Welcome back to the conference room for today’s discussion about leadership basics.These basic ideas pertain not only to our case study of Franklin Christian Church, but to any leader anywhere, and if this was a book rather than a series of blog posts, it would either be an appendix or a ‘special study’.
Leadership in general has three major types or approaches along with many subtypes of each. Those three kinds of leaders can be called authoritarian, positional and relational leaders… and this would apply to churches, governments and businesses or other organizations. An authoritarian leader leads by force, intimidation and fear. You could say that they ‘lord it over’ everyone else. They will say things like “it’s my way or the highway.” In governments, they are often brutal dictators. In business they are the kinds of leaders that nobody likes and who usually have high turnover rates, and in churches they are Pharisees and hypocrites.
Positional leaders are very common. They lead by the authority of their position and no further. In governments they are politicians, in business they are frequently reminding other who the boss is, but they can only lead as far as their job description allows. In churches, they are not effective.
Relational leaders are leaders who form relationships with those they hope to lead in order to gain the trust of others and lead by influencing people. In government, they are statesmen, in business they are top producing managers, and in churches they are makers of disciples. To be an effective leader in the church, we must be relational leaders.
Leaders in churches don’t begin as relational leaders, they begin in a positional status with their people. A pastor, elder, deacon, vicar, minister… or whatever you call them… starts out being able to lead people only as far as their job description will allow. As they get to know people better, form a relational bond, develop trust and earn respect, they will gain permission from others to lead them beyond the limits of their positional status. As they begin to show results in their leadership, their influence with others will increase, and they will be able to lead people further. This process will continue with more and more trust and influence as long as the leader demonstrates that they are reliable, honest, fair, faithful… and most importantly, godly in their leadership. This is the person who can lead others into changed lives, deep understanding of the truth of Scripture and great accomplishments for the Kingdom.
Even in this thumbnail sketch you surely noticed that gaining trust and making a real difference is a process, a journey you might say, rather than an instant access to influence. You may also notice that the process of making disciples is the same; a process in which the mentor can lead the new disciple along a journey in which understanding and growth happen as trust and respect are earned by the mentor.
Many of you have seen churches in which the leadership begins to make great changes very quickly with disastrous results, and some will conclude that change is the problem and must be avoided. This is a mistake! It isn’t the fact that change took place that caused disaster, it’s the fact that the leaders made great change, very suddenly, without the relational “permission” to lead beyond the congregation’s comfort zone that caused the problems in most cases. Think of it this way, suppose you worked in a company. Suppose your boss was a great person for whom you have great respect and a high personal regard. You trust this person to be fair, honorable and you firmly believe that whatever decisions he or she makes will be in everyone’s best interests. That person retires, and a new boss comes in; you don’t know that person, and they immediately make revolutionary changes within the company. Are you happy, are you confident in their leadership… or are you beginning to consider your options? Then, the new boss walks in and tells you that you are being transferred to a different department effective today. Are you thinking that they can be trusted to do the right things for everyone, or are you wondering if they are pushing you out the door?
That’s what happens in a church where positional leaders make rapid, sudden changes; people don’t respond well and trouble develops. What if the old, respected and trusted boss was making the changes? What if that boss carefully explained all the what’s, why’s and how’s and reassured you that things were going to be better in the long run with these changes? In most cases, you would be more than willing to give him or her the benefit of the doubt. That’s what happens in churches when established relational leaders make necessary changes; the changes become ways of further teaching, nurturing and disciplining their congregations, and when the results begin to come, the relationship grows even closer and more trusting then before.
Oh, how I wish more Christians would pay attention to details like this! Everything in Christianity, from making disciples, to faith, to ministry and church growth depend on the relationship we have with our Lord, and upon the relationships we have with one another.
Tomorrow when we gather back here in the conference room, we’ll discuss my first two recommendations to FCC.