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Sunday
May252014

Is The Leadership You're Questioning Really Sinful Or Just Different?

Leadership Style…Just Different or Sinful?

I honestly admit that I am an incurable “thinker.” I’m always thinking about something…processing something…trying to resolve something…trying to get my head and heart around something.

Those of you who are subscribers (and those who are not, but frequent this blog site) know that I’m all about leadership: leadership in the home, in the church and in the market place.  I’m thinking, reading and processing ideas about leadership almost 24/7. I even dream about it. That’s how incurable I actually am.

I have been in, and served at, fifteen different churches since becoming a Christian 54 years ago.  I have read about, been acquainted with and served with lots of different kinds of leaders of all ages, personalities and backgrounds.

As many of you know, I served as an Elder at Mars Hill Church for eight years. While at Mars Hill, I experienced and learned a lot--some good and some not so good.  I won’t go into any of that here since I have already shared most of it in two prior blogs.

Before I get to the issue I have been thinking about recently, let me give a disclaimer.

Some who read my blogs think most of what I'm saying about church leadership is based on, and refers only to, my time at Mars Hill in one way or another--especially when I deal with things that are not right at churches and with their leadership.

Stop…This is not the case!

I am writing out of experience and knowledge of lots of churches over a period of 54 years. I spent thirty-seven years on staff with The Navigators and many of those years were with the Church Discipleship Ministry--a department within The Navigators that works exclusively with local churches and their leadership teams.

I have also coached around 200 leaders from a variety of churches in my role as a professional life and leadership coach. I am blogging on leadership issues from the aggregate of all these churches, coaching relationships and experiences over many years.

I share Paul’s sentiment expressed in 2 Corinthians 11:28 (ESV): “There is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” And for me, I am especially deeply concerned about the leadership, or lack of leadership, in churches. This is why I have written two books on the subject of leadership, blog weekly on leadership issues, conduct leadership seminars, and currently coach 25 leaders.

So here is the question…the issue that I have been thinking about and wrestling with for quite a few years:

When you, or I, encounter, experience or work with a leader who is leading in a way that you don’t agree with and/or uses methods in his/her leadership that you are struggling with, how do you know if it is  isn't a different way of leading as opposed to a sinful way of leading

This is a critically important question with significant ramifications depending on your answer.

Here are a few additional questions to ponder:

  • Is the leader in question simply a very strong personality type, with a tough- love mind-set and leadership style, but not necessarily sinful per se?
  • Is the leader in question violating the clear teaching of scripture in the way they lead, make decisions, work with people, or resolve issues?
  • Is the leader in question clearly wrong or just different in the way they are leading?
  • Is their leadership style just a preference that fits their gifting, passion and vision, or is it truly sinful?

Here are two questions as I close:

1.  If you come to the conclusion (after lots of thoughtful study of scripture, godly counsel and prayer) that what you have seen, experienced or been a part of is sinful and harmful, what responsibility do you and others have to do something about it, and what is the biblical way of going about that?

2.  If you come to the conclusion that it is different, but not necessarily sinful, what options might you have in dealing with it?

I would value your feedback on this. Use the comment section below to share your ideas/comments, etc. 

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Reader Comments (3)

Thanks for this, Dave. I've been wrestling with ideas like this for the last several months and wasn't sure how to go about approaching my particular situation. This has given me a great template to pray and process through.
May 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew
I think that on the question of dealing with a non-sinful way of leading that you pray that God gives you the grace to be patient and deal with them. The other one is a little more tricky. I personally would have a chat (but not a gossip) with another leader in the church and see what they say (and if I've got the wrong end of the stick) but I think it is other leaders responsibility to have a conversation with the leader at fault and pray that they are convicted of their sin.


BTW I'm so glad that someone thinks as much as I do. I thought that I was the only one! (apart from I think/dream about maths rather than leadership but heyho it's the same principle)
May 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTheMoleyHeartYellow
Hi Dave, first of all, thank you because the Holy Spirit spoke a lot to me through your book "Leaders who Last" about eight years ago. I was serving MHC where there was need but not where I was called. I was prodded by LWL to seek to serve where I was called, which turned out to be an entirely different area of ministry out of my comfort zone and which was greatly fruitful in my life and the lives of others.

On to the topic at hand: I don't feel there is much wiggle room that the Scripture gives us on this. Every elder must adhere to Biblical standards as seen in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, Timothy, James 3, and other passages. Besides this, they must possess all the character traits outlined for the normal Christian in passages like the Beatitudes (Matthew 7:15-23 is interesting), 1 Corinthians 13, Galatians 5:22-24, 1 John 3:11-24, etc. In other words, there are plenty of criteria given to us to assess leaders by.

With all the megachurch shadiness coming to light recently I have been realizing that walking in the light is a criteria we should apply. Will the leader live transparently and visibly in our midst so that we can see their traits? I won't name names but certain pastors preach community while they themselves live isolated lives with maybe their own family and directly-connected staff members (if that) who are the only ones able to see who they really are. Walking in the light where all can see should be prerequisite to any leadership position IMO and from what I can see in Scripture, this is both prescribed and necessary, even when it reflects poorly on the church . Paul opposed Peter to his face publicly. Matthew 18 says to "tell it to the church." Proverbs 27:15 says "Better is open rebuke than hidden love." 1 Timothy 5:20 says to rebuke those in persistent sin "in the presence of all." But this accountability can never happen when a leader's life, whether sinful or not, is kept private.
May 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterScott

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