadership gifts may seem to set one apart, the “spirit” of this does not agree with my spirit. I think of the many “humble Christians” who are spiritual treasures, and crucial to my so-called leadership. How could I ever claim to be superior in this way or that? QUESTION: Are some Christians superior to others? What would constitute such superiority? How would Christian theology reflect on this?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Same Love


Kenneth Boa (The Perfect Leader) states: “To avoid disharmony in the body of Christ, we must all have ‘the same love’ -- Jesus Christ. The more we love Jesus, the more we are able to love one another. Then, and only then, can there exist a united sense of purpose. Then we can refrain from manipulation and self-serving actions. Then we can truly serve others selflessly” (Boa K 2006:65). I would consider that Boa has correctly identified the solution to strife. This is my experience. QUESTION: How should the body develop “the same love”? What if some do not? And how does one define love for Jesus?

Leadership Dropout


The Christian leadership literature yields many examples of leadership “dropout”. There is a “high dropout” in local-church ministry (Gibbs E 2005:176), “many” leave after serving less than two years (Blackaby H and Blackaby R 2001:19), there is a “rather large” dropout in the first several years of full-time ministry (Clinton J R 1989:328), and 50% of trainees for local church ministry are no longer serving ten years later (Gibbs E 2005:79). Also, there are “many reasons” for dropout in latter ministry (Clinton J R 1989:356), “few” leaders finish well (Stanley P D and Clinton J R 1992:11), and “few” achieve “afterglow” (Blackaby H and Blackaby R 2001:45). The casualty rate has reached “disturbingly high levels” in local churches (Gibbs E 2005:19), and thousands of leaders shipwreck their careers every year (Blackaby H and Blackaby R 2001:230). But notice something about these statements. They are all generic -- they are applied universally -- and this is the overwhelming trend in the literature. QUESTION: What does this mean? That is, why is there such generality about dropout, and how does this reflect on current attempts to address the situation? The photo shows Eddie Gibbs.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Power to Serve


The Christian leadership literature frequently mentions the need to serve, and advances various examples of those who did: Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and so on. “If you choose to lead, you must serve” (Hunter J C 2004:72). Yet does the literature mean quite what one would imagine it does with “service”? James Hunter quotes George Bush Sr.: “There is but one just use of power, and it is to serve people” (Hunter J C 2004:63). Similarly, Walter Wright considers: “Leadership is the use of power to serve the people” (Wright W 2000:180). Yet is not true service the relinquishment of power, not the use of it? Christ “made Himself nothing” (Philippians 2:7). QUESTION: What constitutes “power”? The power to earn? The power to leave? The power to lead? The power to fund? The power to adjust? The power to protect? The power to advance? Which kinds of power should one be ready to relinquish? The photo shows Hunter’s The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Crisis of Forgiveness

There has been much discussion in the Global North over the “crisis of leadership”. Walter C. Wright (Relational Leadership) considers: “The crisis of leadership, I believe, is a crisis of forgiveness. Leaders are expected to lead without mistakes” (Wright W C 2000:202). Supposing for a moment that Wright is correct, I would understand it like this. Leaders may be condemned by the law -- or leaders may be redeemed by grace. It is by the law that their mistakes are revealed -- it is by grace that the unmerited acts of God through them are cherished. QUESTION: Why are leaders being “condemned by the law”? What lies at the root of this?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Ministry as Pointing


Walter C. Wright (Relational Leadership) considers: “We are called to live the resurrected life in such a way that it points people to God wherever we find ourselves ... It is to the God who holds on to us that we point people when we seek to exercise leadership as Christians.” (Wright W C 2000:7,21). Of all the North American literature I have read, such “pointing” comes closest to my own ministry philosophy. QUESTION: Yet what does it mean to point to God? To point to His Person? His deeds? His attributes as exemplar? His commandments? God in me?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Readers in Islamic Nations

It’s interesting to note that about 5% of those who have looked into this Leadership South blog live in Islamic countries. By way of contrast, this is not so with my ministry blog (Urban Ministry Live and Unplugged), which shows close to no visits from Islamic countries. Sitemeter’s “world map” shows that there have recently been visitors here from six or seven Islamic nations. I have no idea why this is so. Welcome.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Definition of the Call/Calling

Dr. George N. Malek must be one of South Africa's most abstruse theologians. Among his many publications is a fourteen-page booklet titled The Calling to the Priesthood. A common view of calling is that it is to see what will be, i.e. it is synonymous with vision. It is "a vision from the Lord" (Halcomb J, Hamilton D and Malmstadt H 2000:65). In contrast, Malek considers that the calling is to see what is not -- in fact, to see what cannot be through human agency. He introduces "the nature of the calling" with the well known passage Isaiah 6:3-8. This includes Isaiah's words: "Woe is me! For I am lost ..." Malek writes: "The nature of the calling begins not by 'hearing a call from God', but by seeing, perceiving the condition of man without God" (Malek G N 1997:1). This includes the condition of ministry without God. He warns of the call that departs from this, and "turns into ethics" (:11). The calling is about "the point of banishment" (:9) -- again, to see what is not, and cannot be through human agency -- and therefore the calling has to be "involved in the reality of God" (:8). "A call is the total poverty of man in the hands of Almighty God" (:7). QUESTION: How is such theology applied?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Absence of God


My researches have brought me to the “absence of God” in the Global North leadership literature. This is by no means a universal feature of the literature, but it is a common one. Here are some examples: Paul D. Stanley and J. Robert Clinton (1992:130) consider that Numbers 27 describes “Moses’ sponsorship of Joshua”. Yet the Scriptural emphasis is absent: “So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun ...'” J. Oswald Sanders (1994:73) considers that Joshua “used wonderful tact” in dividing up the Promised Land. Yet the Biblical perspective is missing: “So the Israelites divided the land, just as the Lord had commanded ...” Viv Thomas (1999:33) considers that David found his strength through “organic friendship”. Again he fails to note the Scriptural theme: “David found strength in the Lord his God.” Doug Murren (1997:200) states that Jeremiah was “a biblical change agent”. Again the Biblical perspective is missing: “The word of the Lord came to him.” Ted W. Engstrom (1976:34) comments on Nehemiah’s leadership ability: “How great he was ...” And again the Biblical emphasis is absent: “The God of heaven [gave him] success”. Myles Munroe (2005:106) considers that, when Jesus sent out the Seventy, He was excited because “he saw humanity exercising power”. Yet he omits the Scriptural theme: “in your [Christ’s] name”. Similar examples cover several pages of my thesis. While some such examples might be dismissed as being overly critical, the “weight of evidence” is considerable. QUESTION: Why this “absence of God”? What does it signify? What implications does this have for Christian leadership theory? The photo shows Ted W. Engstrom’s classic, The Making of a Christian Leader.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Aim to Read Something Different


J. Oswald Sanders, in Spiritual Leadership, quotes Muriel Ormrod: “We should always aim to read something different -- not only the writers with whom we agree, but those with whom we are ready to do battle ... their point of view challenges us to examine the truth and to test their views against Scripture” (Sanders J O 1994:105). QUESTION: If you are a student of leadership, do your required reading lists include “something different”? Something so different that one may “do battle”? Should they?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tipping a Hat to the Global South


From time to time, the leadership literature of the “Global North” (the former “sending” nations) refers to the vibrancy of the Church in the Global South. Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk (The Missional Leader) state: “In sub-Saharan Africa, where AIDS and drought abound, Christian life and witness are vibrant. With few resources, the church is growing and vital; it is addressing the dire needs of its peoples ...” (Roxburgh A J and Romanuk F 2006:39); Andrew Kirk (Global Good News) refers to the “missionary effectiveness” of the Church of the South, and its “ability to inspire people to be agents and embodiments of the life of God’s new creation in Jesus Christ” (Snyder H A ed. 2001:130); while Eddie Gibbs (Leadership Next) considers: “We can learn valuable lessons from the Southern Hemisphere” (Gibbs E 2005:20). Yet curiously, this is as far as it goes. The “vibrant life”, the “missionary effectiveness”, the “valuable lessons” are kept under wraps. There is a perfunctory tipping of the hat to the Church of the South, then a near complete disregard for the views and ethos of the South. QUESTION: What are the reasons for this state of affairs? What is the meaning of such “tipping of the hat”? The photo shows Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Tautology of Calling


What is it in Christian transformational leadership that distinguishes leaders from followers? A recurring answer is: Calling. However, “calling”, on closer examination, would appear to be a mere tautology. That is, the word merely represents a substitute for other key terms in the literature. Calling may be a substitute 1. for vision: “God-given vision” (Gibbs 2005:191) “a vision from the Lord” (Halcomb J, Hamilton D and Malmstadt H 2000:65), “a kingdom vision” (Hybels B 2002:37). It may be a substitute 2. for vision’s goals: “ambition” (Engstrom T W 1976:29), “purpose” (Boa K 2006:60), “contribution” (Banks R and Ledbetter B M 2004:92). Or it may be a substitute 3. for integrity: in contrast with a mere “role one plays” (Munroe M 2005:20), “an occupation” (Blackaby H and Blackaby R 2001:xi), “functional competencies” (Barna G 1997:25). Yet vision, vision’s goals, and integrity are already integral to Christian transformational leadership theory. The use of the word “calling” reveals nothing essentially new or different, nor would anything change if it were dropped from the literature. QUESTION: What, therefore, can it mean? Does it serve merely as a term of legitimation? Do we have a genuine problem here? Or does it matter not? The photo shows George Barna’s Leaders on Leadership, which contains one of the clearer statements on calling.

Transformational: Synonyms

This one’s for information rather than comment. It lists various synonyms for transformational leadership. Note that this does not necessarily mean that the synonyms will always apply. However, in the following instances they do. I would welcome any additions to the list:

connective leadership (Gibbs E 2005:27)
courageous leadership (Halcomb J, Hamilton D and Malmstadt H 2000:185)
relationship theory (Van Wagner K 2007:1)
spiritual leadership (Daman G 1997:1)
servant leadership (Hunter J C 2004:20)
ternary leadership (Banks R and Ledbetter B M 2004:96), and
transforming leadership (Wofford J C 1999:19)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Transformational: My Experience

The first time I came into close contact with transformational leadership, at Fuller Theological Seminary, I didn’t know what it was. I experienced it as being highly authoritarian -- yet the talk was continually of equality, consensus, dialogue. Since then, I have found these apparent opposites explicitly described and (some might say) reconciled in the literature. Perhaps Robert Banks and Bernice Ledbetter state it most clearly. It is a leadership model which “navigates between” hierarchical (top-down) and egalitarian (leaderless team) styles. This implies that the egalitarian aspect lies in its teamwork, not in “the structure of decision-making” (Banks R and Ledbetter B M 2004:86). J. Oswald Sanders similarly states that, while leadership seeks “common purpose” among those who are led (Sanders J O 1994:27), it is nevertheless “always from the top down” (:113). Jerry C. Wofford perhaps describes it most concisely as “directive consensus building” (Wofford J C 1999:68). This surely explains how the language may appear to emphasise equality, while the experience is one of authoritarianism. QUESTION: Has this been your experience at an institution in the U.S.A.? What are the manifestations of “top-down” style? What would alternatives look like?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Principle or Faith?


In Courageous Leaders (see photo), James Halcomb, David Hamilton, and Howard Malmstadt state: “Through the Ten Commandments, God the Master Teacher trains His people how to think, ...” (Halcomb J, Hamilton D and Malmstadt H 2000:223). The important thing, they write, is “to train oneself in implicational thinking”. They make no reference to the first four commandments (the so-called “first table”, which deals with humanity’s responsibility to God), but plunge straight into the next six: “Let’s consider the final six commandments ...” They consider that all of these commandments have to do with the principle: “life is valuable” (:223). So, for instance, murder is forbidden because human life is “of immense worth” (:224); theft is forbidden because “objects represent [the investment of] life”; and so on. Yet consider another possibility. Given a faith in the God of the first four commandments, which includes a belief in His sovereign power over human circumstance, there then remains e.g. no need to remove troublesome people through murder, and no need to acquire more than one has through theft, as one is assured that every circumstance of life is under God’s good care. What does this have to do with Christian leadership? Following Halcomb, Hamilton, and Malmstadt, Christian leadership is about “implicational” principles which “drive every courageous leader” (:228). Following the second option, Christian leadership is about trust in a sovereign God. QUESTION: Should the Christian leader be driven by “implicational” principles, or by faith in a sovereign God? Does faith generate behaviour as suggested? Might the principle “life is valuable” be a mere “idol” in the presence of God Himself?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Meaning of Conflict


What is the meaning of conflict? The answer of Christian transformational leadership tends to be: “God uses conflict ... to develop the leader” (Clinton J R 1988:145). It is “for the development of personal resources” (Jinkins M 2002:20). It is “for holiness of heart” (Sanders J O 1994:120). Therefore, in the event of conflict, leaders “need to face their own inner wars” (Ford 1991:258). They need to ask: “What is it about me?” (Barna G ed. 1997:250). QUESTION: While it COULD be about me, wouldn’t it seem like too much navel-gazing, or self-absorption? Isn’t there the well-being of a Church out there? The photo shows J. Robert Clinton.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Enduring in Ministry


It would seem to receive only passing attention in Bill Hybels’ Courageous Leadership, but here is, I think, a vital ingredient to enduring in ministry. He states: “Optimists expect to experience God’s greatness and love, even when they’re facing bleak circumstances” (Hybels B 2002:200). It is, I think, a loss of optimism that often “kills” ministers. True optimism, as Hybels suggests, is based upon who God is and how He acts, regardless of how many people are in the pews, regardless of the state of the Church’s finances, regardless of human failings and faithlessness. But does Hybels go far enough? In his book, he applies this optimism to specific challenges. Yet does it not apply every minute in every way? He states that God “might” do something, is “able” to do something, “can” do something. Yet does He not do something every minute in every way? In fact, is it necessary to “expect to experience” God? Can He not be depended upon unconditionally? QUESTION: In what ways is God the ground for optimism from day to day? How can He be relied upon?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Change Course or Hold On?


Oliver Cromwell said: “No one rises so high as he who knows not whither he is going.” This is a quote that Brendan Simms of Cambridge University uses to sum up the finding that great leaders “have transcended their origins”, i.e. have the ability to change course through the duration of their leadership (Swain H ed. 2005:17). Yet Christian authors James Halcomb, David Hamilton, and Howard Malmstadt (Courageous Leaders) consider that leaders “always, in every circumstance, and against all difficulties hold on to the God-inspired vision” (Halcomb J, Hamilton D and Malmstadt H 2000:185). It seems, that is, that there should be NO change of course. QUESTION: So which is it? Was Cromwell mistaken? And how might authors reach such apparently opposite conclusions? Thanks to www.generalmonck.com/biography.htm for the picture of Cromwell.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Church in the U.S.A.


A fellow blogger asked me whether I had blogged about the Church in the U.S.A. What were my impressions? My overriding impression (I speak generally) is that the Church over there seems unable to distinguish between faith and values. I see what C.S. Lewis referred to as the kind of faith that is a belief in values: “the belief that certain kinds of attitudes are really true, and others really false” (Lewis C S 1947:29). Frequently, the Church in the U.S.A. seeks to ground such values in the character of God or the life of Jesus. Yet there is little concept of a faith in the Triune God which would source values spontaneously. QUESTION: What is the difference between faith and values? How do they relate to each other? The photo shows C.S. Lewis.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Prototheological Phase

With the previous post in mind, J. Andrew Kirk considers: "All theology should begin with a 'prototheological' phase in which the theologian reveals and discusses all hidden assumptions". (Snyder H A ed. 2001:127). QUESTION: Does theology typically do this? Should it? What would such “assumptions” include? Should an author declare e.g. a bias towards creationism or postliberalism?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Puzzling over Sources


I am often flummoxed by apparent parallels between theologians’ statements, unable to trace a connection with any certainty, or to know whether this is merely a case of parallel terms without parallel content. Here’s an example. Shelley Trebesch of Fuller Theological Seminary makes the following statement -- a notion which is not uncommon in the Christian leadership literature: "They [Christian leaders] have adapted to many situations and organizational cultures and have often forsaken their own identity to succeed" (Trebesch S 1997:37). Then consider this -- it is philosopher Kevin Hart summarising Harold Bloom: "We will not be saved by following the Law or by believing in Jesus. We will be saved only if we become ourselves, if we finally recognize in ourselves that which has not been fashioned by culture and society" (Hart K 2004:98). QUESTION: Is Trebesch coming from the same place as Bloom? How should one know the difference? Should one BE ABLE to tell the difference? The photo shows Dr. Shelley Trebesch.

Attractional vs. Incarnational


There is, particularly in the Global North, and among “younger church leaders”, a keen debate surrounding “attractional” vs. “incarnational” forms of Church. This has been described most simply as “come to us” vs. “go to them” (http://mondaymorninginsight.com/index.php/site/comments/attractional_and_incarnational/). Attractional is “dedicated to producing an event that pagans will want to come to”, while incarnational is “to ‘go’ to their world and enculturate the gospel there” (http://www.backyardmissionary.com/2005/08/incarnational-v-attractional-mission.html). I downloaded the five most viewed Attractional vs. Incarnational articles on the Internet, and compared their various emphases. It is interesting to note that, in a comparison of Church vs. Trinity (each including various terms, e.g. "Church" including "εκκλησία", "community", "Christ-followers", etc.), Church receives 99% and Trinity 1% emphasis in the articles (or 90% and 10% if the Trinity is seen to include Christ in His humanity). By way of contrast, as best I am able to recognise it, there tends to be a greater emphasis in the Global South on the exalted Christ as both the Attraction and the Incarnation. The concepts “attractional” and "incarnational” thus seem to become fairly redundant. QUESTION: What do the above emphases signify? To what extent would one’s Christology generate one’s ecclesiology or missiology? Thanks to http://leeh.wordpress.com/2007/07/05/attractional-vs-incarnational/ for the table.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Digging In


Many authors on Christian leadership, where resistance to leadership develops, endorse what one might describe as a non-negotiable stand-off until victory is won. After a decision has been made, a leader “will not waver” (Blackaby H and Blackaby R 2001:192), and "will not vacillate" (Engstrom T W 1976:20). The “power of mental conditioning” will enable the leader to “overcome incredible odds” (Munroe M 2005:209). Where there is backlash, the leader will “persevere” (Clinton J R 1988:109). He or she is to exercise “obedience” (Guder D 1998:186), and “long-term stamina” (Gibbs E 2005:155). When opposed, “courage is a non-negotiable quality” (Stanley A 2003:34). Or, the leader may simply meet opposition “by not responding” (Barna G 1997:246). Followers must “not be allowed” to hinder a leader’s “visions and purposes” (Wofford J C 1999:155). QUESTION: Might not such an outlook bring extraordinary pressures to bear on a leader? Are there alternatives? What is the source of such an attitude? The photo shows Dr. Myles Munroe.

Emotive Language

It is not uncommon for Christian leadership literature of the Global North to use strong terms to dismiss alternative approaches or attitudes to leadership. Alternatives may be described e.g. as “arrogant” (Barna G ed. 1997:55), “stupidity” (Thomas V 1999:24), “a grave form of mental illness” (Munroe M 2005:176). Not seldom, the views under fire would seem to have much in common with Global South values. For instance, the “arrogant” are those who forego vision-casting, while “stupidity” refers to the leader who is assured. QUESTION: Is such language necessary or justified? Would there still be any basis for dialogue where such views are expressed?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Non-Therapeutic Ministry

Dr. George N. Malek, a well known Church consultant in South Africa, a psychologist and theologian, states: "Ministry is not a therapeutic encounter, but the encounter with the Holy. Rapport establishes friendships and 'therapeutic alliance'. Ministry stands on its own every time." (Malek G N 1997:9). QUESTION: Is ministry a "therapeutic alliance"? Or does it facilitate an “encounter with the Holy”? What is the difference?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Third World Literatures


Ngugi wa Thiong'd (Philosophy from Africa) writes: “I have noted from a spell of teaching in the USA that Third World literatures tend to be treated as something outside the mainstream. Many epithets and labels ranging from ‘ethnic studies’ to ‘minority discourses’ are often used to legitimate their claims to academic attention. ... But the languages and literatures of the peoples of Africa, Asia, and South America are not peripheral to the twentieth century. They are central to the mainstream of what has made the world what it is today. ... Institutions of higher learning in Africa, Asia, and America should reflect this multiplicity of cultures, literatures, and languages in the ways they allocate resources for various studies” (Coetzee P H and Roux A P J 2002:57) QUESTION: Agreed? In the field of leadership, how has your institution of higher learning allocated its resources?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Essence of Religion


Here’s a quote from Encyclopaedia Britannica 2007, about American theologian and revivalist Jonathan Edwards: “At Stoddard's death in 1729, Edwards became sole occupant of the Northampton pulpit, the most important in Massachusetts outside of Boston. In his first published sermon, preached in 1731 ... Edwards blamed New England's moral ills on its assumption of religious and moral self-sufficiency. Because God is the saints' whole good, faith, which abases man and exalts God, must be insisted on as the only means of salvation. The English colonists' enterprising spirit made them susceptible to a version of Arminianism ... it minimized the disabling effects of original sin, stressed free will, and tended to make morality the essence of religion.” QUESTION: Was Edwards right about “the essence of religion” in New England? Has anything changed?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Definition of Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is a dominant leadership paradigm in the Church in the Global North. George Barna (Leaders on Leadership) prefers the definition of Gary Wills: “Leadership is mobilizing others toward a goal shared by the leader and followers” (Barna G ed. 1997:22). Tonight I completed a draft definition of Christian transformational leadership for my thesis, based on an analysis of some forty Christian authors. Here it is: “Transformational Christian leadership is effective leadership, by which a Christian leader’s character lays the foundation for personal persuasiveness, influence, and the formation of shared goals.” QUESTION: If my definition should be broadly correct, then character is the touchstone of leadership. Yet being such a central concept (a "centre", in Derridarean terms), might it not merely be serving to give leaders an imaginary handle on success?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Historic Turnaround


The Invasions decimated the Church in Europe around 600 A.D. Bishoprics fell one after the other. The Church decided on a plan to reverse its losses -- which turned out to be a historic turnaround. What was the plan? According to the great Church historian Henri Daniel-Rops (The Church in the Dark Ages), "The essential weapon was preaching" (Daniel-Rops H 1959:258). In addition to this, the preachers were instructed "above all to refrain from 'bombastic pathos'". Daniel-Rops gives a fascinating insight into the content of their preaching. QUESTION: Would it work today?

Monday, February 4, 2008

God's Spirit is Sufficient

My academic supervisor, Dr. Vincent Atterbury, in his doctoral dissertation, describes eleven (largely unwritten) tenets of early Pentecostal leadership theory (Atterbury V E 2002:65). Some of these tenets are characteristically Pentecostal. However, it is striking how many of them would seem typically Global South. Here are two examples: “[Tenet No. 9]. Persons who have been baptised in the Spirit, and have thus directly experienced the touch of God, will also have the faith that God’s plans for them, and for His church, will be fully developed through them. [Tenet No. 10]. Any other means, which might be described as a means of assistance, should be regarded with suspicion. God’s Spirit is sufficient to build up His church. He does not need any means of assistance. All that is needed to effectively lead the church, and to build it up, is persons, baptised in the Spirit, who live obediently under His leading. The proof of this is found in the Scriptures. In the Scriptures, the Spirit led -- while obedient, called persons, such as Peter and Paul, acted as His instruments. Where needed, the charismata worked through them. Nothing more than this is needed.” The original text (only in Afrikaans) is available free at http://etd.unisa.ac.za/ETD-db/theses/available/etd-03072007-144800/unrestricted/thesis.pdf (5.8 MB). QUESTION: What is meant by: “He does not need any means of assistance”? Would this be true without qualification?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Homogeneous Principle


Aubrey Malphurs (Planting Growing Churches for the 21st Century) believes in the “homogeneous principle” for Churches -- that is, grouping people by culture -- a view that originated with Donald McGavran. He considers that “singles tend to prefer to meet with other singles ... The same is true of couples”. This applies, therefore, to “ethnic peoples” (Malphurs A 1998:179). But did he consider that e.g. singles or couples of different ethnic groups might group together? Malphurs considers that it all comes down to the changes people are willing to make (or not) to their "values", but that people resist such changes (:180). And here, perhaps, lies the problem. It is values that separate. But the desire to worship -- the desire to love -- the desire to minister to each other unites. In my view, NON-homogeneity of various kinds is a litmus test of spiritual health in a Church. QUESTION: How would NON-homogeneity (heterogeneity) indicate spiritual health (or otherwise)?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Affirming the Consequent

“Affirming the consequent” is a fallacy that is crucial to Christian leadership theory. Here’s a simple example of the fallacy: 1. If Joe lives to be 100, then Joe ate cherries. 2. Joe has lived to be 100. 3. Therefore Joe ate cherries. This is a fallacy because the conclusion may be false even if the premisses (lines 1. and 2.) are true (Mautner T 2000:8). Even if Joe lives to be 100, and even if Joe ate cherries, and even if all persons who live to be 100 ate cherries, there is the possibility that any number of cherry-eaters will only live to be, say, 30 (the real key to longevity may lie elsewhere). The same with leadership theory. Take the previous post, which proposes that, if Joe succeeds in leadership, then Joe had mentors -- and so on. To put it simply, even if a Christian leadership theory advances much evidence in its support, this may prove little, if not dangerously little -- if the fallacy of affirming the consequent is present. QUESTION: What would a theory need in order to avoid this fallacy?

Just the Facts?


J. Robert Clinton bases his mentoring model (The Mentor Handbook) on “600 case studies of [serving] leaders” (Clinton J R 1991:1-1). Most of these studies reveal “between 3 and 10 significant people” who served as mentors in a leader’s life. A major purpose of the model is, of course, to limit dropout from Christian leadership. But consider this. How many “significant people” were there in the lives of those who dropped out? And how many of those included in the case studies will YET drop out? We have no idea. Therefore what do the 600 case studies prove? At first glance, 600 case studies has a convincing ring to it -- yet there is a fallacy at the heart of it, which is the subject of my next post. QUESTION: To what degree are the data invalidated in this example? Completely?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, in a letter of 21 July 1944: "I remember talking to a young French pastor at A. thirteen years ago. We were discussing what our real purpose was in life. He said he would like to become a saint. I think it is quite likely he did become one. At the time I was very much impressed, though I disagreed with him, and said I should prefer to have faith, or words to that effect. For a long time I did not realise how far we were apart. I thought I could acquire faith by trying to live a holy life, or something like it" (Bonhoeffer D 1953:124). QUESTION: As leaders, are we seeking to become saints, or to have faith? Are the two as far apart as Bonhoeffer suggests?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Who You Are

It is a commonly held view that “who you are” is critical to Christian leadership. Andy Stanley considers: “Your doing will flow from who you are” (Stanley A 2003:132); J. Robert Clinton writes: “You minister from what you are” (Clinton J R 1988:32); Leighton Ford writes: “Leadership is first of all ... something one is” (Ford L 1999:38); while Myles Munroe considers: “Leadership comes down to ... who you are” (Munroe M 2005:81). My spontaneous response is that I minister out of WHO GOD IS. From my opening words on a Sunday morning, through my words to counselees, through my personal choices, through the selection of office-bearers, through moments of Church crisis, through every aspect of ministry, “who God is” (and who He is to others) is of critical importance to me. QUESTION: Is “who God is” just another aspect of “who you are”? Or are these distinct alternatives?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Spiritual Change


Henry and Richard Blackaby (Spiritual Leadership) consider: “Ultimately, spiritual leaders cannot bring about spiritual change in people; only the Holy Spirit can accomplish this” (Blackaby H and Blackaby R 2001:21). QUESTION: Are spiritual leaders then, of themselves, only able to bring about NON-spiritual change in people? What implications would this have for Christian leadership?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Church Conflict

I met yesterday afternoon with a Church consultant. I said, “What is the cause of Church conflict?” He said, “Where are you coming from?” I said, “From the point of view of theory -- theology -- underlying causes.” He said, “It’s ownership. People passionately own their beliefs. They say, ‘It’s my Church, and God is invited,’ rather than, ‘It’s God’s Church, and I’m invited.’” QUESTION: How would one overcome this attitude of “ownership”? Does a leader need to overcome it, too?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Leadership Without Faith

Myles Munroe lists thirty-four “values of the spirit of leadership” (Munroe M 2005:283). George Barna lists thirty-one requirements for “the Christlike character of a leader” (Barna G ed. 1997:23). Oswald Sanders lists sixteen “essential qualities of leadership" (Sanders J O 1994:51). Andy Stanley lists nine components of "success" (Stanley A 2003:132). And Jerry Wofford lists fifteen “Scriptural leadership values” (Wofford J C 1999:47). In none of these lists does FAITH appear -- Greek πίστις -- faith/trust in God. And yet “without faith it is impossible to please God”. QUESTION: What is the reason that, in all of these “Northern” lists of leadership requirements, faith is missing? What would “faith/trust in God” mean in the context of leading others?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fastest-Growing Churches


The book Big Questions In History is a fascinating mix which includes the chapter: “Why do religious and spiritual movements grow?” With regard to the Christian Church, it notes that “the fastest-growing types of Christianity in Africa, Latin America and Asia feature a less intellectually rarefied, omniscient, interventionist God ...” (Swain H ed. 2005:179). QUESTION: How does this description compare with the Church in the Global North? Is an absence of such features a cause of decline?

Ignorant Kings


Myles Munroe, author of The Spirit of Leadership, considers that we all have the latent power of leadership. But we are “victimized by ignorance ... we have become ignorant kings. Not only do we not know who we are, where we came from, and what we are capable of, but we also don’t know how to use the resources the Creator has given us” (Munroe M 2005:167, 173). Therefore, “[God] sent the Word (his thoughts) to earth to correct and redirect our thinking” (:191). So we need to “patiently allow the new information to settle into your subconscious” (:202). QUESTION: What is the origin of such teaching? It would seem reminiscent of Socrates’ notion that evil is ignorance.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Transformational = Conflictual?

Recently Igor Kotlyar and Leonard Karakowsky wrote an interesting paper which proposes “a potential link between transformational leadership behavior and the generation of dysfunctional team conflict”. There’s a free copy at http://www.entrepreneur.com/tradejournals/article/167430593.html. While cognitive (ideas) conflict is usually seen to be healthy, affective (emotional) conflict is usually seen to be counter-productive. The paper states that transformational leadership, for the reason that it promotes “motive arousal”, may “strengthen the connection between cognitive and affective conflict”. Thus there is a need for “enforcement of the rules of the game -- creating parameters for generating and maintaining cognitive conflict while curtailing the transmission of affective conflict”. However, such a solution would normally fall outside the transformational leadership paradigm. QUESTION: Do you think there is truth in this, that transformational leadership may promote conflict? And have Kotlyar and Karakowsky correctly identified the source of conflict in transformational leadership?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Approaches to Culture


There are perhaps three ways to deal with diverse cultures in a Church: 1. Deliberately celebrate cultural differences, 2. Level the Church to the same cultural norms, or 3. Erase culture as an issue in the Church. In the case of the first two, Charles van Engen (see photo) warns of “an over-emphasis on particularity” and “an over-emphasis on universality” (Van Engen C 1997:6,9). In our own Church, which has no majority cultural group, race and culture are essentially removed from our vocabulary. There is an understanding that culture is a servant of worship, and of our ministry to one another and the world. That is, what matters is worship and ministry, not the cultural expressions in which it is done. Thus cultural particularities are of little importance to us -- such as language, dress, or expressions of worship. QUESTION: Agreed? Or how about e.g. breastfeeding in the pews, Communist Party T-shirts in Church, or people entering the Church in drag? (all real examples from our experience).

Leadership vs. Manipulation


I find that I continually encounter what would seem to be inner tensions in the Christian leadership literature. See if you can see this one. Vance Packard's definition of leadership is "getting others to want to do something that you are convinced should be done". But George Barna (Leaders on Leadership) rejects this definition, commenting that it "speaks more of manipulation than of true leadership" (Barna G 1997:22). Turn the pages, however, and Barna states that, in his view, vision is "communicated by God to His chosen servant-leaders ... The leader who possesses such vision knows exactly what he wants to achieve and what the end product will look like" (:47). QUESTION: How, then, do Barna's own views differ substantially from those of Packard? I fail to see it. Surely it's still a matter of getting others to follow my conviction.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Model of Despair?


Leighton Ford (Transforming Leadership) asks: "Given our all-too-human feelings of inadequacy, in what sense can Jesus be taken as our leadership model? ... If we are not what he is, then is his leadership model not a model of despair?" Ford offers eight possible answers (Ford L 1991:30). Personally, I don't find any one of them really speaks to the point -- but it's a vital question. QUESTION: Is not "Jesus the model" essentially the same as "Moses the lawgiver" -- only that much more exacting? How would the Christian leader lead through grace rather than law?

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Leadership Fallacy

Leadership theory would frequently seem to be bedevilled by a fallacy called “begging the question” (petitio principii). Applied to leadership, it would look something like this: 1. Let us suppose that, if Joe is a man of integrity, he is a leader. 2. Joe is a man of integrity. 3. Therefore, Joe is a leader. However, there is a supposition here. It is assumed that leaders are men/women of integrity, or may be defined as men/women of integrity (they could be defined in other ways, although that’s not the focus here). So the fallacy invalidates the argument. It “begs the question”. QUESTION: What would a leadership theory need to put forward in order not to “beg the question”? In what ways would a theory need to be validated (or otherwise)?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

First Person: I, Me, My


I've just completed John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. He states: “I realized that I had leveraged my time as much as I possibly could ... That left me only one choice: learning to work through others” (Maxwell J C 1998:116). Here’s a similar quote: “You see, I know I have more potential that I haven’t yet reached, and if I want someday to get there, I’ve got to surround myself with the best people possible” (Maxwell J C 1998:116). What caught my eye was the many references to the first person (eleven of them here). QUESTION: Is it egotism? If so, might this be a natural outcome of a leadership theory which considers that “everything rises and falls on leadership”? (Maxwell J C 1998:225). The photo shows John C. Maxwell.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Divine Operation"


I appreciated this passage in Banks and Ledbetter (Reviewing Leadership). It would seem to typify the way that I see “Church”: “For Paul, what happens at church gatherings originates in the Spirit and flows through the entire membership for the benefit of all. Everyone is caught up in this divine operation (1 Cor. 12:7). The process itself is described through the use of action verbs that stress its dynamic character: Contributions to the meetings are ‘energized’, ‘manifested’, and ‘distributed’ by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:6-7, 11). Paul uses a variety of nouns to capture the diversity of what takes place: It is an exercise of ‘gifts’, a variety of ‘services’, different kinds of ‘working’ (1 Cor. 12:4-6)” (Banks R and Ledbetter B M 2004:37). QUESTION: Is a gathering of the Church in fact a “divine operation”? What significance, then, does any individual have? Does this mean that I need not fret over my personal contribution?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

16% Holy Spirit

While I have my academic supervisor in mind, his doctoral dissertation surveyed 116 books on Christian leadership -- mostly originating in the Global North. He found that just 16% of these books dealt with the role of the Holy Spirit in Christian leadership. Details are in the Addendum of his dissertation, which may be downloaded free from http://etd.unisa.ac.za/ETD-db/theses/available/etd-03072007-144800/unrestricted/thesis.pdf (5.8 MB). It is written in Afrikaans, but has an English abstract. QUESTION: So what happened to the Holy Spirit? SHOULD He be there?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Stick to It?


Here’s something interesting in Transformational Ministry. Quoting Eugene Peterson, Michael Jinkins emhasises that, once one has been ordained to Christian ministry, “we want your vow that you will stick to it” (Jinkins M 2002:32). He adds: “I want to reiterate what he [Peterson] is saying ... our responsibility is to keep on keeping on -- and on -- and on.” The back cover states that Jinkins has been in ministry. The Preface states that he now has “the privilege of teaching in a seminary”. QUESTION: Did I miss something?

Theology's Polygraph

The late Alan E. Lewis said: “Ministry is theology’s polygraph” (Jinkins M 2002:ix). QUESTION: Would it not seem that, all too often, it’s a case of: “Theology is ministry’s polygraph”? That there is a tendency to start with ideology at the expense of ministry?

My Academic Supervisor


Here’s a good place to start. My present academic supervisor is Dr. Vincent Atterbury, of the South African Theological Seminary (SATS) -- the largest independent theological seminary in Southern Africa (http://www.sats.edu.za/). He is a pastor in the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM), and the AFM's Executive Director of Education and Training. Vincent is very matter-of-fact. He communicates with me through “telegrams” -- often just a single line. However, they are well targeted telegrams, which have helped me a great deal. QUESTION: What would be your expectation of a supervisor? For instance, would you expect a personal relationship?