Bill Hybels of Willow Creek fame, makes the case that ministry leadership is more difficult than leading in the business world. The article starts with Hybels recalling a conversation with a business executive who arrogantly trivializes the challenge of leading a church. (Unfortunately, when business leaders think of the church as just another organization or enterprise, they expose their own folly.)
However, Hybels goes on to make the case that church or ministry leadership is more complex and challenging than leading in the business world. He offers the following four reasons to make his case. Let me state the obvious - I'm nowhere the equal of Hybels in the arena of leadership and I've had relatively little experience leading in ministry. However, there are elements of his words that really misses the mark - my comments and rebuttal in [ ] below.
1. Every life requires a custom mold. Essentially, he's making the case that church leadership is about people and it's very difficult to lead people without "leverage".
"...Napoleon, de Gaulle, Eisenhower, MacArthur, Patton. They were all the great military leaders....but I've wondered, What would it be like for some of those leaders to have to work it out with deacons before they charged up a hill? ...How would the whole military system work if you took away the leadership leverage of the court-martial? Anyone could build a church with leverage like that!"
[I wish that Hybels had a more realistic view about how effective business really run. They don't operate that differently from the church leadership scenario he speaks of. Yes, the CEO is the one "in charge" but in most organizations, effective leadership still involves leading by influence, building consensus and casting a compelling vision. And, no, we don't have the threat of court martial either. ]
2. The church is voluntary.
"But in the final analysis, we have little or no leverage, no real power over anybody we lead...To mobilize an utterly volunteer organization requires the highest kind of leadership. We cannot compel people; we must call them."
[Yes, but sustained leadership in any arena isn't about compelling people, it's about calling and engaging them]
3. The church is utterly altruistic
"When leading a business, you can hire a bright, energetic, young employee and say, "...Here's your salary, your perks, your car...If you work hard, in five or eight years we're going to make you a partner...And when we sell this place in fifteen or twenty years, we're all going to walk away wealthy...Are you interested? But as church leaders, what do we tell prospective church members? "You're a depraved, degenerate sinner who's in trouble for all eternity unless you get squared away with Christ."...Oh, yeah, you get no parking place, no reserved seats, no special privileges, no voting rights, no vacation or retirement program. You serve till you die. But trust us: God's going to make it right in eternity."
[Ministry isn't about altruism, nor should it ever be. It's about gaining a reward greater than the best the world has to offer. If we miss this, we miss the heart of gospel centered service. "Serving" God is a gift, not grudging sacrifice. It is our joyful opportunity to participate in what the Eternal God is doing on this earth. No business can compete with that. Effective ministry leaders remind us of that reality as often as they can, not to manipulate us for service but because there's nothing better we can give ourselves to]
4. The church has the highest calling.
"We can no longer afford to leave people leaderless in the arena of the church...May the church be the one place where people who come out of leaderless homes and schools and jobs and athletic teams discover, maybe for the first time in their lives, the excitement of being valued, of being included, of being told that they are indispensable for the achievement of a common vision. "
[I'm not sure it's correct to view ourselves as "indispensable" to the achievement of God's work. God can use anyone. Often, it truly baffles me why he would use me...but it's my privilege to participate in His work. Should we be incredibly grateful? Certainly. Are we indispensible? I don't think so.]
Here's one more unique advantage the church has - it is the only institution that God guarantees will be there on the Last Day and throughout eternity - it will not fail, its purpose will stand. No business will last that long nor will its pinnacle be as glorious.
What do you think? Is ministry leadership really more complex as Bill Hybels says it is?