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August 24, 2005



P.S. I just finished reading Adam Cleaveland's blog about the Green Day concert he went to and an amazing concert experience that relates to leadership development.

Check out the story at

Wes Roberts

Amen! Thanks for your courage. I sincerely thank God for you!!

Tom Smith

Great post JR,

I'll post some thoughts on the subject ...


If the leaders of tomorrow are allowed to get away with sub-par work today because they are just "developing", where do you draw the line? How long do they get to work before they have to be excellent?

The leaders of the church are not "ordinary people", and there is no way to get around that. When someone who appears ordinary becomes a leader or is thrust into the spotlight it serves as a notice that this person wasn't ordinary after all. If ordinary people became great leaders, everyone would be a leader. God can use whomever he wishes to become a leader, true, but God isn't going to send the person unequipped. He or she will be able to do excellent work.

In this post there is also the tacit assumption that ordinary people are not capable of doing excellent work. Most people rise to meet whatever expectations are set on them. There is no motivation to succeed if they are told, "Come and help us serve. Don't worry, you don't have to do a good job. We know you're just ordinary."

Tom Smith

Hey JimDandy,

You make some interesting points, although I think that you're not totally catching what JR's saying. JR is not equating ordinary with sloppy. His post is not in favor of sloth...

I think the value of excellence have drifted to be closer to professionalism than it should be. Take for example the musicians in a lot of churches. Professional musicians are paid to play every weekend while some of the ‘ordinary musician’ folk sit in the pew and aren't developed. Excellence then negates development and the reason for that is that churches want to look as professional and slick as possible.

The excellence dilemma widens the difference between professional and non-professional.

Let's take the gift of teaching as an example. When the main teacher of a congregation falls ill and they fly in the 'excellent' out-of-state teacher, how does that develop and encourage the teachers that are currently in the community?
Or a leader that’s leaving and then a huge interview process starts to search for someone from another congregation – all of these practices negate development.

You ask "How long do they get to work before they have to be excellent?" I think Jesus and his disciples (especially Peter) would make a great study.
No leader that I've ever known is a superstar, all of them have been ordinary people empowered by God. God is the main attraction in these leaders’ lives. They are just broken jars of clay … I think in our infatuation with business models we've turned the gift of leadership into an idol.

The problem with the whole excellence paradigm is that people compare themselves with professional Christians and then feel like they'll never be able to 'get there'. I think this is one of the main reasons for the inactivity of so many Christians. Your thoughts?

John T

Excellence can still be pursued in the midst of leader development. It doesn;t have to be one or the other.We should not do something that sucks, but we should pursue something that is wonderful but bringing other people along. I think it can be a both/and not an either/or.

Think of the person who looked at you and said "I think you should try this." The first time you tried it you probably didn;t come off great...but that's okay..it got you on the process of where you are today.

Who can we look at and have them participate now so that they grow in their leadership.

Nobody "arrives" (despite what they think). We are on a journey, in a process together...and part of that process is passing the baton to other people who are younger and who can lead the next generation.

Good thought-filled post.

Michael Lee

good god, he's cracked the code! he figured out that blogging is conversational, not expository! quick everyone, back to the bat-cave!

John Peebles

Just thought I'd point out to Michael Lee that the word "expository" is completely decoupled from the concept of conversation. Expository means to expose something in written form - whether or not there's conversation about that is irrelevant.


Back to the post on sloppy leadership, I've found that the young leaders I've seen develop require:
1. relationship - spend time with me
2. honesty - let's talk about real life
3. opportunity - let me do it, help with church politics
4. trust - trust me to do it well
5. input and guidance - tell me what i did right, what i didn't do well (10 to 1 ratio, good to bad)
6. release - at some point I will leave
7. welcome me back - on the other hand never let me go, i want to still be your friend
8. diversity - don't make me like you, i'm my own person
In the last 2 years, we've developed over 10 young leaders and are seeing them through. My role is to decrease while they flourish and to appear in intentional ways, through relationships, meetings, dinner, coffee, concerts, workshops and most of all an atmosphere that this is your church, and I as a 13 year veteran pastor, am here to help you find your place in the Kingdom of God.

Michael Lee

Sorry about that, Peebles. I keep forgetting that not everyone is adept at gleening meaning from context.

Tom Smith, your point about churches hiring pro musicians is right on. I lived in that world for a long time, and made my living playing the rounds here in Orange County. My thoughts on it are pretty well summed up here:

"An Open Letter to Music Pastors"

John Peebles

No problem Mike. I'm actually very familiar with context, which is why I got that you really meant "glean" (to gather) instead of "gleen" (to shine).

Words mean things.



I don't think you know this, but there are times when you, your sermons, or the verses you use track with what God and His Word are saying and challenging me on. When I asked to meet you last week this is one of the issues I wanted to talk about: leadership.

A couple quick observations. You’re absolutely tight, Those finger-wagging leaders are probably not developing or training leaders. They feel uncomfortable around younger people. I have been in church for over 10 years and I don’t think I have had any significant involvement with or been developed by a leader. In fact it has been quite the opposite, I think they feel uncomfortable around me (and others). Huh? What do you say to a senior leader you’ve known for over 10 years who says "Doug, you said something over a year ago I didn’t like …"? I reminded him of Matt 18:15-18 and he replied that it was too hard of a verse. Huh? I thought of the lost opportunity for him to build into my life, for me to learn, or maybe to communicate between generations … or become excellent. (He wants a standard of excellence but wasn’t willing to help me meet it?) Later, after a sermon on reconciliation, I went up to him after a service and asked him, "Do you think this applies to us?" He said, "I could see you during the service and thought of you." Huh? I have to be careful here, because we forgave each other, but sometimes I wonder over what? Also, he is the leader, why did I have to approach him? (PS: I can give you a lot more examples, but I am pondering and applying Ecclesiastes 10:4, 20) I have resolved in my mind that I will never have a father, step-father, pastor (except you and my discipler), elder, leader who will ever see any value (excellence?) in me or love me. It has been freeing, because I have room to maneuver to do the things I know God wants me to do and become. (Recently, a woman in our CGroup came up to Faye and I and expressed appreciation for the example we set as a couple.)

About excellence. Sometimes, I think that and other concepts ruin ministries because they don’t apply the Gospel; they follow the basic principles of this world, that sounded good, but were hollow and deceptive and did not follow Christ. The Navigators and other ministries were nearly ruined by things like Management By Objectives (MBO) in the 1980s. It became a law that saw people as numbers, where leaders reported numbers, numbers contacted, up through the chain of command. I think things like MBO, TQM, CI, and Quality have a lot of good things in them, but there are tendencies (Type A, ENTJs, etc.) in people that turn them bad. In the Nav group I was in, I met many people who were challenged by a standard of excellence and found lacking. They just wanted someone to meet them where they were at and help them, and I did that. For the Nav example, Alan Andrews, President, has been trying to "soften" the Navs up and used Is 61 to remind them of the mission, but also to treat people as people. People are not numbers, projects, etc. and God does not expect them to be. (The military goes through the same thing. They set a standard and quite frankly no one person can live up to it. Because of pressures, you are faced with a couple organizational or individual options: hide your deficiencies or make it appear like everything is well. This is how the USAF Academy sex scandal started, no one wanted to deal with it so they hid it. You also end up with leaders complaining about the younger generation and people. Another example, an Army lieutenant Colonel was just busted to growing Marijuana, an Air Force Major General was busted for harassing women … How did these people reach a standard of excellence while actually not meeting that standard? The Marines fly against this example because they set a standard and help each other meet it …)

Why is excellence important? I can probably rattle off 20 passages supporting excellence, but what really does it have to do with the Gospel? Excellence can become like the law and can be used to exclude people. Ever since the WVC vision came out, I have been camping out on concepts like hard work (1 Cor 15:10), going from unwise to wise (Eph 5:15-20), and participating in the divine nature in increasing measure (2 Pet 1:4-8). Lately, I have been thinking that the Gospel is truly God reaching out to people wherever they are at, believing or unbelieving, and drawing them closer to God and being transformed. This includes leaders, followers, lost, saved, etc. . I want to be like Jesus and meet them where they are at with love . Phil 1:1-6 . holding out the word of truth.

Have I reached excellence? I don't think so, but I think I am going from unwise to wise. From that first day I reached out to God, it has been my goal to seek Him and the Bible has been critical to that. It has changed my life with respect to purity, becoming a husband and father, as a worker, etc. It has also come with a price: rejection, misunderstanding, etc. Example, I have been doing military duty this week working for a Major General running his staff of 200. They have a lot of challenges, people are frustrated, etc. Full Colonels have been complaining about excellence from the staff. I have resolved to wade into this with the excellence of grace and meet the leaders and followers where they are at, even to the point of allowing others to yell at me or judge me. I am encouraging leaders to understand what the staff is going through and helping them, and the staff to over look the pressure and focus on improving and getting the job done a little better.

It is interesting watching leadership want excellence but not know how to get there. My closest friend met an Elder from Willow Creek, who said they were struggling with this issue. They way he said it was "Why can't we get more people involved, to serve, etc.?" My question back "What have you personally done to develop a person into a servant?" When a person accepts Christ, they just don't turn into a servant, become excellent. They have to be discipled, told the basics, shown how to grow, etc. The very question he asks is a betrayal of the Gospel he professes. He wants excellence and does not know how to get there. The standard and pursuit of excellence whas become a way to divide people into the keepers of excellence and everybody else. Without judging him, I would reach out to him with my example, I have been ready to serve since struggling over Phil 2, but very few take me up on it. I don’t meet the standard of excellence and you know what? That’s fine with me. "Therefore, there is now no condemnation (for not meeting the standard of excellence) for those who are in Christ ..."

Final Point: Keep your powder dry ...




Biblical view: To help keep followership and leadership in the right perspective, I look at a couple things:

a. Alot of people camp out on the fact that Joseph was prideful to explain him being in the pit and going thru God's Egyptian training program. But do you think God's motivation might have also incuded the fact that the entire family was disfunctional and his father wasn't doing a very good job?

b. What does it say about Israel's development of people, when Saul gets rejected by God and God finds his replacement in an obscure family with a son they even forgot about (and didn't value). One of my favorite stories is David v. Goliath. At the beginning it says the Philistines came for war and Israel came and camped. (cr: evangelism?) Saul keeps adding to the bribe to get one guy to meet Goliath. (military leadrship? confusion? Depending on their own strength? ...) I really like the absurd scene of Saul putting his armor (style, leadership technique, etc.) on David and David saying he is going out with God and the things he knows he has the ability to do (5 stones - "If I miss a couple times, I can run around and get him by the fifth stone.)

c. Finally, Jeremiah (and Daniel, Nehemiah) shows the state of leadership in Judah before the exile. Jer 5:1 - God asks Jeremiah to find one man that follows Him. Jer 35 - Jeremiah finds a familiy that saw how bad the leadership was in Jerusalem and became nomads to stay away.

My back channel thought is God admonishing Aaron and Miraim for saying anything bad about Moses, His man/anointed .... I have have tried to increasingly not say or think anything bad about leadership (Ecc 10:4,20). It is really flying without a net to trust God and keep your mouth shut, despite seeing all these things, and that He will have a relationship with me, restore me to my original purpose, despite all these things. It's been 20 years and I still don't understand it ...




Thanks for what you do. Your actions communicate a lot to a generation of younger leaders.

Way to go and thanks.

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