Archive for July, 2011

How the Mighty Fall

28 Jul

“Whether you prevail or fail, endure or die, depends more on what you do to yourself than on what the world does to you.” Jim Collins

          Decline can be avoided.

          Decline can be detected.

          Decline can be reversed.

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and co-author of Built to Last, began to wonder . . . How do the mighty fall? Can decline be detected early and be avoided? How far can an organization fall before the path towards doom becomes inevitable and unshakable. How can organizations reverse this course?

Following four years of research, Collins uncovered five stages of decline:

  1. Hubris born of success – in this stage, people become arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement . . . they lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place. This occurs when the rhetoric of success replaces the penetrating understanding and insight of how success was first achieved.
  2. Undisciplined pursuit of more – moving away from the ‘reason’ greatness was achieved in the first place . . . wanting more growth, more acclaim, more of whatever those in ‘power’ see as success.
  3. Denial of risk and peril – as external signs of peril mount, they are ignored because external results remain strong enough to ‘explain away’ this data. Those in power consider these ‘difficulties’ as temporary or cyclical or not that bad, thus believing nothing is fundamentally wrong. External factors for setback are blamed rather than accepting responsibility for ‘bad choices.’
  4. Grasping for salvation – in respond to the down-turn, a ‘quick fix’ is chosen instead of getting back to the disciplines that brought about greatness in the first place. ‘Saviors’ include a charismatic visionary leader, a bold but untested strategy, a radical transformation, a dramatic cultural revolution, a hoped-for blockbuster product or service, a ‘game-changing’ acquisition, or any number of other silver-bullet solutions.
  5. Capitulation to irrelevance or death – the longer an organization remains in stage 4 (repeatedly grasping for the ‘silver bullets,’ the more likely it will spiral downward. In response, accumulated setbacks and expensive false starts erode financial strength and individual spirit to such an extent that leaders abandon all hope of building a great future . . . death of the organization is inevitable.


There is a way out, however, and Collins offers well-founded hope. He posits, “The signature of the truly great versus the merely successful is not the absence of difficulty, but the ability to come back from setbacks, even cataclysmic catastrophes, stronger than before. Great nations can decline and recover. Great companies can fall and recover. Great social institutions can fall and recover. And great individuals can fall and recover. As long as you never get entirely knocked out of the game, there remains always hope.”

Never give in . . .


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Spiritual Leadership – principles of excellence for every believer

11 Jul

First published in 1967, the 2007 re-published version of J. Oswald Sanders’ Spiritual Leadership – principles of excellence for every believer is a ‘required reading’ to put on your book list.

Sanders’ first chapter – An Honorable Ambition – opens with two verses: 1 Timothy 3:1 – “To aspire to leadership is an honorable ambition.” and Jeremiah 45:5 – “Should you then seek things for yourself? Seek them not.” Although these verses appear to cause conflict, Sanders unfolds their true meaning.

Following are a few notable passages from the book:

  • Paul (Apostle) urges us to the work of leading within the church, the most important work in the world. When our motives are right, this work pas eternal dividends. In Paul’s day, only a deep love for Christ and genuine concern for the church could motivate people to lead. Bit in many cultures today where Christian leadership carries prestige and privilege, people aspire to leadership for reasons quite unworthy and self-seeking. Holy ambition has always been surrounded by distortions.
  • True greatness, true leadership, is found in giving yourself in service to others, not in coaxing or inducing others to serve you. True service is never without cost.
  • Samuel Brengle, the great Salvation Army revival preacher said, ‘One of the outstanding ironies of history is the utter disregard of ranks and titles in the final judgements men pass on each other. The final estimate of men shows that history cares not an iota for the rank or title a man has borne, or the office he has held, but only the quality of his deeds and the character of his mind and heart.’
  • The King James Bible uses leader only six times. Much more frequently, the role is called servant. We do not read about ‘Moses, my leader,’ but ‘Moses, my servant.’ This is exactly what Christ taught.

These are just a few found in the first twenty-one pages. You will enjoy the read.  One final thought, spiritual leadership is not a calling we choose to pursue; it is a calling we choose to answer.



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Organizational Design for the Twenty-first Century

08 Jul

Following is a portion on organizational design from the book For the Sake of the House: organizational and leadership requirements for the twenty-first century church.

Historically, there has been tension on organizations between providing top-down direction and pushing accountability and ownership into the ranks. During the 1980s and 1990s, Deming, Senge, and other theorists’ and practitioners’ work on quality control, self-directed work teams, and learning organizations began to have greater impact in North America. The emphasis on structure began to shift from the traditional, multi-tiered hierarchal model to a flatter model. The question of centralization versus decentralization surfaced. Globalization and the notion of a boundaryless organization emerged.

Organizations now belong to networks that extend far outside themselves. As Internet commerce and communication increase, the globalization of business transcends what most envisioned less than a decade ago. As a result, the structure for organizations of the twenty-first century includes models that are flat, employee-empowered, share services, and most importantly, are flexible.

Now the questions loom concerning churches and religious organizations. If redesign is so necessary in secular organizations, is it necessary for the church? Is the church facing the same organizational redesign challenges other organizations face? Are we welcomed into the twenty-first century, where time-honored titles are slowly disappearing, responsibilities are shifting, stand-alone jobs and responsibilities are melting into far broader roles, new career ladders are emerging, and outside influences and internal people with an operations and leadership background carry increasing influence? Will the church need to rethink its structure and design and move decisions close to the point where action is required? If it was true that by 2002, 90 percent of all North American organizations implemented some type of self-managed work team, is it necessary this be reflected in the church?

The church does face the same dilemma as other organizations. The question is, “How can it remain a viable organization without strategically redesigning and restructuring itself?” During an on-line interchange with a colleague, he argues, “Only religion is saving the role of the pastor as church head (hierarchal structure). It seems, from the statistics, that interest in church is in severe decline. The main factor seems to be people merely going through the motions of religion are now falling away … Those who remain faithful to the Lord also want to be faithful to His word and nowhere does the current headship role of pastor receive support from Scripture.

“Church boards must similarly go the way of the dinosaurs for the same reason as the demise of the current pastor. This should issue in structures, facilitating believers to function in their gifting for the mutual edification of the entire body. Servant elders will be in functional oversight, while the head (Jesus Christ) directs the agenda and flow by the Holy Spirit. Deacons will serve to see the ministry operations all run smoothly. Money newly freed up from former (formal) staff salaries will enhance genuine ministry to make disciples worldwide. Corporate prayer services will replace the current worship services as worship becomes a lifestyle all week long … Why is the pastor so elevated/prioritized from the Ephesians 4 (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher [pastor and teacher being the same person]) list?”

My colleague continued to assert that the structure of the church should mirror that of the first-century apostolic church. He states, “The more directly and plainly revealed structure flowing from Scripture is simply meeting in houses, so that they are small and intimate family gatherings as the tangible body of Jesus on earth, directly under Jesus as the head. Mature brothers will oversee as elders and other saints will serve as deacons in the practical requirements of the gatherings. The flow of the meeting will always see prayer as the major function, for the nations. Breaking of bread and the sharing of Christ by testimony and the Word will round out the time together over a family meal. Communities will know who the saints really are and they will increasingly be just one united body.”

These statements may cause some readers to shudder, some to laugh, or some to even mock. However, there are a number of comments that must be addressed. Certainly we do not live in a first-century Mediterranean culture with the church in its infancy. The Christian church has been in existence for almost 2000 years and has evolved to what it is today—large, wealthy, organized, with varying structures and design elements. Sometimes I am not sure this evolution is always beneficial.

However, we fail to acknowledge the fact that there is a disaster occurring in the church today. There are shocking statistics that reveal how stressful church leadership is, especially for those who serve as pastors. Reports show that 23 percent of all current pastors in the United States have been fired or forced to resign in the past; 34 percent of pastors presently serve congregations that forced their previous pastor to resign; the average pastoral career lasts only fourteen years, less than half of what it was not long ago; 25 percent of the churches in one survey reported conflict in the previous five years that was serious enough to have a lasting impact on the life of the congregation; and 1,500 pastors leave their assignments every month in the United States because of conflict, burnout, or moral failure. Not only do these statistics indicate the devastation occurring to individuals (and their families), but they would also indicate there are thousands of churches weak and vulnerable to spiritual attack.

Reread my colleague’s comments. Considering the above statistics and how the quickening pace of technological innovations and people’s rising expectations have suddenly changed the basic strategies implemented for sharing the gospel and past expectations put on church leaders, it is evident the church must review its structure and design to engage the twenty-first century. We must be flexible so we can respond more quickly to constant change. Furthermore, at this point, we have not addressed the topic of strategic foresight, a topic of chapter six that could have tremendous impact on the local church’s structure and design.


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