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Don’t Over-Spiritualize Leadership

July 9, 2012

This is the 2nd of 4 posts that will deal with areas that Contrarian Church Planters know they can’t over-spiritualize.  Click here for the first post: “Don’t Over-Spiritualize Money.”

Have you heard about The Three Ingredient Cookbook?  It’s exactly what it says it is.  Every recipe has only 3 ingredients.  One of my friends got it as a wedding present when she was inexperienced in the kitchen, the idea being that even she would be capable of these recipes.  But here’s the thing about the 3-ingredient cookbook: if you leave out one of the ingredients, it doesn’t work!  Some recipes call for a dozen or more ingredients and if you are out of a particular spice you can omit it no problem.  But when there are only 3 ingredients, you need all of them!

This is how it is when it comes to leadership.  I wholeheartedly believe in Bill Hybels’ “3 Cs” of hiring: competency at the job, chemistry with the team, and character of the person.

The problem that I see in church plants, however, is that we overestimate the importance of character and underestimate the importance of chemistry.

Now let me be straight: I’m not suggesting we hire someone who is a chain smoker, addicted to porn, hasn’t picked up his Bible in a month, and roots for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  What I mean though is that we get SO focused on character that we put blinders on to everything else.  We will send a possible staff hire to assessment, we dissect the spiritual gifts of leaders, we look at giving habits to check their generosity, we do all kinds of things investigating character.  But an important question is: do you want to hang out with them?

  • If it’s a small group leader, would you want to go to their house to hang out every single week?
  • If it’s an elder, is it someone you’d go on vacation with?
  • If it’s a staff member, do you want to be around them all day and eat lunch with them?

Just for fun, here’s my favorite bad leader:

The best hiring advice I ever received was from Kyle Idleman.  He said, “Carl, hire people who, when you pull into the parking lot and see their car, you think, ‘I’m so glad I get to work with him/her today!’”

Why would I put a leader in place to be in a 4 hour meeting with them debating finances, buildings and vision if I wouldn’t even want to go skiing with them?

The stakes of leadership are too high to do this thing with people we don’t click with.  I’m not talking about excluding people who are capable and qualified.  I’m just saying that if I’m going to be in the trenches with someone, it better be someone I get along with!

And don’t think this is just about staffing.  Wisdom says you’ve got to have chemistry with volunteers as well.  In fact, you need to be willing to fire volunteers for the sake of the team.  I know conventional practice is that you take free labor however you can get it.  But if anyone—staff, volunteer, visitor, Christian or nonChristian—is destroying the unity or preventing others from accomplishing the vision, they’ve gotta go.  Isn’t this what Jesus says to the rich young ruler?  He wanted to be one of Jesus’ crew, to follow him around.  But Jesus could only accept people who were sold out to the cause.  So he said, “First sell everything and then come follow me.”  But he wouldn’t do it, so Jesus wouldn’t take him.

This also means you find ways to develop greater chemistry with your team.  Go on vacation together.  Have “Staff Fun Days”.  Go out to lunch…and don’t let yourselves talk about church one time.  Laugh together.  Create inside jokes.

Then, when the busy or difficult times hit, it’s not just business transactions that need to be made.  It’s getting in the trenches with those you love and working together to take ground for God’s kingdom.

When have you seen chemistry (or the lack thereof) show up on your team?

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