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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Power, Creativity, Leadership, and the Spirit

Written by: on March 15, 2021

I’ve been spending a lot of time meditating and studying one of Cru’s seminal texts, Ephesians 5:18, as I review Simon Walker’s thoughts on leadership and power in Leading with Nothing to Lose. I humbly offer encouragement to how I see it shaping the Innovation department within my organization. I have been guilty of previously not paying much attention to the context of Ephesians 5. Preceding 5:18 and the call to be filled with the Spirit is a creative poem the early church most likely used as a baptismal hymn “Wake up, O sleeper…” (v. 14). Paul invites people to awaken from spiritual lethargy, walk in the revealing and transforming light, and experience the resurrection power in the present through being filled with the Spirit. And he does this with a poem – an expression of creativity. Then, just after the call to be filled with the Spirit Paul says, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs…” (v. 19). Another form of creative expression! The call to be filled with the Spirit is largely a fruit of responding to God’s creative redemption and marked with a similar generative expression. There is a dance, or a virtuous cycle, of being filled with the Spirit leading to creativity, and creativity posturing us to be more prone to seeking being filled with the Spirit.

Another mark of being filled with the Spirit is “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (v. 21). Through the recent discovery sessions around this topic, many Cru staff talked about tensions existing between “higher levels of leadership” and field staff. I began wondering, “What might that look like for these two groups to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ?” An image came almost immediately to my mind. For non-executive staff, I believe submitting means putting down their guns. While not ignoring the hurt and confusion of staff, it is time to move on from grudges and bitterness held from the reorganization. I imagine if everyone in the audience had a laser-sighted gun in their hands, the executives would be riddled with red dots. How damaging, hurtful, and impossible to lead when you are covered in laser sights just by stepping onto “the stage.” I want to be a part of helping staff put down their guns.

The text describes a mutual submission. I wouldn’t be so audacious as to judge the executive team’s hearts, but I have discovered a feeling of lack of trust from many staff. If Cru is to move forward in health there must be a real and felt trust from the executive team to allow staff to experiment with DNA-infused creative ideas and expressions. I perceive a vicious cycle of staff’s growing bitterness naturally causing a “tightening of the grip,” which in turn creates more bitterness. I believe a reimagined Innovation department can foster tangible ways to allow for trust with aligned experimentation.

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Simon P. Walker, The Undefended Leader (Carlise, UK, Piquant, 2010)

About the Author

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Shawn Cramer

6 responses to “Power, Creativity, Leadership, and the Spirit”

  1. mm Greg Reich says:

    Shawn,
    Reorganizations can create havoc. People grow comfortable with predictable organizational makeups. Sometimes upper level leaders assume everyone sees the need for reorganization the way they do. I remember when Enron pulled its $74 million dollar scandal. All energy stocks where instantly classified and junk stocks. The stock in the company I worked for dropped from $36 down to under $2. We kidded around whether we should buy stock or grab a burger for lunch. Though the company was not a christian company they understood the greatest asset any company has is the people. The company recovered quickly only because upper management visited every location casting a clear need for reorganization and gave solid steps for a recovery. They didn’t wear suits and act superior. They met us at our level walked among the hourly employees and listened to their concerns. Some even got their hands dirty. The employees knew they were ivory tower leaders, but for a moment they were just part of the crew. What was impressive is the reorganization never dislocated a single employee. During the recovery process every employee was allowed to ask questions and voice concerns. When a clear vision is cast and employees are given a voice recovery is possible. I wonder what would happen if the upper management of Cru took the time to walk among the crowd like Jesus did and relate to them on their levels listening to their concerns?

  2. mm Dylan Branson says:

    I’ve seen this playing out in my church as well. My church has had a history of distrust among the leadership with the congregation, which led to different splits throughout the year. Part of it is the leadership not having a unified vision. Part of it is refusing to acknowledge the past hurts. Part of it is a refusal to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, but rather a submission out of power and authority.

  3. mm Jer Swigart says:

    How unusual and meaningful and beautiful should the innovation department be the one that initiatives the work of interpersonal peacemaking within your org. With you in that space, I can imagine it happening. Restoration is a remarkable process of co-creation…so perhaps it’s quite fitting that it begin with you all.

  4. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    Trust is built through social capital. And when Jesus isn’t enough, then what? What are some of your innovative ideas for fostering trust between the Exec team and staff?? What has been done in the past? What has worked or not worked?

  5. mm John McLarty says:

    Your post tracks nicely with my post for this week. Social capital and trust, along with a leader’s willingness to value relationships as much as the results. It’s fascinating how the Scriptures tell us exactly what we need to know and do, and yet even Bible-believing, faithful followers of Jesus struggle to put it into practice. Cheesy trust exercises aside, what’s one tangible action step that might increase the social capital at Cru?

  6. mm Chris Pollock says:

    Trust is big.

    When trust is lost, it takes a lot, for some, to regain it. Super sacrifice. Openness to the problems can be prelude to a second-take at the table of trust. Then, vulnerability for vulnerability…

    Then, what does letting go of power look like? A tough one for those who have it. But, disarming at a table where there is hope for the restoration of trust.

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