What is the difference between a School of Business and a School of Divinity?
These are completely different studies – but what about a course with the same title, like “Leadership”? How is leadership in a church different than in a non-religious organization? Organizational strategy and vision are a good example.
What does a church have in common with non-religious organization types? Daft states that every organization has a purpose (Daft, R. “Organization Theory and Design”.) Management determines the corporation’s purpose and they can adjust that purpose. However, God determines the church’s purpose, and God does not change the church’s purpose.
The purpose is related to the vision. In a corporation, management creates the vision: where is the organization in three or five years. How does management determine or adjust the vision for the organization? There are tools and techniques, such as SWOT, PESTEL, Five Forces, NOISE, and others. The starting point is the organization’s accomplishments.
However, the church’s vision does not originate in human accomplishments (or the lack thereof, due to sin). The church’s vision is what God’s vision for the church is. The church is not a building, but God’s children. God’s people are the body and Christ is the Head, therefore, the church follows the vision of the Head. In his Word, God shares the vision for his children and for how they function together as a church.
A church cannot determine its vision/mission based on its accomplishments or failures and mistakes. For a corporation that is the only option, but it is not an option for a church. Another issue is when leaders in non-religious organizations consult their stakeholders. Hunter explains that church leaders should not ask what the congregation wants or likes, but is to provide leadership on what the congregation needs based on Scripture. Leadership is not the same as management (James C. Hunter, The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle.)
SHARING THE VISION
In every organization, it is crucial that the leadership “paints a clear picture of the vision” for people to understand and to get behind. (John C. Maxwell, Developing the Leader within you 2.0). If the vision is not clear, it is not the fault of the people, but the leadership. The people don’t create and communicate the vision, but the leadership does. However, in the church, God’s paints his vision in his Word. This biblical vision needs to be understood, absorbed, demonstrated and explained by the leadership.
Is this a daunting task for church leaders? I don’t think so. God provided his vision in his Word and the church members can read the Bible. God’s purpose for people is to glorify Him (Shorter Westminster Catechism, Q1.) God created people in His image so that He can have a relationship with them. God rejoices in the people he created (Zephaniah 3:17.) The Great Commandment starts with:
“Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”(Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37)
Loving God is evident in serving Him, in worshiping Him. God wants our worship: it should please Him. Bredenhof’s book title says: “Aiming to Please” or Deddens: “Where everything points to Him,” giving direction not only for the Sunday worship service, but our lives of worship (Romans 12:1.)
The Great Commandment also reveals a second part of God’s vision: that we love our neighbour as ourselves. We see this part become very real in the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” Sharing the good news of the Gospel and changing people’s hearts results in more worship to God, and more joy for Him. As God’s children our mouth speaks what our heart is full of (Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45.)
How are we doing as a church? Managers of corporations measure how the vision is reached. They measure success in, e.g., numbers, in dollars, in market penetration, awareness, or brand recognition. Therefore, they can adjust their strategies as needed.
Churches don’t measure results in this way
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth”1 Corinthians 3:6
In Isaiah 55 God says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways.” We should not measure if we can’t understand how God measures. Yet, the same chapter says: “My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Not taking control ourselves requires our faith, trust, obedience, and no worries about “our” church.
Can churches not measure anything? The New Testament talks about something that grows and is personal: the fruit of the Spirit. Related to the personal formation, but also to church life. The fruit of the Spirit is recognizable.
We live in complex and confusing times. Many churches are treated like a business to fix “issues.” The church as intended by God does not fit in anymore. People coming into the church might be uncomfortable. The God’s Word and the songs of the church might be foreign.
However, we should never lose our vision on God’s vision. Now more than ever before, we need spiritual leaders that understand, reproduce, and lead under God’s vision. Our numbers might not grow, our culture may not understand our church or how we worship, but we may encourage one another with Jesus’ promise:
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”Matthew 28:20