Monday, August 09, 2004

On Leadership and Theology

Historian David F. Wells offers some interesting perspective on the contemporary church. In his book No Place for Truth, I'm told Wells asserts that today's ministers are more concerned with psychology and management than theology.

Most of the preachers I know in our megachurches would dispute that, but not for the reasons you might suppose. They would resist the charge they were concerned with psychology preferring to say they wanted be relevant and meet needs. To the second charge, they would state they were more interested in leadership than in management.

A closer look, however, reveals that the needs addressed usually take the form of marriage counseling, self-image therapy, keys to successful business or decision-making. You can find hundreds of these books, even books from a Christian perspective, on the shelves of countless bookstores. God wants biblically-based homes to be sure, but I have to wonder if one can truly build such a home apart from an understanding of who Jesus is and what he has done in history to redeem the individuals making up a marriage.

Following the lead of such individuals as John Maxwell, most would say there is a world of difference between managing and leading. Maxwell defines management as "the process of assuring that the program and objectives of the organization are implemented" (Developing the Leader Within You, Introduction). He defines leadership as having to do "with casting vision and motivating people." He continues saying that managing is making sure the work is done by others but a leader inspires others to do better work." Now I have to tell you that the difference here is pretty thin. I would think a good manager would inspire people to do a better job.

Let me make a couple of observations before I post today's blog. First,I remember when the Christian Standard magazine spent a year on the importance of leadership in the Restoration Movement. At the end of the year, I don't think much changed occurred in most churches. In those days, most of us were taught that the eldership in a church comprised the leadership. We avoided the "pastor system" as rooted in a false idea of church. I find it interesting that Alexander Campbell preferred the term Bishop in reference to the preacher. Because of what we believed, most of us deferred leadership to the local elders. We tried to "sell" them on our ideas, but if they chose not to accept them nothing happened. It was Bob Smith's (shudden -- a Baptist) book, When All Else Fails, Read the Directions that offered me some correctives. Then a study of church history convinced me that the "Bishop" was, in the New Testament Church, an individual selected from the Presbyters (elders) and given a leadership role in the church. He may well be one of those men worthy of double honor because they give all their time to God's work (1 Timothy 5:17-18). I am convinced that at the very least, the minister should be elder qualified and an elder. If he were an elder, then he would be able to legitimately use the title "Pastor." As an elder among elders, his role would be far better defined and his qualifications understood.

Second, as long as we teach only psychobabble from our pulpits we will make shallow Christians who believe they are disciples because they build a tolerable marriage or have a positive self-image (and perhaps are even self-actualized). Please do not get me wrong! I do believe there are biblical principles that apply to building a positive self-image, sound mental health, and a successful family -- and they should be preached! What I am begging for is a better balanced preaching program that supplements what people hear in a small group (often more psychobabble but from those who don't know anythng about it) or a Bible class. I'm talking about preachers who aren't afraid to boldly teach what the Bible says about God, the authority of Scripture, Jesus' propitiation (look that one up), the place and nature of baptism for the remission of sins, and a host of other issues comprising sound biblical doctrine.

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