Church Leadership: Vision, Team, Culture, and Integrity by Lovett H. Weems

Posted: March 4, 2012 in Book and Article Reviews, Pastoral Ministry
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2) Leadership is spiritual, funny, and about group purpose.  These three aspects of leadership are what stood out the most to me.  First, leadership is spiritual.  I am in total agreement with this statement.  The pastor I work under is constantly reminding me that we can only lead people to where we are.  If we want others to go deeper, then we must be willing to go deeper ourselves.  We can only operate from the overflow of God’s spirit if we desire to be effective leaders.  Too often, we operate from the dregs of a cold, dead spirituality.  Although charisma can create a sense of successful leadership, it is ultimately confined within limits without a greater wealth of spirituality from which to draw.

Secondly, leadership is funny.  Leadership, I feel, is knowing when to be serious and when to laugh.  Not being able to laugh at those things that come at your expense likely indicates that you feel threatened and insecure.  “Leading” from this type of platform becomes about power rather than service, about maintaining face rather than building up the Body.  This comes back to spirituality.  The ability to laugh is also related to extending mercy to offending parties, admitting mistakes and faults in our own person, and realizing the learning potential in moments of our greatest shortcomings.

Finally, leadership is about group purpose.  The visual image of a train was entirely appropriate for describing leadership.  The engine may be able to go faster alone, but its purpose is to pull the train.  Leadership is a group effort directed toward a common goal (vision).  Quite often pastors and laity have relied and propagated a Church that relies on autocratic leadership.  However, the images employed in Scripture are always within the context of a Body or a House.  Each person is gifted to build up the Body of Christ in a unique way.  It may be more difficult and slower to work in such ways, but God’s grace empowers us to be much more than a bunch of individual parts.  Instead, we are transformed into the united Body of Christ working together to live out the Kingdom.  As leaders, sometimes it is difficult to trust others because we assume the “buck stops with us.”  Although we might be held responsible for our areas of ministry, we rob the congregation of the opportunity to participate if we try to control everything.  As a result, we don’t empower our laity, we hamstring them to make sure we maintain efficiency.

3) Weems believes that “Authority is given, leadership is earned.”  I would venture to say that Weems is mostly correct in this proposition.  Authority can often be given quickly with the reception of a title (i.e. pastor, manager etc.).  But, “authority”, especially in today’s culture, does not necessarily mean one has true authority.  There is a general mistrust of authority figures.  Weems is correct about leadership.  It needs to be proven that one is trustworthy, capable, and competent to earn leadership.

I would really say that authority and leadership come down to power, although employed in very different ways.  Authority dictates what is to be done, leadership empowers, not coerces, the group to strive for the goal.  True leadership is ultimately about the group, authority does not always see this as the case.  Both authority and leadership can be lost very quickly, depending on the offense.  But, leadership is not the same as authority.  This can be seen in board meetings where a new pastor steps in.  Although he may technically be the “authority”, the group will usually defer to the “leader” of the group.  Authority, if it does not move into leadership, will ultimately fail.

4) Weems identifies administration as “doing things right”, management as “doing the right things”, and leadership as “development and articulation of a shared vision, motivation of those key people without whom that vision cannot become a reality, and gaining the cooperation of most of the people involved.”

5) Why vision is necessary

            Having no vision is like a journey with a map but having no destination in mind.  It is like a ship without a rudder.  Or, it is akin to flying in thick fog without navigational instruments.  Vision is what allows us to get our bearing, know where we are headed, and steer our course toward that goal.  Without it, we are bound to wander wherever the wind of doctrine that might take us, by whatever new fad catches our attention, or by the latest marketing scheme.  Vision informs our identity as a community.

II. What vision is

Vision is the “picture of a preferred future.”  It is the “gift of eyes of faith to see the invisible, to know the unknowable, to think the unthinkable, to experience the not yet.  Vision allows us to see signs of the kingdom now, in our midst.”  It is the “story through which one sees reality.  It gives meaning, direction, and life to one’s efforts.  It is how we are called to fulfill our mission in the present moments (short-term).

III. The importance of vision

            Vision works like a magnifying glass.  It helps us to focus at a particular point or on a specific area.  There are a number of good ends to pursue.  Rarely is the church operating by searching to do those things which are wrong.  Rather, they are deciding between competing goods.  Vision allows us to prioritize those goods that most clearly allow us to pursue our God-given passions and strengths.  To pursue every good might mean that quality suffers though we achieve a great quantity of goods.  In other words, it might be that we do many good things very poorly where we might have been able to do a few good things extremely well.  By this, we are able to concentrate our efforts and energies toward a common goal.

Without this, the result is a confused entity that is not sure what purpose it is to serve.  It is like the eye of the body trying to operate as the foot, hand, elbow, and chin.  The Body thus loses out on the benefit of the eye’s service to the Body.  In the same measure, the local church has a particular function within the universal church that it can do well.  God has called it to a particular, specific life and ministry during this time of history.  If it tries to be like every other church, it is doomed to mediocrity, or worse, decimation.  In whatever way that local church might serve, it is always with the purpose of serving Christ.  The particular ministry of that church is only a means to that end, not the end itself.  Keeping this in mind allows the many parts of the church to function in their own unique, God-blessed way for the edification of the Body.

John C. Maxwell relates a story of two Antartica explorers who had two very different expeditions.  Amundsen led a group that, due to his foresight and planning, completed a very successful mission to the South Pole.  The second group led by Robert Falcon Scott had a very different result.  The planning had been entirely inadequate.  The food supplies ran low, clothing did not suffice, horses perished, and the men starved to death.  Vision was the mitigating factor between these two groups (21 Irrefutable 33-36).

Vision is also important because it allows us to focus on what is possible rather than being stuck in what is happening.  It gives us drive and a goal.  A winsome vision encourages others to buy into the dream.  It motivates and propels the group onward rather than becoming stagnant.  A lofty goal, even if missed, brings the group to a place farther than they had previously been.  It is not a failure to fall short of the goal, but it is a travesty to sell the community short of what God deems possible.

IV. The characteristics of vision

            Weems proposes six functions of vision: it unites, energizes, focuses priorities, serves as the ultimate standard, raises sights, and invites and draws others.  In describing the characteristics of vision we must decide what vision is not.  Henry Blackaby writes, “In the case of churches emulating the success of other churches, it seemingly eliminates the need for Christian leaders to cultivate an intimate relationship with God” (59).  While Blackaby is not suggesting that we cannot borrow ideas from other churches, he is bringing our attention that “successful” visions are from God, not from man.  What works in one church may not work in another.  True vision is from God.

Secondly, the vision addresses the needs of that particular context.  What areas can we grow, develop, and mature?  What areas are our strengths that we can utilize?  And, most
importantly, does this connect back to God’s overall vision for the Church?  John C. Maxwell suggests that vision must ask three things about the community: where they need to go, what they need to know, and how they need to grow (Becoming a Person 147).  A focused vision that addresses these needs while maintaining its purpose will motivate people to be involved in that mission.  Too often people are not involved because they do not see how they fit into the picture (if they can even describe the church’s vision).  As a result, there are a few that “operate” the church, while the majority float around yearning for something to ignite their creativity and passions.

Vision creates boundaries.  With a destination in mind, it is much easier to find paths or roads that lead us to that location.  Maintaining the vision allows us to get back on the trail if we lose sight of our intended purpose.  Because of this, the church is able to eliminate possibilities that do not lead us to our port but might take us in a different direction.  At the same time, we might consider new possibilities because they fit in the overall plan.

Vision is a dream of the future.  It is a lofty goal.  It is an unseen reality that can create both a sense of purpose and unity while keeping us from getting bogged down in the “maintenance” mode of church.  It helps us to move beyond our comfort zones and grow.  We can only do that as a community together.  A church that grows can only be stabilized through loving relationships with one another.  A vision that enables others to use their skills and passions get excited about sharing that with others.  The result is a community that is contagious.  In my time at the OSU NSC, there was a vision that was placed before us.  That vision of the type of community we wanted to be was so motivating, that others were drawn to our doors.  People felt connected because of this shared vision and were able to genuinely contribute which only deepened their sense of belonging.  Vision is a powerful agent in shaping identity.

V. Biblical examples of vision

            Nehemiah 2:17-18 – Nehemiah envisions Jerusalem’s walls rebuilt

Exodus 18:13-27 – Jethro offers discipleship model to Moses

Matthew 5:3-12 – Jesus sketches the Kingdom

Revelation 2, 3 – The Seven Churches Re-envisioned

Ezekiel 37:1-14 – Life is possible again through God

Genesis 12:2-3 – Vision of God’s future through His promise to Abraham

Deuteronomy 5 – Ten Commandments: God’s prescription for Community

1 Peter 2:1-10 – The New Israel

Proverbs 16:2-4 – Committing plans to the Lord

VI. Concluding remarks

            Our calling is to love God with everything we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  We are to go into all of the world and “preach” the Gospel, making disciples of all nations.  How we live that calling out should be informed by the vision God gives us now.  We must constantly revisit our calling and see if our vision corresponds.  Secondly, vision pulls us toward a future.  It is the concrete way we conceive the community working out its calling.  Where do we need to go, what do we need to know, and how do we need to grow?  Essentially, our question now becomes: What vision is God placing before us to move into His future?  Finally, what steps will we take to live into this future?

 

Works Cited

Blackaby, Henry T., and Richard Blackaby. Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on to God’s Agenda. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001.

Maxwell, John C, and Jim Dornan. Becoming a Person of Influence: How to Positively Impact the Lives of Others. Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1997.

Maxwell, John C. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998.

Weems, Lovett H. Church Leadership: Vision, Team, Culture, and Integrity. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993.

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Comments
  1. Charis Boreland says:

    lol found your webpage when looking for different bbq sauces, dont know how that happened!

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