Erwin McManus on Leadership, Community, & Diversity

kinnon —  October 1, 2006 — 4 Comments

A buddy of mine sent me this link to a March McManus column at Catalsyt:

As I look at the contemporary church model it leads me to conclude we have not only sold out to a corporate model of leadership, but to a secular model of teaming. I was told early on that it is important to keep at a relational distance from all your staff. That the objectivity needed to make hard decisions must not be compromised. The theory is that this professional rapport and corporate culture is necessary for excellence and execution. After all, you can’t be friends with your boss!

I know that this goes against general wisdom but I think friendship is a vital part of New Testament ministry and leadership. In fact I am convinced that we have been unwittingly shooting ourselves in the heart. We call God’s people to live and serve in Biblical community, yet model something quite different. We tell them to love one another when we only work together.

And later:

It is amazing to me that we have gone so far astray from the way of Jesus. It goes beyond imagination to conceive Jesus in a professional relationship to his disciples. If I remember correctly he even called those guys his friends. You might even go as far as to conclude that he loved them. They lived life together. No eight to five relationship and then go home. There was a heart connection. Jesus was growing a leadership community serving together on a common mission. There was more than a common vision; their hearts were ignited together by a burning passion. While vision can reach you from a distance, passion is transferred up close. Jesus got under their skin and into their hearts.

Technorati Tags: ,



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.

4 responses to Erwin McManus on Leadership, Community, & Diversity

  1. The problem isn’t that the contemporary church is adopting corporate leadership patterns. The problem is that they are adopting the wrong ones. The cutting edge companies are not like the ones McManus describes. The more valid criticism is that the church is always late to the innovations dance, and picks up management practices that are already abandoned by the top companies.
    McManus’ description of leadership teams based on friendship gets closer to what is happening. Yet, it seems he is longing for some by-gone golden age of church leadership. If anything, what he sees is always the hope for the future, not a reflection on the past.
    An additional problem with the church isn’t a business claim is that it fails to acknowledge a realistic understanding of people and organizations. Every organization is built on three dimensions – structure, ideas and relationships. The problem with most of these critiques is that they are simplistic. You can’t just say the model of a corporate leadership team is wrong, without offering a clear structural alternative. The problem isn’t the structure but the moral practice of the team in terms of how they relate and work together. There is nothing about a professional corporate staff that precludes them from caring for one another. It is the character of the leader who determines that not whether it is a corporate structure or a biblical one. Friendship is an important element in leadership, but it isn’t a structure for a team. It is at worse a strategy for being a team, and at best why a particular team is successful.
    As I read volume after volume on business leadership, I find much that is compatible with a biblical understanding of leadership. The problem aren’t the models but the person who adapts the wrong model thinking that it is. And this is what is happening in many churches.

  2. Ed, I agree with much that you say – as you know well. My rationale for posting this is two fold.

    First, there are many readers of this blog who live in the world of Senior Pastor as CEO/King. These pastors want to be the Jack Welch of their church. The concept of being a servant leader, or even a friend to their co-workers is completely foreign to them. McManus nails this.

    The second point is the nonsense known as “exellence and execution.” We have senior leaders who are convinced that if they only can deliver better services with ‘professional production values’ then they will see their churches grow. And they are actually right. Their churches will grow. With spectators – rather than committed believers who are learning to live in community…warts and all.

    Churches tend to look like the leadership team. Slick, shallow leadership produces slick, shallow churches. We have a plethora of those in the Western World (and are spawning enumberable examples in the developing world).

    Here endeth the rant.

  3. The problem with these “corporate” approaches to the church is that they are mostly technical exercises in “excellence and execution.” If they followed a more Christian humanist path, then their “excellence and execution” would be about engaging people in meeting needs that span the whole community.
    My check on hubris is to ask the question, “How would the least of these relate to ‘___’?” For example, how would an eighty year old widow, homebound with chronic emphesema and arthritis relate to the production values of a blended service? Or how would a 50 year old alcoholic who grew up in a rural environment now living on the streets of a large city because he loss the family farm relate to a health and wealth sermon? Or, how would an illiterate Hispanic mother understand the pastor’s compensation package voted on at the annual meeting of the congregation.
    The problem isn’t corporate approaches. That is a straw man intended to deflect attention from the real issue which is the character of leaders. The measure of the church is what the least gain by participating, not by what the elites think and do that impresses themselves.
    Corporate methodology are tools for accomplishing goals. A hammer can build a house or crush a skull. And, then you wouldn’t use a hammer to fry an egg. Tools have distinct purposes, and corporate models and strategies do too. And it is true that there is a moral component to each of these approaches. But we should write them off just because some are used inappropriately. The person who uses the tool is the problem, and many corporate strategies are illsuited for a church where the least are king.

  4. Stephen Spurlin January 4, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    Ed, I think that you are talking about a different aspect.(at least the comment from Mcmanus that is shown here)What Mcmanus is not saying is that your wrong to have some type of leading in place. Your argument seems cemented around, “not needing to revise our model of leadership.” Which Erwin does address. But I feel like he is stressing the need to develop “up-close and personal”, rather than “distantly objective” relationships. We don’t need to be so professional that we forget to be personal. Jesus was not just the King and not the CEO of heaven…He was also a friend to even the least of these. That word friend holds a far greater ethos in spreading the gospel in a powerful and transforming way, than any corporate scheme we could ever adopt. The love and power of the first century church is only a “by-gone…golden age” if we don’t think that God is as powerful now as He was then.


What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.