Saturday, July 16, 2011

5 questions

1. Is it possible, as a flawed human, to run a big and successful ministry without being (or at least, appearing to be) somewhat autocratic in your leadership style?

2. Is it possible, as a flawed human, to run a big and successful ministry and not feel some pride in your (!) achievements?

3. Is it possible, as a flawed human, to run a big and successful ministry and humbly receive rebuke from your underlings?

4. Is it possible for a denomination to grow quite quickly out of a single church and for the necessary ecclesiastical structures to grow fast enough with it to keep all the checks and balances adequately in place?

5. Is there a mega church out there that unifies its members around principles rather than practice? Or is spelt out, directive application, something that draws people in the thousands?


  1. I'd say that it's possible to say 'yes' to no. 3.

  2. hmmmnnn. I know that Billy Graham had an itinerant ministry and not a settled pastorate, but I'm finding it hard to say anything other than 'yes' to all five points based on his example.

    If it really is 'no' to all five, then I think we've replaced 'only those with big successful ministries are godly/close to God' with 'only those who don't have big successful ministries are godly/close to God'. I'm not sure either is an improvement on the other.

    Failure, success, and great success (inverted commas around all three) bring their own tests of godliness, they don't force the results of those tests.

  3. 'all five' in the start of the second paragraph in the above comment should have been 'any of the five'. Godliness and good order is possible with great numerical growth in a single ministry. None of the five have to be lost.

    If that's not the case, we'd have to pray something like, "God please don't grow this ministry very much, just a bit is enough."

  4. Hi Mark.
    I think you misunderstand my purpose here. I've got nothing against big churches.

    re #1 - I don't think being towards the autocratic end of the spectrum = ungodliness.

    re #2 - I think pride is going to be a big temptation that big church ministers will need to keep on repenting of.

    re #3 - I think receiving rebuke from your juniors is somewhat unnatural. So systems will need to be in place whereby the senior minister of a big ministry can be rebuked. This may involve an outside board that people can go to.

    re #4 - Ecclesiastical structures keeping up with church growth. I think this will always be a challenge and we should expect mistakes to be made (and repented of) along the way.

    re #5 - don't worry about this one!

    Of course I'm thinking here about the yucky SGM mess that's been all over the internet this week. My point is that the sins of the man in question (he's been accused of #1,2, and 3) aren't all that surprising.

    If, to run a church that size you need to be more autocrat than democrat, it is no good enjoying the growth you see then blaming the minister for his more autocratic leadership style.

    I think the real problem lying beneath the 600 page critique/slander (don't know, haven't read it) of this man is probably that people felt there was no court of appeal to take their grievances. There was no process or accountability. No one further up the food chain could rebuke the minister. This is an issue of church governance that needs to be addressed.

  5. Hi Simone,

    Well, I interpreted whether what you were describing was good, neutral, or bad, and from that gave my answer. I'm not sure I was necessarily saying that you thought the things were bad.

    I think we agree on a lot here, but, my extra thoughts on #1-5 after reading yours:

    #1 I agree with you, but I think most people I've met think that autocratic pastors are, at best, like war - not necessarily sin, but only exist in a fallen world. The ideal lies elsewhere.

    #2 Agree, but think that pride is a problem wherever you are on the success spectrum, it'll just take different forms. Lack of success doesn't make true humility any easier.

    #3 Really not so sure on this. I think the way a person with authority rebukes someone under the authority will be quite different from how someone under that authority rebukes someone over them. But "somewhat unnatural" seems a bit strong to me. I think systems can help as well, but I think it is possible to be the senior guy and be open to rebukes by those you lead.

    #4 I agree.

    As far as the concrete, my impression is that the man in question hasn't just been accused of 1-3, but also of being deceptive in his dealings with people. That ups the ante out of just leadership styles IMO. It changes the color of the charges/concerns from one of style, to one of godliness.

    Apart from that I basically agree with your second last two paragraphs. Although I think that church governance is not a silver bullet either. A hard hearted person won't hear a rebuke from anyone, even the court of appeal. They will always be able to impugn motives or the like. The fact that the man in question has, I understand, stepped down before any investigation has been done for self-examination is a big thing in his favor in my opinion. That's a big thing to do, especially when it means stepping out of a large ministry that has grown up around you. Even if the other things turn out to be right, that needs recognition as well.