Abandon All Fear

What nobody else seems to be saying…

[Churchianity] Successful Christian Leadership

Posted by Lex Fear on March 1, 2007

Why is it that church leaderships, particularly megachurches, act so secretly? PastorJoeRuth links to a news article in the SharperIron blog:

“In the past few months, two Colorado Springs churches New Life Church and Grace Episcopal have struggled to balance transparency and privacy while navigating high-profile crises. Their integrity is at stake, with congregants sitting in judgment.” – Colorado Springs Gazette

The main article discusses finances, but below it references the outing of Ted Haggard, former pastor of New Life Church:

“Congregants don’t know where Haggard went for his counseling or other details of Haggard’s restoration process. They don’t know details of his sexual immorality. They are given periodic updates on the search for a new senior pastor, but they’re not privy to meetings of the pastoral-selection committee.”

British readers may not be familiar with Ted Haggard or the scandal that occurred in November. I was in America at the time when the news broke so it is quite vivid in my memory.

On 1st November 2006 a former male prostitute publicly alleged that Haggard had been a frequent client of his over the previous 3 years and had engaged in sex and drug-taking with him.

What interests me is Haggards first response when he was tracked down by new reporters. He flatly denied the allegations and denied ever knowing the male prostitute. It was a day or later that he resigned from his position and went into marriage counseling (still later that the rest of the church leadership came forward to disclose that he had admitted to ‘some’ of the claims).

My point is this: There has to be something wrong when a Christian cannot be the first person to get down on their knees and admit a sin when it is made public. And this was not just a Christian, but a self-proclaimed leader who is supposed to be teaching us how to be humble, how to admit your sin and seek forgiveness.

Now, you can accuse me of judging and you can accuse me of a holier-than-thou attitude, you’d be wrong on both counts. I personally know a Pastor who came clean straight away when confronted about his adultery, and there is no greater example than in the bible of how a ‘man after God’s own heart’ responds:

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own.

You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’ “This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’ ”

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” – 2 Sam 12:7-13 NIV

I can’t think of any reason that a Christian would not repent when confronted like this with sin, when it is on display for all to see. It would be foolish, worse, it would be a slight to the Holy Spirit within. Yet no matter how many mega/pioneer/great lifey type churches we visit or attend, we continue to see this same brand of touchy-feely protectionism and almost Mafia like qualities with a twist of Stepford housewives.

Why for example, when a church is being sued, keep the details from the congregation (who tithe and are supposedly part of the ‘family’). Are the congregation too stupid to trust? Why try to cover up sins of a Pastor, or keep the ‘restoration process’ secretive. Surely part of the ‘restoration’ is to the church family?

You may argue that these are people who are entitled to their private lives. May I suggest that it is the desire to keep a private life that causes these sins to be covered up in the first place. May I also suggest that someone attaining to be a pastor, especially of a mega/pioneer church, city on a hill, example to non-Christians, that a private life is the last thing you should seek let alone earn.

When Jesus got the news, he slipped away by boat to an out-of-the-way place by himself. But unsuccessfully someone saw him and the word got around. Soon a lot of people from the nearby villages walked around the lake to where he was. When he saw them coming, he was overcome with pity and healed their sick.” – Matt 14:13-14 The Message

Someone who wants leadership, but wants to maintain a private life or low profile, should not consider becoming a Christian pastor or minister. It is my opinion that they should instead try becoming a CEO, entertainer or politician.

But this is the crux of the matter. In many large, modern, charismatic churches there is no distinction between the pastoral role and the role of a CEO. Many Christian leaders now lecture empower business people and hold leadership conferences. In turn, the church borrows business practices, methods and … *shudder* … buzzwords. I noticed just the other day on a piece of church literature that they hold cell groups for youth, adults and … business people!

Why are cell groups needed for business people? Are they some other species apart from us. Do adults beget children, business people beget business people? Oh it’s all about strategy and wealth creation blah, blah, blahdy-blah. Let me tell you who you’re strategy is- it’s the church- and by that I mean the people! Not some flip chart. Half of these people have not even heard of Herzberg, Maslow or Mintzberg yet they still go on to claim some sort of positional authority without question.

What happens when the lines between the impersonal business world and the church become blurred. Privacy and privilege become the stakes. Pastors begin to act like CEO’s, and risk becoming corrupt politicians.

Don’t admit there are problems until there is substantial evidence… in fact don’t admit problems. Keep information about the churches progress low key or secret, as if to stay ahead of some sort of imaginary competition. Maximise profits (for the Kingdom), focus on PR, Celebrians (Christian celebrities), and releasing worship albums. Repeat the mantra, “Isn’t life great?”

It wasn’t a male prostitute, the devil, or lust that got to Haggard, it was power. Haggard was seduced by power and status, which is why he had not already repented in 3 years. It is why he struggled with the truth even in front of the National media.

In the end Jesus’ words ring true:

“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” – Matthew 16:25-26 NLT

UPDATE: 11/03/07

Relevant Magazine features an article by Aaron Van Voorhis on The Commercial Church, worth a read.

Ironic Referral: Church Marketing Sucks

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One Response to “[Churchianity] Successful Christian Leadership”

  1. […] touched on the subject before in the past, in a blog post entitled Successful Christian Leadership. Back then I came from a more personal, more bitter angle but the great thing about SCL is it can […]

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