Leadership has been my preoccupation for the past 10+ years. As a pastoral intern and pastor, I was able to focus on this topic from a multitude of angles: What does it mean for me to be a leader, what does it mean to raise up leaders, what does it mean to raise up leaders who raise up leaders, and how do you provide the proper tools and training to set everyone up for success. During this time, I’ve been able to create training materials, implement them, evaluate their effectiveness, and go back to the drawing board. It was quite a process.

A large part of this process has been my growing dissatisfaction in the way the Church has taken on certain principles of secular leadership. Some of it is overt in the way some leaders will look at business practices to gain insight on how to better their church. While this isn’t inherently dangerous, and there is much to learn, we should not keep the bathwater with the baby. Much of the secular influence on Christian leadership, though, has been covert.

Secular vs Church

Secular leadership paradigms become dangerous to the Church when the Church co-opts secular values alongside the principles. What drives a small business, a multi-national chain, any corporation is inherently at odds with what should drive a church.

Business is driven by the goal of productivity. It is about efficiency so that the brand, product, service, etc. will result in maximum profits. This becomes the foundation for secular leadership.

The secular leader’s preoccupation is how to influence people, whether the workers or the target consumer/audience, to invest so that the corporate entity will increase and expand. This does not mean that businesses are inherently evil. Some genuinely do good in this world, and add value through their products and services. But the bottom line, the measure of success, is still productivity.

The goal of the Church, as seen in John 17, Ephesians 4, etc etc etc, is different. It is identity reflected in community. It is the ability to rest in our identity as children of God, and from that place, build connection so that the communal identity as the Bod, the Family, and the Bride manifests as experienced reality.

What this means is that the Christian leader’s preoccupation should be about identity and connection. Who are we and how does that form connection should be the constant pursuit of the heart. This drastically changes the way we understand, utilize, and measure the effectiveness of our influence. It no longer becomes about the fulfillment of activities and programs, getting more people to tithe, and increasing the amount of people who serve. Rather, we look to see how people are connecting with one another through the foundation of their identity in Christ.

I’m not placing a value statement on secular leadership. It’s the way the world works. It’s what drives the world. What I am placing a value statement on is Church leadership that wholeheartedly embraces the values of the world. The Church’s values are to be driven by the heart of God as revealed in Scripture. The goals are different. This doesn’t mean that we ignore the tools of the world. Rather, what it means is that we open our eyes to the truth that we are not building what the world is building.

Yes, we may use the same or similar tools. But the world is constructing a tower that stands tall in all its pristine wonder. It is a monument to efficiency, progress, advancement for the whole world to see. What we, as the Church, are called to build is a Tent and table, where we can eat the Lord’s meal together as family in the Presence of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

The Tool of Leadership

Leadership’s main tool, whether secular or Christian, is influence. It is the ability to motivate people toward a goal, action, or state of being. Influence, by itself, is not inherently wrong. For example, peer pressure can be a good thing. That’s the heart behind interventions. A community confronts someone who is harming himself or herself. The pressure of the person’s peers will hopefully bring about positive change.

Influence, then, should be thought of as a tool. It is a screwdriver, a hammer, a wrench that can be used to build a structure. Influence is not the structure itself. It is not the blueprint.

If a church uses the tools of influence, but follows the blueprint of this world to build according to the world, the church will soon reflect a business. People’s values will soon be based on their productivity.

“Can this person organize well, motivate others to volunteer, teach well so that others will stay in this church, lead worship well so that people seem engaged? Then they are a leader.”

“Does this “type” of person tithe generously? Then they should dictate the culture of the church.”

“Is this person a millionaire? Then let’s make them an elder so that they commit to the church.”

“Is this person charismatic in personality, engaging, fun, outgoing? They should be a family group leader.”

What can a person do and provide takes precedence over who a person is.

These are some subtle and not-so-subtle ways influence directed by a worldly blueprint begins to invade churches. When this happens, influence is used to elevate certain people and lower others. Lip service could be paid to the importance of all, the value of each person, but the backroom conversations, the side comments, the descriptions of individuals reveals otherwise.

A church that uses influence directed by Scripture, however, will seem like family. People will feel safe to share their story and find connecting points as they begin to see the common thread of the gospel. Individuals will feel free to be themselves and yet their hearts will be turned to unity rather than division as the vision of Family and Body and Bride is manifested. People will serve and tithe and give, but this will not mark their importance. The church might grow large in size, resources, and influence, but it will be God who adds to the numbers, not the value of productivity.

Conclusion – My Thoughts, My Future

There is a clear line between the secular and biblical use of influence as it pertains to leadership. It’s something I’ve been unpacking for the past 10+ years, and more intentionally these past couple of months. It’s been one of my soul-urgent preoccupations.

I’ve been on this mental track in preparation for something big, exciting, and (honestly speaking) scary. It’s the fulfillment of my heart’s cry, my calling, my vision, my passion. I’ll continue to write more on it as the weeks and months go by, so please be patient and bear with me.

Thank you all so much for being with me on this journey. Your support and encouragement mean the world to me.

Published by Young Song