It has been my longtime view that the reading diet, like the bodily diet, must be varied and healthy to receive the most benefit. For many years after entering the pastoral ministry I rarely read any books not having to do with preaching, theology, church ministry, “Christian Living,” and the occasional biography.
Of a missionary or famous evangelist.
It took many, many years before I again enjoyed fiction and books on history, contemporary crime, social issues, politics, or business. I had viewed them as so much waste of time.
I’m not advocating reading business books at the expense of scripture, or theology and pastoral ministry volume, nor is this a blanket recommendation for all business books. But, I find value in supplementing traditional ministry material with business volumes for these reasons.
Scripture provides very little in the way of church organization. Most would probably agree on pastors, deacons, elders (in one structure or another), and teachers, including the non-pastoral variety. We read of believers meeting from house-to-house in the New Testament, but not so much a structural Sunday School or small group ministry.
Anything beyond that basic framework is our best organizational effort for more effective ministry to those in our churches. Many churches have both Sunday School classes and departments with directors as well as teachers. Church leaders usually shepherd a lot of volunteers all of whom are part of the organization (structure) inside the organism (church).
Many business books deal with organizational structure. Insights from such can be applied without contradicting the Bible.
How to deal with adversarial people
Successful business leaders have to deal with adversarial people. Some of them have to deal with a lot of adversarial people. Sound familiar?
In Bryce Hoffman’s book American Icon, the story of Alan Mulally’s work as Ford Motor Company’s CEO is chronicled. Mulally arrived at Ford from Boeing to find a corporation divided into a lot of personal fiefdoms. Managers distrusted each other and many of the board members didn’t now just how many of the then-current leadership would make the cut. Many awaited the bloodletting at headquarters that was sure to come.
Instead of wielding an ax, Mulally chose to allow his vision to help existing leaders “self-select” to quit. As time wore on, several of them did. By allowing the vision and new direction of the company to force a personal decision for the managers, Mulally avoided having to fire them and most likely avoided a press nickname like the Butcher of Dearborn.
Sermon illustrations that connect
It’s important to remember most of our church members and other attendees live many of their waking hours in the workplace. They are familiar with the nuances and daily grind of corporate America (or England or Canada or Japan or wherever). This is one of the reasons Dilbert is such a popular comic strip. Scott Adams’ lampooning of business life rings true with a lot of people.
Jesus used this strategy often. In His parables he referenced business people, financial dealings, and the like. These familiar stories drove home truth to His listeners. Using a business story familiar to your hearers provides a hook upon which you can hang the biblical principle you are teaching. (It also demonstrates that you understand what’s going on in their world, not just in your study.)
Glimpses of teamwork or team dysfunction
To some pastors, good teamwork must seem like a unicorn—no one’s ever seen it. Stories of staff dysfunction are the subject of every pastors breakfast across the land. The larger the staff the greater the opportunity for things to go awry.
Books like Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team help diagnose team dynamics and team members. I have recommended this book to many leaders inside and outside churches. All agreed it was worth the time to read.
The value of sticking with it
The comments on Thom Rainer’s recent post are insightful. Several pastors mention how much better leading a church is after a long tenure.
I’m thankful to have had the privilege to be a long term pastor of a church that throughout its history had been a short term church. We just started our 20th year of service. We’ve had the awesome privilege to get to know our people.
I have pastored the same church now for 16 1/2 years. I have found that if you love your people, faithfully preach God’s word with passion, surround yourself with other good leaders and have a servants attitude that these things go a long way toward extending your pastorate. My experience is that it takes at least 4-5 years to truly become a pastor that is trusted with leading their church as the under shepherd that God calls us to be.
And Greg noted:
Now over 23 years, I am enjoying pastoring and preaching more than ever.
There are a plethora of similar stories in business. The leader who leads a company from dark days through a turnaround because he or she stuck with it can be an encouragement to pastors and other church leaders when throwing in the towel seems the most viable option.
Note: Most business books are written from a secular perspective by non-Christian authors. Some do have coarse language. Reading before recommending to others is advised.