Saturday, October 30, 2004

organizational excellence and spiritual life in community

Darryl Dash quotes Bill Easum who writes:

Managerial and professional types take their cues from the last fifty years of modernity and function more like CEO's or COO's than transformational leaders. They take great care in running the church, managing the organization, often to the point of micromanaging the church.

Procedure and proper theology occupy most of their attention. Pastors place great emphasis on their education and official role as the ordained leader of the church. Laity enjoy playing the church game - sitting on committees and applying Robert's Rules of Order...

At their best, managerial and professionals are spiritual infants
[sic]; at their worst, they are controlling Pharisees or little more than career-oriented ladder climbers...I have not seen any leadership capacity in the church served well by this style. It is one of the most destructive forms of leadership in the church today...

If you fall into this category, do yourself and the kingdom a favor and either grow up spiritually, find another profession, or get out of the church.

I respect Bill Easum and I agree with his statement when his comments are read iconoclastically - in the same way Jesus should be read when he advocates the hatred of our parents.

It is a tragic thing when any leader - in church, non-profits, or business - believes that the highest expression of themselves comes from integrating themselves into an organization, executing well-run meetings, building a profitable organization, running a project well, successfully mediating a conflict, or displaying good leadership skills. It would be similarly tragic if any pastor believed that they led a vibrant spiritual community because the air control system of the building was first rate, the paint was new, and the architecture was postmodern. There is a dynamic to spiritual life that is uncaptured by any of these organizational or building features!

My concern would be with any who would take Bill's statements literally - that a pastor who also happens to be an outstanding manager must thereby be "a spiritual infant." I would respectfully disagree with those who would cast managerial excellence as intrinsically antithetical to dynamic spiritual leadership. I would suggest that would be the same as comparing apples and dictionaries. Being an outstanding manager or director or organizational leader does not necessarily translate into spiritual leadership. But we suggest it doesn't work against spiritual leadership.

If I must have only one, I'll take the apples. If I must have only one, I will take dynamic spiritual leadership.

(However, those who might take Bill's words literally might also be thinking of the formerly ascendant managerial paradigm where profit was the sole determinative criterion of action and organizations were set up in strict hierachical fashion. Further, it may be that some pastors style themselves after this mode of operation. But this type of managerial style has not been in vogue for about two decades (e.g. Jim Collins' assertion that the finest companies in the United States do not see profit as their primary motivation).

But we can, in fact, have both spiritual life in community that expresses itself missionally and organizational excellence . But - at the same time - we must never confuse organizational excellence with real spiritual life or see one as leading to the other. Modernity might lead those in the church to believe a program of dotting all the organizational i's and crossing all the organizational t's will ineluctably lead to spiritual effectiveness, but this is a hopeful fiction. Organizational excellence is mere context. Fine organizational structure and procedure is an elegant expression of efficiency. It is not spiritual impact or spiritual growth itself.

Now - having said that - in real life we can't really dichotomize these two elements. In healthy spiritual community the dual threads of spiritual life and organizational excellence can interplay in a dance of spiritual effectiveness. Max Depree, for example, eloquently writes about how organizational excellence can coincide with real human community. And we've explored elsewhere a bit more about about how a spiritual dynamic operates within such a context.

We suggest that the two must not be confused and that neither need be discarded.


john chandler said...

Thanks for these words. I've been on a quest for quite some time to define spiritual leadership, and think that sometimes the CEO model has been incorporatated too much into churches. At the same time, those who are ready to cast out all organizational/business world principles are overreacting, because there is much to learn and incorporate. It's interesting that many are willing to say that "All truth is God's truth, and we can learn about him in any arena" and then discard every organizational principle that some very intelligent image bearing people have developed. There is a middle ground, and it is there that we must tread.

Stephen said...

obviously, I agree, john. Brian McLaren has a great quote that I'm going to torture that goes something like this: When you find out the reasons why someone is against something you are for, you often find that you agree with their reasons without agreeing with their conclusion! I think in this discussion this happens a lot. I daresay that's little disagreement between anyone on the *reasons* why the worse of business methods and structure should not be incorporated into the church (or business!).

john chandler said...

I recall you mentioned going to Leadership Summit a few months ago. (Very un-emergent of you, I might add :) ) I just listened to Marcus Buchingham's session again, and it just some great stuff. PLENTY of stuff that can be applied in just about any church context.