I just shoved another new book on the leadership shelf of my library. Just to the right of center (kind of like me!) on one of my most brightly arrayed shelves I wedged the newfound treasure. The shelf is stuffed. Looks like I’m going to have to encroach on some poor other section’s shelf space.
This mundane experience got me thinking. Why has the Christian leadership industry become so huge? And more important: why, when I look over at that section of my library, does this variegated assortment of books leave me feeling more conflicted than any other section? I think it’s because there is something fundamentally wrong with the direction of this cottage industry. These books over-value efficiency. Most of these books, following in the wake of Covey’s 7 Habits, push for pastors to stream-line their schedules, make mission or vision activities central to their weekly tasks, and shove “menial” duties to the side.
“Hurrah” I used to say when I read such books. And I still think there is a great deal of truth to be offered by such suggestions. But I think what I was really saying was: “Hurrah for me! Wish there were more pastors like me…” And that’s a problem. Not that efficiency is a quality to be discounted in ministry: believe me, I couldn’t survive without it, but I fundamentally reject boiling down pastoral leadership to efficiency. My critique may strike you as odd. How can we over-value efficiency? What I need is more efficiency! And it is doubly odd if you know me: I am a type A personality – organized, focused, and motivated.
There are two examples in Scripture that speak against such a reductionism: Jesus and Paul. Jesus, no doubt, ran one of the least efficient ministries ever. He chose a little known outpost as his place of ministry, apparently did nothing to prepare for his ministry before the age of 30, and those followers he did attract he turned away with confusing and demanding statements. Oh, and he allowed himself to be set up as a political scapegoat and crucified as a common criminal.
Onto Paul: the clearest expression of Paul’s leadership strategy is outlined in his letters to the young minister Timothy. Here Paul talks a lot about training up leaders and even more about the primacy of preaching pure doctrine. I think this is a direct reflection of Jesus’ ministry style: building into leaders and preaching the truth. And these are my commitments as a pastor and leader: 1) training up and stewarding the leaders of the flock, and 2) faithfully preaching God’s Word as the primary means of making disciples. It would seem, in the end, that these time-consuming and often menial tasks are God’s most efficient means of building his kingdom.