leadership and theology pt.1

Last weekend I preached a message about why here at Epic we've eschewed a lot of top heavy leadership teams, drawing on 1 Samuel 8. I got a lot of feedback about it, but by far the best was the wonderful note I received on Monday. The author has graciou
sly agreed to let me post the e-mail interactions for everyone. I'll post my response in a bit. Let me say that if you have questions or disagreements with folk, this is a great demonstration of how to talk about them. Have a look:
Dear Erin:
I realize that I really don't take the time to tell you that I appreciate your sermons, so I just wanted to say thanks for your insight every week. Last week, Kevin asked the question, What is the best thing you got from Epic in 2008? For me, it's been inspiration and the challenge of the message I hear every week. Since a challenge is, by definition, a struggle, it's not always pleasant for me. But I have found myself time and time again going back to the truths I've learned from the sermons and applying it to my life.

Having said that, I didn't agree with the sermon today. The problem for me was that I place a high value on good leadership and training effective leaders (probably because I've had some really bad bosses at work, and it makes me appreciate the leaders that actually make me enjoy my job). Though from the sermon today, it seemed that in Epic's being "a different type of community," we're looking down on the structure good leadership brings. I thought the sermon brought out two great main points: 1) Let God be your leader (Don't glorify the leaders at church.) and 2) The issue of personal responsibility, or that no one else is responsible for your spiritual growth but yourself (so don't expect someone in a role of authority to tell you what to think).

I understand that as humans, we tend to idolize people in roles of authority, but the sermon seemed one-sided in that leadership leads to power-hungry people and idolatry. Leadership to me is more about learning to inspire people, mediating and seeing in them what they may not see in themselves, more than it is about authority, power and control. I strive to be a better leader because good leadership is necessary for anything to run functionally. A good leader coordinates projects, encourages people to do what they do best, spots weaknesses and helps accomplish great things. Why else does a sports team need a coach? Or does a company change management when it's trying to change its direction? Why else would we need conflict managers and HR people to mediate and work out differences between co-workers and different personality types?

To negate the Amazon-book-taught leadership from Epic is in other words telling us that being in a leadership role too easily corrupts us, and instead, we should just do what we think is right every time and communicate more. But that, to give a simile, is like having a snake with four heads--it in itself breeds confusion, chaos and bad relationships when we don't have someone help navigate our irrational thoughts and perceptions. I think it's an ideal way to look at a community and people--that we are all equal and mature enough to be self-aware, spot problems and talk them out with the people we need to talk things out--but it isn't realistic.

And to be honest, I don't know the actual solution to this (i.e. what good leadership necessarily looks like) except that good leadership helps most things function better. In a church of volunteers, and in any ministry, there will no doubt be feelings hurt, people's pride stepped on, ideas not taken into account. A good leader, in my opinion, is the person who has the quality, communication and inspirational ability to make people who are involved want to stay involved. Yes, we are ultimately doing ministry to serve God, but when it comes to voluntary ministry, we need someone who listens, who shows discernment in his / her decisions and communicates where the team is going. I think this is what keeps a team healthy and holds a ministry together tightly. While we are all certainly responsible for our own spiritual lives, we still need leaders to move things forward. In any ministry, we still need vision and goals, and I think a good leader is one that can communicate that to the rest of the members on the team.

Let me know if that makes sense, or if you completely disagree. I'm writing this e-mail not to criticize, but to critique, as the Epic-style leadership seemed rather nebulous to me, and I'd like to hear more of what you have to say. Do you believe in any particular traits of leadership? And is there a way that we teach these at Epic? I'd like to know more clearly what value we place on leadership and if it is a value that I can learn at Epic or if it's something that I'll need to scour John Maxwell and other books on Amazon for.

And again, I always find the sermons challenging, so let this e-mail be a testament to that. Thanks Erin, and hope you have a good week.


  1. I hate spam! That's my wickedness of the day. I sent you an email yesterday on this entry - let me know your thoughts!

  2. I hit you back big fella' !


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