Is Leadership Worth It?
Recent figures value the US leadership development industry at nearly $14 billion. The Church Growth Movement, a corollary movement in the arena of church culture, has also seen an explosion in influence over the past six decades. While statistical measurements of monetary output and numerical growth point to signs of success within the leadership space and church culture, a more in-depth probe reveals conflicting results. According to the Center for Creative Leadership, an estimated 38–50 percent of executives fail within eighteen months of accepting their positions. Most statistical data also show a decline or plateau in church growth. The church is particularly failing to reach Millennials and Post-Millennials (Generation Z, or Gen Z) as many “drop out of church between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two.” For me, one of the many questions that arise from this data, has leadership failed, or have we been looking at it in the wrong way, particularly in the church? Enter in The Theology of Leadership Journal.
The Theology of Leadership Journal, edited by Russell L. Huizing, Ph.D., as hinted at in the title of the journal, desires to bring in a distinctly Christian understanding of leadership that starts from a framework of the Godhead, not one that simply adds Christian language to established leadership theory. Thus one way they try and answer the above question is to look at leadership from a theological perspective rather than strictly a pragmatic one. Reading through the articles in volume one brought a refreshing take on leadership principles ranging from strategic planning, servant leadership, workplace calling, and power leadership. I particularly enjoyed the article Paul the Team Leader: Strategic Planning, Intragroup Conflict, and Team Formation by Singfiel.
As a one who identifies with the Pentecostal movement “planning” while spelled with more than four letters might as well be considered a “four-letter-word” when it comes to leadership and church. Singfiel writes, “Christian leaders today sometimes approach planning apologetically as though it is a necessary evil. In some quarters, nothing is done without an explicit word from the Lord or other inspiration. Planning is sometimes viewed as something borrowed from the business world and, therefore, suspect.” I can confidently say, many in the Pentecostal/Charismatic church as those Christian leaders Singfiel refers too. On the one hand, I would agree that there is an overload of business techniques that have not only influenced Christian leaders but are the foundation for their leadership. One such example is Servant Leadership.
In “Beyond Servant Leadership,” Jack Niewold challenges the secular roots of the servant-leadership model and warns from a theological perspective that its Christian application “is reflective of a heterodox and distorted Christology. While the theme of servanthood is evident in the Bible, church leadership may need to revisit its standing as an inherently Christian leadership model. Therefore, on the other hand, if we start from a theological perspective and can remain theological accurate. We can then introduce/apply modern leadership insight. Pentecostal leaders (and all leaders) should not be hesitant to exercise said leadership principles. In his exegesis of two different accounts in Acts, as it relates to planning, Singfiel concludes, “sometimes, sanctified human agency seems in the forefront while other times God actively intervenes”, to me, this speaks to Spirit-led leadership as being embodied, not outer-body. Meaning God uses all of who we are to lead us, not just divine (non-human) acts to direct us.
As I continue to research Paracletic Spirit-embodied leadership. One question that is coming to mind is, whether it is possible to develop a model of leadership for the Pentecostal/Charismatic community. This question is essential because of the diversity of expression within the movement.
 Bersin & Associates, “Bersin and Associates Research Shows U.S. Leadership Development Spending Surges 14 Percent to an Estimated $13.6 Billion in 2012,” PR Newswire, July 16, 2012, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/bersin–associates-research-shows-us-leadership-development-spending-surges-14-percent-to-an-estimated-136-billion-in-2012-162573886.html.
 Thom S. Rainer, The Book of Church Growth: History, Theology, and Principles (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1998), 12, ProQuest Ebook Central.
 Douglas Riddle, “Executive Integration: Equipping Transitioning Leaders for Success,” Center for Creative Leadership, 2016, 1, https://www.ccl.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/ExecutiveIntegration.pdf.
 Thom S. Rainer and Sam S. Rainer III, Essential Church?: Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts
(Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 2.
 “Vol 1 No 1 (2018): Theology of Leadership Journal.” Vol 1 No 1 (2018) | Theology of Leadership Journal, n.d, 3. http://theologyofleadership.com/index.php/tlj/issue/view/v1i1.
 Singfiel, Paul the Team Leader: Strategic Planning, Intragroup Conflict, and Team Formation, (Vol 1 No 1, Theology of Leadership Journal, 2018), 10.
 Jack Niewold, “Beyond Servant Leadership,” Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership 1, no. 2 (Summer 2007): 118, https://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/jbpl/vol1no2/JBPLVol1No2_Niewold.pdf.
,” Singfiel, Paul the Team Leader: Strategic Planning, Intragroup Conflict, and Team Formation, 17.
10 responses to “Is Leadership Worth It?”
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Hey Mario, thank you for your thoughts on this. That’s always the tension, isn’t it: Where does human agency begin/end where Divine agency ends/begins when it comes to leadership. It’s like being in the world, but not of it. It’s tough.
My default reaction to this is it’s both. But it’s easier said than done of course. I know many in the church seem to want to always hear audibly from the Lord or be granted signs before they act. We forget that God has given us wisdom, gifts, etc. to enact his will (2 Pet. 1:3). And yet there is this notion that we also need to continually seek and depend on our Lord for guidance and basic needs.
I’d love to see more of what you come up with in your research.
Yes, I think it’s both/and with an openness to God’s leading at all times. I was always like to tell people, God can close a door just as well as open a door. This has helped me “get off” my knees and start walking after him more.
Great post and a great read. You ask the question, “Is it is possible to develop a model of leadership for the Pentecostal/Charismatic community. This question is essential because of the diversity of expression within the movement.” Perhaps, instead of a model, you might consider a construct. Including both/and (rather than either/or) and great flexibility (perhaps think springs instead of bricks). You are a gifted young leader and emerging scholar within the Pentecostal/Charismatic community. I bless your gifts, your research, and your passion. I look forward to your findings and conclusions.
Harry thank you for your words as they actually confirm a direction I was contemplating. I’m thinking more “framework” here are the building materials, rather than here is the “house” make one just like it in your context.
Thanks, Mario. This is a critical topic for the Pentecostal/Charismatic stream. Often I hear the influence of our Spirit led theologies yet our practices align more to human agency and pragmatic leadership lessons. The dichotomy is causing confusion in those the leaders lead. Your research is going to be very helpful and hopefully, show the tension can inform rather than direct.
Thanks Tammy. I hope it will help as much as it’s helping me!
Thank you for your post, Mario. I think you have rightly identified this as a tension in the Pentecostal/Charismatic church. From my perspective, I often worry that we have forsaken Spirit-led leadership for structures and constructs designed to turn profit in the business sector. I have many of my own opinions here, but that is perhaps a conversation for Oxford. 🙂
You are right…the tension is there, and we must find a path forward. I look forward to hearing more as you lean into your research.
Yes let’s talk in Oxford for sure!!!
Good article to choose for your context, Mario. Niewold’s personal leadership leanings are clarified if you read his very long blog review of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. The blog post is titled Les Miserables: A Stern Providence.
Perhaps, like you, I see a growing conflict between theology, practice and spiritual experience. In part, from my own review of the Journals editorial, this conflict comes from not defining our terms clearly as a leaders. Our theology (study of God), and the actual living of our lives as creatures bearing God’s image, are different things. Which informs which? You could argue, both, but in leadership one must have primacy. Harry raises a good question, how do we determine the enmeshment of human and divine agency? For me, divine agency is already known through our theology – we know the nature of God expressed more fully in Christ. Thus we know the call of Christ upon each sovereign life to live in intimate relationship with God the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, in Pentecostal circles there seems to a tension between being “free image bearing agents” and “automatons of the Holy Spirit”. How does a pentecost leader make leadership decisions in a context where many ears can muddy divine waters? For me at least, I go back to my primary theology; will my leadership align with the nature, image and incarnation of God, or not? Our congregational polity will of course make a difference. Baptist leaders must listen the voice of the people. Episcopal and Pentecostal churches with an Apostolic structure, may not. I would argue that both must have their theology as the primary determiner. What do you think?
Mario, I loved how you were able to incorporate what you read into your research. I like what you said about planning, and the challenges of leadership within the Pentecostal church. However, imagine the flip side where it is all planning and business making decisions in the church, and not enough giving attention to the Holy Spirit. We have to find balance in the church, no matter the denomination.