:Among followers of Jesus, great is often the enemy of good. The drive to be great---to be a success by the standards of the world---often crowds out the qualities of goodness, virtue, and faithfulness that should define the central focus of Christian leadership. In the culture of today's church, successful leadership is often judged by what works, while persistent faithfulness takes a back seat. If a ministry doesn't produce results, it is dropped. If people don't respond, we move on. This pursuit of 'greatness' exerts a crushing pressure on the local church and creates a consuming anxiety in its leaders. In their pursuit of this warped vision of greatness, church leaders end up embracing a leadership narrative that runs counter to the sacrificial call of the gospel story. When church leaders focus on faithfulness to God and the gospel, however, it's always a kingdom-win---regardless of the visible results of their ministry. John the Baptist modeled this kind of leadership. As John's disciples crossed the Jordan River to follow after Jesus, John freely released them to a greater calling than following him. Speaking of Jesus, John said: 'He must increase, but I must decrease.' Joyfully satisfied to have been faithful to his calling, John knew that the size and scope of his ministry would be determined by the will of the Father, not his own will. Following the example of John the Baptist and with a careful look at the teaching of Scripture, Tim Suttle dares church leaders to risk failure by chasing the vision God has given them---no matter how small it might seem---instead of pursuing the broad path of pragmatism that leads to fame and numerical success.
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Meet the Author
Tim Suttle is the pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kansas and the author of Finding God's Story in the Midst of Extremes and Public Jesus. Tim and his wife, Kristin, live in Kansas City with their two boys, Nicholas and Lewis.
Table Of Contents
- :introduction: The Problem With 'success'
- We Tend To Define Ourselves By Various Metrics That Determine Success. But What If We Aren't Called To Be Great At All? The Leader's First Job Is To Become A Good And Virtuous Human Being And A Good And Virtuous Leader, And To Leave Questions Of Growth And Perceived Success In The Hands Of God. Sometimes All God Requires Of Leaders Is To Do A Small Thing Faithfully For The Rest Of Our Lives.
- 01. Why Great Is The Enemy Of Good
- This Chapter Opens With A Narrative About The 2008 Financial Collapse. An Entertaining Chapter, Filled With Stories Of Those Who Pursue Ascent While Sacrificing Virtue In The Process (nixon, Michael Vick, Jerry Johnston, Sosa & Mcguire & Others), Contrasted With Stories Of Those Who Choose The Path Of Descent, And End Up Leaving A Legacy Of Virtue (bonhoeffer, Dirk Willems, Jean Vanier, Richard Stearns, & Some Unknowns Like Thomas F. Freeman, Ed Stith, Rich Mullins).
- 02. The Failure Of The Megachurch
- The Megachurch Has Been An Amazing Laboratory In Which We Have Tested The Limits Of Size On The Body Of Christ. The Megachurch Has Yet Another Important Lesson For Us: There Is Such A Thing As Too Big. Much Of The Drive To Become Bigger Has Been Rooted In The Desire To Flee Vulnerability. I Talk About How The Megachurch Is Like An Athlete On Steroids -- Any Church Body That Succeeds In Growing That Large Must Result To Artificial Means Which Look Good In The Short Term But Lead To Lasting Harm. Church Members Never Experience The Natural Ecology Of Relationships That Exists In A Smaller Church Body.
- 03. The Body, Not A Business
- Body Is A Better Metaphor For The Church Than Business. The Ceo Model Of Leadership Must Give Way To A More Rabbinic Model: Tending The Sacred Words And Building A Sustainable Community. The Church Has Been Trying To Function Like A Business For So Long That We've Forgotten Our First Task Is To Simply Be The Body Of Christ.
- 04. The Mythic Failure Of Competition
- Our Cultural Fixation On Success Is Fed By Our Insatiable Appetite For Competition. Competition Serves As The Basis For Much Of Western Society: Economics, Politics, Education, And Even Entertainment (see Grammy Awards, Academy Awards, Tony Awards, The Pulitzer Prize, And Reality Tv). In His Classic Book No Contest: The Case Against Competition, Alfie Kohn Presents Study After Study To Disprove The Myth That Competition Produces The Best Results. Henri Nouwen Argues That Competition Teaches Us To Shun Virtues Like Compassion In Order To Win. The Kingdom Of God Comes Through Collaboration, Not Competition. Collaboration Actually Forms People In The Kind Of Virtues Which Draw Their Life From The Kingdom Of God.
- 05. The Broken Leader
- Most Of Church Leadership Today Is An Attempt To Teach Churches How To Be Invulnerable. The Thought Which Lies Behind The Drive To Success Is Often, 'if I'm Successful, I Won't Have To Worry About Making Payroll, Getting Fired, People Leaving, Etc.' The Story Of God Teaches Us That Vulnerability Is Necessary Component Of Our Discipleship; An Essential Leadership Virtue Which Must Be Cultivated. A Church Is Made Beautiful Not Through Triumphalist Growth Strategies, But In Discovering The Radical Transformative Impact Of Vulnerability (see Philippians 2 And Colossians 1).
- 06. Learning To Wait
- For The Children Of Israel, The 40 Years In The Desert Had To Seem Unbearable. But God Had Decided That Everyone Whose Imagination Had Been Formed By Slavery Would Have To Pass On Before They Could Move Forward As A People. When They Did Move Forward, It Would Be With A New Generation Whose Imaginations Were Shaped By A Reliance On God For Their Daily Bread (manna), As Well As Their Direction (the Cloud And The Pillar Of Fire). Sometimes Following God Requires Incredible Patience.
- 07. Fidelity And Faithfulness In A Church-shopping Culture
- None Of What I'm Describing Works Without The Assumption Of Fidelity -- People Must Resolve To Stick Around, Come What May. The Effective Pastor Needs To Refuse To Leave For A Bigger, Higher Profile Church. The Congregation Must Stop Shopping For The Ultimate Church Experience. Both The Leader And The Congregation Must Agree To Stop Trying To Compete With Other Churches In Order To Gain And Retain Religious Market Share. What Would It Look Like For A Pastor And A Congregation To Agree To Stick Around For 25 Or 30 Years? My Assertion Is That This Is The Only Way To Increase Innovation And Creativity. Necessity Is Not The Only Mother Of Invention. Security And Stability Are Needed In Order For A Leader To Feel Safe Enough To Innovate And Create. Imagination Is Fueled By Fidelity, Not Inhibited By It.
- 08. Living With Tension: Lessons From The Exiled People Of God
- With Vulnerability, Patience, And Fidelity In Place, The Next Assumption Is That We Will Need To Live In Some Amount Of Conflict. Tension, As It Turns Out, Is A Virtue. When We Begin To Speak Like Christians Then We Will Have To Live In A Certain Amount Of Tension. Tension Is The Only Thing Which Forces Us To Grow Beyond Our In-authenticity Toward True Faithfulness. The Leader, While Still In Progress And Still Growing, Can Actually Serve As Ballast For The Organization Not By Having All Of The Answers, But By Modeling Stability (the Non-anxious Presence), In The Midst Of The Tension And Change. Stability Is Not About Being The Expert, But About Being Deeply Rooted In The Story Of God And In A Particular Community Of Christ Followers Over A Long Period Of Time.