Sunday, December 05, 2010

Pastors Should Read Leadership Books

I have a confession to make ... I've learned more about team dynamics (and thus team leadership) from reading Pat Lencioni's Five Dysfunctions of a Team than anything written from a Christian perspective. And I'm not embarrassed. I've also recommended that book countless times to other pastors and shared my teaching notes of how I found the principles to actually have Biblical/gospel roots (not that this was the author's intention but he does wisely observe reality). By the way, I'm also happy to share those notes with you if you're curious.

Why do I share this confession? I find a great disconnect in pastors and ministries who are serious about Biblical exposition and that emphasize the ordinary means of grace. This disconnect is between "spiritual" things (like learning that is derived from the Bible and books written by Christians) and "pagan" wisdom. I'm happy to see a leadership book by a seasoned pastor like John MacArthur. However, this is an arena where plundering the well-meaning pagans can be useful.

While we may decry using "business" principles in church work (and I'd be on that band wagon!) the reality we face is a world where some of the smartest people (by God's common grace) are not on our Leadership Team at church. Instead, God chose to invest leadership smarts in people who don't yet know Jesus and don't have His glory in mind. But that doesn't make them any less useful when their insights are used rightly within a Biblical framework.

An illustration may help you understand what I mean. I'm a dedicated Biblical counselor in the CCEF tradition. However, that doesn't mean that sometimes the OBSERVATIONS that traditional psychologists and psychiatrists make aren't helpful. Sometimes - to our shame - they are better observers of human actions and the shaping influences of peoples lives than we are. This is the same vein in which I think an author like Pat Lencioni is exceptionally helpful. He's an astute observer of people and how they relate together in a team, in an organization, and how they react to leadership.

In the Five Dysfunctions of a Team Lencioni helps you understand that a team cannot function if the members don't trust each other. I know, not rocket science. But when was the last time you were in a meeting where everyone did trust each other? What happens when they do? How would you take a group that doesn't trust each other and help them begin to? How would you do that Biblically with the gospel and not just pragmatically (i.e. if you guys can't trust each other, these meetings are always going to be painful and we're not going to get anything done)? These are important questions and it is in the answer to these questions that real spiritual leadership is exerted.

To me, this kind of reading helps me understand the distortions of the gospel in the hearts of those I'm trying to lead. It's not that Lencioni can point me towards a Biblical solution, but he can help me understand the problem acutely. And understanding the problem accurately is at least 50% of the solution.

So as to not leave the reader hanging, let me give you a bit of sense as to how I've worked through the trust issue with my Leadership Team. From a Biblical standpoint none of us are trustworthy. We are depraved and unworthy of trust by anyone including ourselves. That especially applies to pastors who often think everyone should simply accept their wisdom and expect to be looked up to as "the authority". When we're trusting ourselves we are terribly insecure people who must either hold our opinions to ourselves (to protect our fragile egos) or we must display them strongly so as to make sure things go our way (and our fragile egos can be bolstered by winning).

So what can lead us forward? We must grapple with our inherent lack of trustworthiness and that of our team members. When we can own that we can begin trusting not based on past performance (good = "I can trust you" or bad = "I can't trust you") or present agreement with "my side" but based on the fact that the same Spirit of God that is at work in me is also at work in the one I'm finding hard to trust. This is a gospel answer to trust issues on a Christian Leadership Team.

When a team is growing in grasping the gospel, then they'll be growing in trust for each other. They'll find it easier to express their fears, concerns, disagreements, and quibbles because they know they aren't accepted with God or their team members based on performance but based on grace. That is, they aren't trying to gain their own security by how a particular conversation goes because they are already secure in Jesus. The practical effect of this is that "politicking" is unneeded. A back channel of communication is unneeded. Real conversations take place in meetings where everyone expresses and is heard and respected. Unsurprisingly, meetings like this produce better Biblical decisions. These decisions are well informed and wise because the all the members of the Leadership Team bring the riches of their wisdom unabashedly to the table.

This is one illustration of how a writer, who isn't writing from a Biblical viewpoint, helped me think through trust, an issue that faces every team. I think this is the virtue of reading books on leadership. God gave lots of people including some unbelievers great leadership insight that we ought to plunder placing those insights in a Biblical framework of spiritual leadership.

Thus, in my humble opinion, pastors should read books on leadership.


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