The “A” Word

kinnon —  June 6, 2005 — 12 Comments

Roy Williams in today’s Monday Morning Memo mentions Greg Farrell’s book, America Robbed Blind – a book that we picked up while at the Chapel Dulcinea Celebration. This book looks at the leadership culture that led to the destruction of Enron, Worldcom, Arthur Anderson et al. It’s really a book about accountability (that dreaded word) to shareholders, stakeholders and the laws of the land.

The question of accountability recently came up in a DVD we watched from the C3 conference at Fellowship Church in Texas. In a throwaway line to the assembled pastors, conference host Ed Young Jr. stated that ‘if someone asks you who you are accountable to, avoid them. They are trying to control you.’ (paraphrased) Really? This had to be one of either the dumbest or scariest statements I’d heard from a leader in a long time. Isn’t accountability part of the leadership package? Especially for a leader who is an orthodox Christian.

Leaders are accountable to the people they serve, to the leaders they serve with and to the leaders they are growing up. It’s called servant leadership and it finds its genesis in Jesus’ statement here:

So Jesus got them together to settle things down. He said, "You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served–and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage." (The Message, Matthew 20:25-28)

Unaccountable leaders fulfill the maxim that absolute power corrupts absolutely – even the best of people are corrupted by it. Strong leaders surround themselves with strong people who are unafraid to confront the leader with truth. Weak leaders surround themselves with "yes-people" who live in fear for there jobs.

Strong leaders create a culture of leadership where all people are valued equally – and where creativity flourishes at all levels. I love this article from Leader to Leader on Leadership Cults and Cultures. This is one of the great quotes:

In a leadership culture, people are viewed as equals who are in different roles. Roles are based on the development of individual capabilities and are not a reflection of the intrinsic value of the person. As a result, people at all levels are acknowledged and valued as individual members and contributors — even those who break the rules in order to deliver value to the organization as a whole. The culture of leadership can tolerate its "rogue monkeys" because it can see the innovative power of nonconventional views of the world.

A leadership culture is a culture of accountability. If you ask a leader who they are accountable to and their response is to avoid you – be thankful. You really don’t want to be a part of that leadership cult.

kinnon

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A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

12 responses to The “A” Word

  1. Hey Bill,

    Great post, and I agree that accountability is critical at any level of leadership. Since I am on the exec. team with Ed at Fellowship I can tell you accountability is very important with him as well. His statement really had nothing to do with accountability, it had everything to do with “people” in the church body asking about accountability. Ed speaks with decades of experience in the ministry and has story after story after story of people with the “accountability” question that never has anything to do with accountability. I always goes back to control with them.

    Accountability is needed, no doubt! There is no argument there.

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  2. Terry,
    This post was actually prompted by a conversation I had with a Canadian church leader who’d visited your church – and purchased & watched the same DVD series. He too was taken aback by Ed’s comment. Especially as the comment was made to the assembled pastors who look to Ed as a significant leader in the body of Christ.

    Too often the “control” issue you raise is the other way around. Pastors who aren’t accountable have huge control issues and dominate their staff and lay leadership. And the accountability question is asked (I’ve asked it myself) because a lot of believers have experienced the pain of working with these kind of leaders. Perhaps the response should be, “Why do you ask?” and then an appropriate response given based on their answer.

    My original post should have cut Ed a bit more slack as I happen to share the ADD “anointing” with him – and I like a lot of what he has to say on the C3 series. I’ve also watched the sermon prep video and was impressed by the assembled team around Ed.

    I remain concerned, however, that in much of megachurch Christianity there is a tendency to allow senior pastors to practice their roles in a style more reminiscent of Kings and Chronicles. And we both know the percentage of leadership success in those books. Jesus IS the New Testament model for leadership – and he layed his life down for us all.

    Thanks for the comment.

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  3. The conversation continues at Terry Storch’s blog:
    link to terrystorch.com

    Terry is part of Fellowship Church’s executive team.

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  4. Very interesting discussion. Troubling in some ways. Primarily for its lack of clarity.
    I give very little credence to the accountability that someone else may give me. If I want to live a lie, I can. People do it, and fool their families and friends all the time. I could tell stories, but I won’t.
    That said, genuine accountability functions on two levels. The personal and the organizational.
    Personal accountability is a function of moral maturity. As a pastor and a consultant, I tell myself everyday, if I’m going to have an affair today, let it be with someone who has more to lose than me. That way I know they will keep quiet about it. Funny, I don’t know anyone who has more to lose than me. Accountability = Consequences.
    Organizational accountability has to be prescriptive. It is partly performance goals and clarity about behavioral standards. If you ever read through organizational codes of ethics, you’ll find that most of pathetic. Why? Because they are no guard against their violation. Vague boilerplate doesn’t provide a basis for judgment.
    I think accountability is an important aspect of organizational life. But it is poorly understood and lacking in substance too often.
    What’s the answer? No one person is more important than the integrity of the church. The moral failure of the pastor is a failure of the church. It is a failure of the board most specifically.
    Attention to the accountability process designed into the organization structure provides a foundation for evaluation that is essential for the health of churches and organizations alike.

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  5. People that disagree with Ed are asked to leave, so I will remain unknown. April 5, 2006 at 3:22 pm

    Wow! I am blown away that Ed made that comment, but it is not suprising. As a long time member of Fellowship I can tell you that you have hit on one of the sorest subjects we have… “Ed’s control problem.” Ed will tell you that he has accountability partners, but many of them are fellow staff members, or put another way… they are his employees. How many emplyees do you know that will tell their employer when they are doing something wrong? Most won’t for fear of getting fired. (i.e.: Fellowship has no deacons, organized business meetings for members, men’s meetings for members, etc.)

    Ed has said on countless occassion that the words for his talks are chosen with intense precision. Terry appears to be “doing his job” by telling us what Ed “really meant to say”, yet Ed seldom needs interpretation. Ed means exactly what he says. In this case, I’m saddened by my pastor’s words.

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  6. …and you stay because?????

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  7. People that disagree with Ed are asked to leave, so I will remain unknown April 10, 2006 at 3:50 pm

    Why… because it is home, and because God IS doing a truly remarkable work there. In spite of Ed? I’m not sure.

    It is very ironic that the accountability topic has become such an issue @ FC of late, yet your original thread is 10 months old.

    I suspect a lot of the recent momentum for this discussion is due to the fact that Ed has asked the church for significant funding ($20M) for projects “the church” never had the opportunity to discuss.

    What happened to the days of asking the church to pray about an opportunity (before committing to it?)

    Instead, today’s church(body) is asked to honor the commitments made by the leader and are told to pray for God to show them how much they will give.

    Doesn’t this seem backwards?

    While Ed will talk about an “advisory board” that led this effort, most of this board either works for Ed or stands to profit from the venture.

    Where is the accountability???

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  8. An unaccountable leader quickly becomes a dictator. There is much truth in the old saw, “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    Strong leaders need strong people around – men and women who are unafraid to confront the leader with truth. Too many gifted leaders have a desperate need to control – and refuse to surround themselves with strong people. What they end up building may seem wonderful – but the unfortunate reality is that it is not biblical. (Senior Pastor can be found nowhere in the Scriptures – although I do know many wonderful people with this title who are in mutual submission to their boards and the people they lead. They are mindful that there is but one true leader in the Kingdom.)

    Might I also suggest that if you are in an environment where people are asked to leave if they disagree with Ed (as your nom de blog suggests) – then you are in a cult – not a church.

    Read this post from my friend, John Stanko.

    Pray for Ed. In the end, the unaccountable leader ends up in great pain.

    And may I recommend, Francine Rivers’ book And the Shofar Blew. A novel about a church leader who grows a very large church through the power of his own ability.

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  9. I came across this information about Ed Young and have to concur with the anonymous poster’s comments. I was a member of Fellowship for four years. The lack of transparency and humility in the leadership structure is what drove me to seek another church.

    Private jet, $1 million+ 8000 square foot home, paid personal trainers on staff, family condo in Maui, etc… don’t exactly invite warm feelings of biblical stewardship. All staff members are going to give the company line because like any good CEO, Ed pays his people well and they are blindly loyal as the cashola keeps rolling in. Ed is an extremely likeable guy. He has so much in his life that is good- I pray that he is brought to a point of Christ like humility- as we all need to be brought to. I wrote a blog about him in comparison to John Piper at:

    link to stewardshipmandate.blogspot.com

    I have been reading through a provocative book written in the 1850’s about the worldliness of the church by Soren Kierkegaard called Attack Upon Christendom. I can’t help but visualizing Fellowship as the type of church Kierkegaard has in mind on every page.

    Andrew Murray, “How different Christ’s standard is from ours. We ask how much a man gives, Christ asks how much he keeps.”

    For His Glory,

    Ashley Hodge

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  10. Landrum P Leavell III April 25, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    In a conversation with Len Sweet and Joe Myers @Len’s Advance last fall, we tossed around the A word, acknowledging its baggage, etc. Much like Ron Martoia’s outstanding new book, STATIC, we really need to look at a less encumbered word….

    What came out of the discussion, though admittedly not very Hollywood, is the substitute word: EDITABILITY. Think about it: any writer with a good editor knows that the editor is his/her cheerleader, help-mate, encourager. The editor doesn’t mind if you call at night or anytime. It’s not like, “No, we’re supposed to talk on Tuesday at 3….”

    Ted Haggard was, similarly to some of the posts, not in much of position to tell anyone the truth, much less his “accountability group.” Are we “editable?”

    Press on,
    LPL3

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  11. As a long-time member of Fellowship Church, I can testify that I have personally seen God at work at this church. However, in considering how the Church is governed, this recent controversy does appear to raise reasonable concerns.

    Organizations that achieve longevity and excellence usually embrace the principles of “servant leadership” described here. Few would disagree that a key attribute of a truly confident and selfless leader is to hire strong team members, to listen to them and to promote their accomplishments. Ed has said that this ministry is not about him, and I believe he fully intends that to be the case. However, in reviewing the Fellowship Church web-site I can’t seem to easily find any listing of the other executives, leaders and members of his staff. I don’t see his associate pastors listed. I see only references to Ed and his wife Lisa. While he impresses me as being an exceptional individual whom God has used to accomplish great things, is he missing an important opportunity? Does he have the benefit of truly sharing the burdens and opportunities of leadership with others? It is not only “accountability” that emerges when we rely upon the judgement of other strong individuals, but also a tremendous ability to let go and to grow in the understanding that our personal value is strengthend by our trust in others.

    I pray that God will continue to bless Ed Young, his family and his church and that all will grow stronger through this adversity.

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Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. terry storch >>>>> - June 7, 2005

    Accountability???

    Bill Kinnon over at achievable ends wrote a post call The “A” Word focusing on accountability. I found his site because he quoted/paraphrased something from Ed at a C3 conference talking about accountability. This really made me start again to

What do you think?