Sunday, May 16, 2010

Good to Great to Godly

Here is an article from Leadership Journal, called Good to Great to Godly by Mike Bonem.  Bonem is a pastor and a Harvard MBA.  His article discusses the tension between the practical and supernatural aspects of leadership and strategic planning.  Here is the intro:

"We need more structure in our decision making. Without that discipline, we'll never accomplish anything."

"We're a church, not a business. We need to rely on God. We can't operate like the corporate world."

Ever been on one side or the other of this argument? Or perhaps in the middle? The tensions are present in most churches in America today. As corporate "best practices" are applied to church life, church leaders struggle to make sense of it all.

These tensions are not just present in churches, but in apostolic church planting teams as well! 

The central thesis in the book business book Good to Great is that having the right people on the leadership team is more important than having the right direction.  If the right people are leading, the organization will succeed and move in the right direction.  But having the wrong people in leadership will collapse the organization.  Christians, however, sometimes take a different approach, articulated by the book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire- virtually anyone can lead as long as they are fully devoted to following God.

You can see from the below quotes how Bonem deals with this tension:

The "best practices" from business have much to offer regarding decision making, but they omit the greatest asset available to congregational leaders—the promptings of the Holy Spirit…

Many congregations have lay leaders who have been involved in strategic planning in the marketplace and are ready to offer this expertise to benefit their church. Many congregations need a more disciplined approach to setting future direction and priorities. There is great potential in this collaboration, as long as the leaders know that any congregation that doesn't leave room for God in its planning will be disappointed…

The church is not a business, and if we run it like one, God might end up as just one of the constituents to be considered, not the One for whom the whole thing exists.

And while it is not a business, we're foolish if we ignore the reality that a church has many characteristics that can be made better with organizational wisdom. We can't read Jesus' parable about counting the cost before building a tower (Luke 14:28-30) without hearing the down-to-earth decisions to be made. Or see Jethro advising Moses to appoint officials to share the leadership burden (Exodus 18), and not recognize the need for a sustainable organizational model. Then there are the lists of qualifications for deacons and elders (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1), which clearly show that it's important to have "the right people on the bus," leading our churches.

Business thinking is not the answer, but it is part of the answer…

I don't quite agree with Cymbala that God "is not looking for smart people." I know that God doesn't need me to accomplish his plans, but I live with the mystery that he has chosen to assemble the body with a unique variety of gifts for his purposes. It is in this context that we should see the best of business and spiritual leadership put to work.

Bonem correctly addresses the tension from both sides of the extreme.  Strategic planning doesn’t preclude the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and following Jesus sometimes means learning from common knowledge.

I had this principle displayed before me at a recent conference for my mission agency where the leadership was proposing a new organizational structure for the entire agency.  Some leaders were talking about a sense many people were having that the current structure was faulty and bureaucratic, while other leaders shared the management principle that when an organization grows by 40%, it usually requires a change in structure to accommodate the growth.  This was the merger of listening to conventional wisdom and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Read the whole thing (5 pages).

1 comment:

Marti said...

Thanks for posting this! After watching our ministry go down in a storm of business v. faith, with arguments for both pretty flawed and sometimes manipulative, I've had a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to "our agency needs to be more busineslike" statements AND "we just need to believe God is in this" statements. This article helps me see I'm not a alone. Glad you've been blogging more, friends - keep it up!