One Guy Theory – Revisited

I want to share with some thoughts that I feel draw some important points for us as we consider the effectiveness of ministry in our churches. The thoughts come after reading February’s Business Week and is called “The One-Guy Theory.”

While we cannot run our churches as we would a Fortune 500, the ideas from the article that I want you to consider are: The effectiveness of streamlining the decision making process, Empowering leaders to make decisions, and, Supporting (publicly) the decisions they make (even if they are askew).

Here are my thoughts….

First. As a church (or other organization), how long does it take to move on a need? Does it require a group (committee) to meet, debate, and eventually rule on the need? Or, is there a person who is empowered to make a decision? I believe this to be a paramount issue in today’s church. In fact, our lack of ability to take definitive action is greatly responsible for where we are today with so many plateaued and declining churches. We need to respond to the shifts in our cultural surroundings, and empower our leaders with the ability to make those shifts.

Second. I know this is hard. But, we must give ownership to people we trust. Ownership to make decisions! I used to have a very frank conversation with each of my leaders when I was a Pastor. See, I believe that disunity in the public eye is detrimental to church harmony. The conversation went something like this:

“This is your baby! I will trust you to make the decisions necessary to make this thing happen. I want you to know however, that I am here for you, as an advisor, but you have the ownership to make it happen. I want you to know that if you make a less-than-ideal decision, I will support you publicly. However, we are going to talk about it behind closed doors. You are a trusted leader so I will never undermine that trust publicly. Therefore, I expect the same in return. If you feel I have made a bad decision in the running of this church, come talk to me about it. My door is always open. For the sake of unity, let’s commit to open conversation and trust in each other’s public support.”

A leader who knows that you will support them will be both cautious in their decisions and will give you the benefit of the doubt in yours.

Finally, this One-Guy Theory requires for the Christian that even in our ownership to make CEO type decisions, it is really a Two-Guy Theory. If Father is not involved in your decision making process, than PERHAPS you should not be making any decisions at all.

Ya’ know what, forget the word perhaps…

Passion and Uranium 238

Understanding why we should invest in first generation converts as future church leaders.

If this was your reaction to the title, put your thinking cap on and continue reading. This article was birthed from a conversation I had with a pastor friend of mine. There are people who add value to my life, and he is one.

Remember physics? You learned all sorts of information that left you scratching you head as you pondered Strong Force, Gravitation, Mass and various other weird and wonderful things. Personally, I needed an apple to fall on my head and wake me from my dreams of a distant tropical shore. One thing I do remember, however, is that the half-life of Uranium238 is about 4.5 billion years. After all these years I have finally found a use for what seemed then to be useless information.

Half Life Explained
A half-life is the fixed, invariable amount of time it takes for an original sample of a radioactive substance like uranium, radium or carbon-14 to break down (decay). This decay happens nucleus by nucleus. For instance, the half-life of Uranium238 is roughly 4.5 billion years, which means that at the end of 4.5 billion years, a one-pound block of the stuff will weigh only one-half pound. In another 4.5 billion years, it will weight in at one-quarter pound, and so on.

Have I Lost You?
Back to my conversation with my friend. We were sharing the immediate need for fearless Christians in our churches. The need to excite and mobilize Christ-Followers and the difficulties associated with stimulating the complacent. I shared with him that when I accepted Jesus I was transformed by His power. Fearless! That exuberance has not diminished in 22 years. I love Him, He is mine, and I am His. Something reminiscent of what Buber called the “I-Thou.”

I verbalized my concern; that I don’t see a “take-up-you-cross” kind of Christianity in our churches, except among the youth. I shared how I see many of them as fearless. They seek more than complacency from their relationship with Father. They want to change their world!

Moment of Insight
So he looks at me and says; “It’s not the young, it’s the first generation Christian.” BAM! He was right. It is that first generation Christian that is fearless and ready. They have not grown complacent due to familiarity. Their nuclei have not yet decayed. They have not reached their half-life, half of what they were, decaying by the moment.

Something happens when a life is transformed. Like a child growing up poor appreciates the gift of hard labor and moderate success while the child of abundance looks upon it with disdain. Such is the church. This leads me to ponder if the half-life of Christian passion is equal to one generation or if second generational Christians could ever understand what transformation means. Can the child of abundance identify with the child who knows nothing but need? This is why we must invest in those of the first generation.

Leadership Farming
Where do we go from here? Paul warns us in 1 Timothy 3:6 of the dangers of placing individuals in places of authority too soon, so I am not advocating taking leaders from the waters of baptism, handing them a towel, and saying “Let’s Go!” This is not a “time” thing, it is a “passion” thing. As leaders, we must, in a focused manner, spot those whom the Holy Spirit has transformed and excited, father them, and help to transform them into what God would have them to be. No small task, but the rewards will be huge.

Back to Uranium238
Everything dies: people, trees, metals, galaxies, and even atoms. Only one entity is eternal and He is the source of an eternal future. All that decays is slowly dying: people, trees, metals, galaxies and even Christian passion. It all has a half-life. I only wish the half-life of Christian passion matched that of Uranium238.

Leadership Soapbox

Where are the standouts, the ones whose countenance drips with the overflowing presence of the living God? Our leaders have failed us. They have told us that an acceptance of Christ—and no more—is sufficient. They have lied. Where are the leaders, the ones who have not compromised their faith to build an organization? The fact is, the church lives in a state of compromise. Whether it be the fear of man, apathy, or a failure to internally reconcile a depraved life with a spirit that understands the requirements of the Holy, our lives fail to appeal to those who have no hope. We have placed more than one foot in the world. In his book The Christian Ministry with an Inquiry Into the Causes of its Inefficiency, Rev. Charles Bridges illustrates this very point.

It is but too plain, that we have lost that distinction of “Servant of Christ,” which it would have been our honor to have preserved; that our Christian prudence has degenerated into worldly cowardice; and that our conversation with the world has been regulated by the fear of man, fleshly indulgence, and practical unbelief of the most solemn warnings of the gospel.

And again.

We should endeavor to make religion agreeable; but not to make ourselves agreeable by leading our company to forget religion. We should ‘every one of us, please his neighbor for his good;’ but not so ‘please men,’ as to fail in the character of ‘Servants of Christ.’

Leaders who find themselves in a situation where change is needed are left powerless by many churches to initiate the change. The church has become too comfortable in their “method” of worship and if one seeks to change it, they will die upon the sacred alter of complacency. At this point, the weaker leader will simply give up, another disillusioned leader, beaten into submission by fear. Things really must change. It starts with education.

Today, the average church member—pardon the generalization—is either too involved (locked into their own comfortable method) or too removed from the process of healthy church life. Those that are too involved rule the roost, viewing a pastor as an employee and not a called man of God. Those on the other end of the spectrum are simply anonymous Christians, punching in and punching out, doing their “hours” that qualify them at the entrance gate to an eternal “E-Ticket” ride. Meanwhile, the middle—the ones who understand that an abiding relationship with Father and the evangelistic sharing of His grace is paramount—is shrinking. Personal revival and corporate church repentance and growth are rare today. We have grown far too selfish. If you mention to the first group that the method to reach others must change, the leader will face formidable obstacles and may even lose his “job.” To the later, if you start changing things around, they will simply move on, not understanding what it means to be called to a body of believers. What is the answer?

The answer lies in a deeply relational, educating of the masses to understand the heart of God. Just as we see God’s method changing over time, so must we change. Even the disciples and the writers of the gospel changed their methodology for their given audience. Think of how Matthew’s appeal to the Jews takes a very different form that Luke’s appeal to the Gentiles. As leaders, we must specifically tailor everything we do for our personal context. If I had one wish for young leaders, it would be that they throw away every “church growth” book and discover what—precisely—Father wants them to do. That leader must understand that he was hand chosen for the work God has prepared for him to do, and only he can do it. He has an obligation to seek the will of God until he finds it. To jump early, or to lead according to the dictates or expectations of man is sinful. That ministry will not last. Nor will such a ministry result in the level of praise to the Son that Father desires for it to give. We must be very calculated and careful in our attempts to lead the church. The leading is at Father’s direction and not by the dictates of the masses.

Each of us will find ourselves in this piece, however, we must look carefully at who we think that we are. The pastor who reads this and insists; “Yeah, those church members are strangling me in every attempt to lead the church” must first ask himself if has truly sought the Lord’s direction in where he is leading. That the direction in which he seeks to lead his congregation has been intimately, directionally spelled out by Father. Likewise, the congregant who says; “My pastor is changing everything. It’s arbitrary and destructive and he needs to go” must tread lightly as he plays with the call of a man of God. Many a struggle with Godly leaders is not a human struggle at all, but a revolt against the very will of God at the calling of that man to lead. Tread lightly. The beginning of an answer to all of these struggles is the prayerful, patient seeking of Father’s specific will and direction for the cultural context in which he has placed all parties. Until that primary foundation is laid, nothing fruitful can be constructed. The leader in today’s church does not have an easy road ahead. It is one of great struggle, but also of great reward.

John Maxwell states the following in his book, Developing the Leader within You.

Leaders can never take their people farther than they have traveled. Like leader, like people … God’s gift to the leader is his potential. His gift back to God is what he does with that potential.

Leaders Go First

In today’s unforgiving environment both seasoned leaders and those coming into new leadership roles need to hit the ground running, or at the very least, come up to speed quickly. This is simply a reality.

In previous eras of workplace ethics, you could coast for a long time before your lack of leadership proficiency was noticed or harmed the organization. Not so any longer. Today’s leader needs to be the forerunner of change. Allow me this personal example.

I am a SCUBA diver. I have been avidly diving since 1986 and I have a special love for the sport. I have yet to be on a dive boat where, once we are over the dive spot, I am not the first diver in the water and the last to come aboard. Why? Because I am passionate about diving. PASSIONATE! I love every moment of it. I suit up long before anyone, sitting on the deck amidst the stares of the others who are in the galley eating. I wait for my chance to take my giant stride off the deck and signal OK to the Divemaster with a tap to my head. On a recent dive at Anacapa island in California, I was in awe as I descended into a school of thousands of fish, I was right in the middle of them. Guess what? I was the only one on the boat that day that was so privileged. Why? I was the first in.

A Hard Reality…

As a “go first” leader, you must be competent. If you are not the first one in (and the last one out) on every new endeavor, you are losing your authority. I am not saying that you cannot delegate, but delegate the lesser things. The important ones are yours. Build the team, inspire them to act, and take the first step. Your passion for the new endeavor will be contagious and you will inspire those behind.

I marvel at the many “leaders” that I speak to on a daily basis, and when I look behind them (figuratively) there is no one there. In fact, I’ve been there myself. However, you know as well as I, you are not a leader if nobody’s following. Today’s leader must not only have the ability to lead followers, he must lead leaders.

If you want to lead leaders, here are some of the things you will need to consider important.

• Time management skills
• Delegation and ownership
• Personal presentation
• The ability to drive values and objectives
• Complex decision-making and problem-solving
• Effective communication and consensus building
• Performance management and evaluation
• Dealing effectively with difficult conversations
• Ability to make the tough call
• Learning to tap into an individual’s creativity in times of great challenge
• Team building
• Giving and receiving constructive feedback that promotes growth
• Developing others
• Taking ownership of results (accountability)
• Self-awareness and self-management

That last one’s a killer…