Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Leadership matters?

Written by: on November 17, 2016

This is an anthology of 26 essays which brings together scholars from fields as diverse as psychology, sociology, economics, and history to take stock of what we know about leadership, and to consider areas for future research. The angle of this colloquium is to champion and outline academic research into leadership, as opposed to the breadth of popular material on the subject.

The material is organized within five sections, each of which has a core assumption or theme.

Section one: The impact of leadership

Section two: The theory of leadership: personal attributes, functions and relationships

Section three: The variability of leadership: what’s core and contingent

Section four: The practice of leadership

Section five: The development of leaders


As church leaders and pastors, it is interesting to read and consider secular leadership material of this kind, primarily from the business sector. Reflecting on the cult of leadership and its rise in the church over recent decades, Eugene Peterson says the following:

“There’s a lot of talk about leadership in the Christian church today: how to be a strong leader. I think a lot of that talk is misguided, taking its cues from the worlds of sports and big business. In those areas, a leader is someone who comes in and gets things done. That’s appropriate in almost every other area of life—but not for pastors in the church. As pastors, we’re not trying to get something done. We’re not looking at people and thinking about what we can convince them to do. That’s not the goal. As pastors, we’re trying to pay attention to what’s going on now, right here—right now. We’re trying to pay attention to what God is doing. And we’re trying to share that in the community. If we get that idea turned around and focus on getting things accomplished, then we turn ourselves into congregations that have bought into this sports-business model. That’s why so many pastors are depressed so much of the time. They try and try—and keep trying—to become these business-style leaders and they can’t make it work in the church.”[1]



Eugene Peterson’s voice is always a welcome counterbalance to the plethora of voices that promote and champion secular leadership models in the church.

Can we learn from big business and other sectors on how to be better church leaders? Hybels and many like him believe we can, and invite such leaders to speak at Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit on the latest insights from their various specialist fields. Their line of thought is that we should use the very best leadership thinking to enhance and further the kingdom of God and to build the church.

Reviewing some of the material from this colloquium, I think there are indeed some interesting insights and views that are helpful in a church leadership context and that can inform good practice and thinking.

As with most things that Peterson writes/says, however, I welcome his red flag and his caveats when it comes to overly enthusiastic adaptation of much of this material into a church context.




[1] Interview with Eugene Peterson: http://www.readthespirit.com/explore/eugene-peterson-has-a-message-for-pastors; accessed on 17.11.2016.

About the Author

Geoff Lee

7 responses to “Leadership matters?”

  1. Stu Cocanougher says:

    I appreciate you thoughts, Geoff. Our staff actually went to the Leadership Summit in Chicago many years ago, and we hosted the simulcast for several years (we no longer do this).

    Instead of a “red flag” (stop), I would raise a “yellow flag” (caution). In other words, I believe that may successful leaders have learned from mistakes. They are able to pass on what they have learned to others. I think that the knowledge and wisdom that they are sharing can be valuable to us as leaders.

    The “yellow flag” is raised because we belong to a different kind of Kingdom. If our “win” is different, then our methods might need to be different.

  2. Geoff, good, as always. I love Peterson. I once served with a pastor – one who very much bought into the secular ‘strong’ leadership model, that couldn’t stand him….. every time someone would bring up one of his books or use the Message translation, all he could say was – ‘he has this tiny, TINY church, what does that say about his leadership! What can he know!.
    I knew the first time he said that, we were probably not going to see eye to eye on a lot of issues!

    Your conclusion, though, I think is the correct one: we should mine this stuff for all the insight we can, but always with a discerning and (dare I say) critical eye – remembering the wisdom of God is foolishness to this world.

  3. Mary Walker says:

    Red flag or yellow flag, Geoff, I agree that churches should be careful about employing business styles of leadership in the church.
    This book actually contained some really good information about the effectiveness of various types of leadership. I really appreciated that some of the authors stressed that “Management” and “Leadership” are not synonymous. Is there something in that for Christian leaders?

  4. The statement “these business-style leaders and they can’t make it work in the church” Business leadership skills are needed when working with a staff. Your staff is affected by taxes, job performance evaluation, production, etc.
    Now it does not work with a congregation.
    I would keep both flags, red and yellow – and make it into a sermon.

  5. Geoff I do think there is a balance that can be stricken in our application of leadership theories and practices. Growth and development is at the heart of what makes a leader effective within the context that they serve. There is a saying that is commonly used “The more you know, the more you grow”. I would add that is not just being knowledgeable that provides growth but it is how we discern how to apply the knowledge we received that allows for real growth to take place.

  6. Interesting concept Geoff on how pastors are using an inadequate model for leadership, thus leading to depression. That’s given me something to chew on as I work with several depressed pastors as clients.
    The term “Servant Leaders” comes to mind, which seems to be the big buzz word in business circles currently. It’s as if churches and businesses have switched leadership models. Pastors are operating like CEO’s and CEO’s are trying to operate with more humility and service. Either case, also an interesting point about pastors needing to listen to what God is doing and follow Him as their ultimate leader or CEO. Course, I think this principle would apply beautifully to every leader and person. Thanks Geoff for your thoughts.

  7. Katy Lines says:

    I appreciate your caution and resonate with the challenge given by Peterson. This is the same guy who suggests that the pastor’s question should be “Who are these particular people, and how can I be with them in such as way that they can become what God is making them?” (The Contemplative Pastor, 4). This subversive suggestion goes against much leadership theory, but also appears to fit with the idea of transformative leadership.

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