Sunday, May 28, 2006

How Strong Leaders Can Be Bad People

I am convinced that small churches naturally lead toward developing leaders who are good people. I am also convinced that extremely large churches do not naturally develop positive character among those who lead them.

A false premise of leadership was taught, and taken for gospel truth during the height of the church growth movement. We were being told that a church could be only as big as the person who led the church. Big men and women grew big churches. Conversely (or was that perversely?) the reverse was assumed - little churches were the result of little people.

How is it that I have met petty men who lead large churches? How is it that I have discovered minimal character development among some people who had large ministries, and deep character among others who pastored tiny churches? I must assume that the old church growth dictum was actually a flawed equation.

The reason I am convinced that small churches naturally tend to develop deeper character among those in leadership is that one can not hide behind a busy schedule, or a well developed program in a small church. The fact is that small church pastors are forced to deal with people face to face, and problem by problem. It is the dirty business of relationships, and that dirty business is where redemption occurs. The redemption is in our own souls, as we small church pastors have the rough edges of our character ground down.

The large church is so busy performing its duties, and running its tight schedule, that many people in its leadership structure do have to be good people in order to perform their duties. They can treat people like Hell, and still expect to help develop Heaven. Yet I wonder if what we give people is an indicator of where we are headed. If so, giving people Hell may not be the wisest career move.

Of course, the problem with many small churches is that they model themselves after large ministries in hopes of becoming one. I am not sure that this is a healthy option toward developing ourselves as deep people.

10 comments:

Agent B said...

Good words.

I would only add: this whole deal about being the big cheese at a big institution is alll about the desire of fame.

I mean, most people can make more money in the corporate world than they can working for a church. So they figure, "if I can't be rich than at LEAST I'm going to be well known dammit". Even if that "fame" is within a small network denomination of churches...

kidpositive said...

i love you phil. i really appreciate your insight on this. for me, there always seems to be something peculiarly strange about big people, whether it be politicians, rock stars, anal MIT professors, or big-time preachers. i just don't think that the BIG game is where it's at, you know? it's about the small things. it's about the means, not the end. Jesus told us it's all taken care of, so we don't need to worry about the end. we need to worry about the now, about the way we treat each other. and you can't really be concerned about how you treat others when you have a big agenda to follow.

carl said...

Jesus had a group of twelve that he invested himself intensely as a servant leader but He also worshipped at the temple. Similarly I think it's OK that a church is large in size as long as there is people that the pastor can be accountable to.

izenbet said...

the 'institutionalization' of church is a bit o' a problem. it makes leaders not want to be servant leaders. instead they thrive on the things of this world and forget who gave them leadership quailities. praise God for those who still seek truth.

Pastor Phil said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pastor Phil said...

Hey Carl,

Good to see you blogspace. I agree completely with big churches not being a problem. Big people may be a problem, because ultimately we know that in the paradoxical nature of the kingdom of God the last are first, the weak are strong, and I would surmise the little are big.

The weaknesses of the small church are regularly pointed out, and discussed, but the weaknesses of the large church are rarely evaluated. One of the greatest weaknesses is that the largness fosters an institutional environment, which does not model the relational nature of the kingdom of God, and thus activity, and performance become (unwittingly) more valuable than people. I have seen this attitude rise to the surface in some well respected leaders, and have been quite disappointed in how poorly they treat people despite being strong as leaders.

The dehumanizing of the church must always be fought against, because Jesus died for human beings, not for programs, or institutions. Of course this is true whether the institution is small or large, but because we worship the large in America, we try to emulate in the smalll groups as well, and that is a part of the battle. Yet it is true that there are large churches which have fought that battle well.

Your pastor is an example of someone who keeps relationships foremost. Thank God for Ken.

Agent B said...

Pastor Phil:

Keep your posts a-coming.

That last comment is crystal clear. You must have been a good speaker.

I may quote some of this in a future post of mine. Thanks.

Pastor Phil said...

"Must have been a good speaker?" It sounds like I've died! ;-)

Phil

Agent B said...

Yes...die to yourself...

Pastor Phil said...

touche.