This past week Peggy Noonan wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on the impact of changes because of the pandemic entitled “The Old New York Won’t Come Back”. She made this statement, “To lead in times like this will require the eyes of an artist who sees the broad shape of things, not an analyst who sees data points.”
I like this quote and while the article is not about church leadership the quote got me to thinking.
I have come to believe that trying to lead a church as an analyst immersed in data points as opposed to one finding their frame of reference for leading in “the broad shape of things” can become a distraction from the basic orientation in which church leaders must root themselves. For church leaders, “the broad shape of things” includes not only having a panoramic perspective of our local and world culture and the particulars of keeping an organization running, but the biblical worldview that overshadows the way we do things. These must be in dynamic juxtaposition with the priority on the biblical worldview side of the equation.
For example if we limit a person to be considered for a leadership position solely based on psychological inventories, without giving first priority to a spiritually robust testimony of faith and follower-ship in Jesus then a church might find that they can mark out a significant kingdom for themselves but one that is void of spiritual depth. Witness to a call to serve Christ in a specific way, a committed discipline to prayer, Bible, and to being immersed in a Christian community form the starting point where such a search begins. You would be surprised at the number of interviews for positions in churches I was in where these questions were only treated in a formal check-list kind of way if asked at all.
“The broad shape of things” also includes a vision about moving one’s church culture from it’s current state to one that is even more closely aligned to biblical principles. This picture materializes in a leader’s mind when questions like the following are posed against biblical teaching about how we should live and act in community. How should I think about others! How should I prioritize what comes first when I am challenged to choose between two really good choices? How should I treat people? What are the ways I should go about getting my way? When should I defer to others? How should decisions be made? When is it best to suffer losing? How should I attempt to get people to do what I want them to do? The list is a long one and longer than this if all such questions were included; but these kinds of questions get more to the heart of who we are than the ones we normally ask and inevitably over the long run will lead to lasting and better results. The answers will lead us to adjust some of the ways we run the church as an organization. We must ask the questions that are more informed by data, business models, and so on; but unless we are fine tuning the culture of our church as one that is soundly relational in ways that are based on biblical principle, we will not impact the future for Jesus as well as we could have.
1 Corinthians 14:40 (NASB95PARA): “But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.”