Over-managed and Under-led – what ails society ails the church
Dear Friends, I am in the throes of reflecting about the church. Not the universal church whose leader is Jesus Christ but the local church, where most of us meet together “on any given Sunday”, whose leader is “any given Pastor”. What the issue seems to hinge on is an oft used mantra in the business world:
“Failing organizations are usually over-managed and under-led.” (Warren G. Bennis)
The situation in the local church is very much a trend in society in general and boils down to the timeless “management vs. leadership” dilemma. In the business world, secular as it is, there is longing to be led, inspired and influenced and not just keep the organization running with order and consistency.
Warren G. Bennis, in his book, “On Becoming a Leader” describes his view of the differences between managers and leaders as follows. See if any of these statements bear witness with you in regards to the local church:
* The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
* The manager maintains; the leader develops.
* The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
* The manager accepts reality; the leader investigates it.
* The manager imitates; the leader originates.
What I have found, over the past 20 plus years, is that the local Pastor is usually a “classic good soldier”, who is faithful to the end, relies on and needs control, is focused on maintenance and works hardest developing good followers. The tragedy here is that leaders are not managers and that managers are not leaders YET in the local church we need expressions of both!
John P. Kotter on “What Leaders Really Do” speaks to this important issue:
“Leadership and management are two distinctive and complementary systems of action. Both are necessary for success in an increasingly complex and volatile business environment. Strong leadership with weak management is no better, and is sometimes actually worse, than the reverse.”
I believe this “over-managed and under-led“ conundrum is the reason why so many believers who are very successful in their “secular lives” become like mute sheep when gathered together in their “spiritual lives”. The atmosphere set by the “manager type Pastor” is unfamiliar and often stifling. Sadly, even the structure of church-as-we-know it, eyes forward and sitting in pews, with little to no active contribution by its individual members, keeps alive the managerial paradigm I am writing about. Members not functioning in dynamic spiritual gifts and corralled into rows are easy to over-manage!
Here I think another quote from Warren G. Bennis can help us clarify the issue:
“Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. There are two ways of being creative. One can sing and dance. Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish. Leaders must encourage their [people] to dance to forms of music yet to be heard.”
If you read between the lines, I am suggesting that the “song and dance Pastor” is falling on the side of the manager, while the one creating an environment for other singers and dancers to flourish is the leader.
First apostles, Second prophets
Maybe as you read this you are asking me to be somewhat more prescriptive. “Don’t just tell me the problem, tell me what to do about it!”
If I were to give an opinion on this topic I would ask you to reflect on the church as we see it in the New Testament, for there we will see that the foundation of the church was laid by the apostles and the prophets.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord. (Eph 2:19-21)
And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. (1 Cor 12 28)
Well, here then, is my prescription:
1. Start over. Push delete and start over. What do you really have to lose?
2. Gather the saints in small groups where everyone can hear and be heard. Have dessert together and read the Scriptures together! Take your time with this!
3. Only reproduce “as church” what you actually see in the New Testament. Watch out for “sacred cows”. A tremendous teaching on this entitled “Is This Really Church?” by Francis Chan can be found here.
We are talking about changing the status quo – “the state in which things really are”. Before we can diagnose we must first have a clear idea of what a really healthy body looks like. If we were trying to defend marriage as being between one man and one woman we must start with what the Bible makes clear to us about marriage. First find the cure and then we can address the disease!
“Unless we know that there is a target and unless we have a fairly clear idea of its location it is surely nonsense to talk about missing it. ” (Elton Trueblood)
Find your target in the Word of God, brothers and sisters, and don’t be held back by the customs and traditions of men. Without doubt the local church will always be filled with sheep and shepherds. However, the task before us is to have sheep who tell the truth, whether the leaders want to hear it or not.
“Followers who tell the truth and leaders who listen to it are an unbeatable combination.” Warren G. Bennis
May God help us as we struggle to work out our salvation together with fear and trembling.