God has a habit of reintroducing forgotten truth to His people. One of the recent examples has been God’s reintroduction of the idea of leadership and leadership training as central to Christian ministry. Starting in the 1990s, there was a growing emphasis placed on leadership, its theory, and its practice in ministry. It is no coincidence that this mirrors the time when corporate America began to recognize the importance of leadership in business and secular culture. One can see the proliferation of leadership books in the corporate world and in ministry during this time. I remember reading a book called “Jesus, C.E.O” by Laurie Beth Jones in the mid-1990s. At first, the title intrigued me. Certainly there were lessons we can take away from seeing Jesus in ministry as a stellar leader. At the same time there was also something a bit unsettling with the association of our precious savior with the title “C.E.O.”
Don’t get me wrong – I cut my pastoral teeth on leadership training and teach leadership in the School of Divinity here at Regent University. I direct the Doctor of Ministry program in Leadership and Renewal. I love this stuff, my concern is the subtle pride that has crept in under the guise of leadership training and infected many ministry leaders and their churches. Like any disease, the infection has its symptoms. Some of the symptoms that I see are an undue emphasis numbers and size as an indicator of success as well as the lavish lifestyles that seem to go with that “success.” All of that is hard for me to reconcile with the values I see in the Scriptures. At the same time, an emphasis on “prosperity” and being ‘King’s kids” seems to have collided with the C.E.O. model of leadership to produce a mutant strain of leadership that no longer resembles the picture of Jesus I see in the Scriptures. Is it really Jesus, C.E.O., or have we remade God in our image?
We have gleaned some wonderful results from the introduction of leadership and leadership training to ministry, but the key is balance. We tend to gravitate toward extremes in the Christian world as if it is all or nothing. The church is both an organization and an organism – it must be viewed as both to prosper, and there is great danger if one or the other is overemphasized. I was once exposed to a church where leadership training was the hallmark of its mission. Everyone was trained to be a leader. Everyone developed their own vision for their own ministry. Then, when everyone tried to recruit people in the church to follow their vision, there was no one left help, because they were too busy being leaders. The church was “CEOed” to death within in short amount of time. It amounted to a bunch of mini-C.E.O types trying to assemble flowers to fulfill their vision. The church’s focus quickly turned inward and it began to implode. Could it be that it is most important to learn to be a leader by serving first, supporting the vision of another, and then once the character and heart of a servant has been formed, answer the calling to lead?
God made man in His image, but since that time, man has been remaking God in his image. When we remake God in our own image, the salt begins to lose its savor and becomes useless in doing its job.. Leader, it is time to get salty again. It is time balance what we have learned about leadership with a healthy dose of humility and a servant’s heart. The world doesn’t need another C.E.O. right now, but rather leaders that bleed for the lost and hurt to serve the needs of those around them. Jesus, C.E.O.? That is so 1990s.. Jesus, humble servant? Now that’s a “salty” proposition!