What do Aunt Bee, Ray Lewis and Rite-Aid have in common?
I love Super Bowl week and most of us look forward to the game. Yet we have to wade through the media hoopla, the hundreds of interviews, the season recaps and the predictions of which team will win. This year something made me uneasy about the build-up to the big game. I know some of you won’t like this but I cringe every time Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens opens his mouth. For those who don’t know him, he had a huge off the field incident in the past but now seems to be looked up too by many. I will leave the incident alone but he just rubs me the wrong way. Am I judgmental? Am I cynical? Or am I tired of a phenomenon I see played out endlessly in our culture?
I will get back to that in a moment, the other day I was watching the Andy Griffith Show (in my opinion still the best television has ever offered). In this episode Aunt Bee and a few others fell for the words of a slick salesman who was pedaling an “Elixir” that was sure to cure whatever ails you. Of course later it was determined the elixir was just whiskey and it sure did make you feel better but only temporarily. The salesman knew how to motivate, how to sell his product and how to connect with people. His words were smooth and quite a few bought it hook line and sinker.
A whole lot of people still buy it hook line and sinker. To me it sure looks like too many people have and always will fall for a great speaker, a master motivator and by our cultures definition a “leader”. Some people possess certain motivating skills and at the same time have a good heart that guides them. Others have these “leadership” skills but nothing to back it up or even worse, they aren’t selling you what they say they are selling you. Adolf Hitler in his day was said to be a great motivator, a dynamic communicator and a gentleman if you got to know him. I think we have a different perspective now. The world has and I guess always will fall for a person with passion and drive even if the motives are questionable.
You would think the church world would know better wouldn’t you?
I’m afraid (and again this is just according to me) not only does the church fall for this “leadership” model, we reward it. We build ministries around it, we write books on how to speak with this passion, how to motivate and how to close the deal spiritually speaking. We use business techniques and write some more books on How to build a church, how to change the direction of a church, how to fix a church etc… God have mercy on us.
Do a Google search for books on (Christian Leadership) and then a separate search on (Christian Discipleship). The so called leadership books outnumber the discipleship books four to one. Now a word search in the Bible reveals (depending on the translations) disciple is mentioned 260 times, leadership 7 times.
Imagine for just a second if Jesus held a “Church Leadership” conference, what would the breakout sessions be like?
· How to Wash Feet
· Arrive on a Donkey not a Stallion
· Forgiving, Yes You Have To
· Choose a Manger not a Mansion
· Want to Lead? Then Serve
· Choosing Last Place
Maybe a few others that would be uncomfortable to sit through.
Now look at these breakout titles from some “Church Leadership” conferences from last year.
· Creating a Vision-Centered Staff Culture
· How to Increase Giving Per Giving Unit
· Church Real Estate
· Management Skills
· Media and Public Relations
· How to Double Your Attendance Fast
Have you ever gone in Rite Aid (or any local pharmacy)?
Sure you have.
Have you noticed there are lines of people who are waiting for a cure or at least a treatment of their diseases? Yes
Have you noticed that the back of the store is in the business of treating diseases and the front of the store seems to be in the business of promoting them?
Cigarettes, Alcohol, Junk Food, you get the idea.
Too many modern churches do the same thing, we bring people in to cure the blatant sin problem. All while promoting shallow, self-serving, “gotta get my blessing” attitudes. Some churches and some “leaders” take advantage of the fact that deep inside we all need a savior. Unfortunately all too often we offer an elixir version of a “deny yourself” savior.
We have to quit worshipping “leadership”, seeking “blessings for ourselves” and give up our Americanized gospel that has us believing in dynamic speakers or professional motivators.
Discipleship is not and never will be what we call leadership.
So back to Ray Lewis, no matter how I would list his off the field activities it would seem judgmental. Yes, it is absolutely possible that he has asked forgiveness for anything he may have done. (By the way, I’m not comparing him to Hitler, I was just making a point.) It’s not for me to speculate but I believe he and others like him will continue to be promoted as “leaders” because for the most part they can get people excited with the way they speak.
Unfortunately some churches will continue to promote “leaders” simply because they motivate, they know how to increase the giving or make the attendance figures grow.
We need more disciples, less leaders.
We need less “church leadership” and more servant hood.
We need those who live correctly to be louder than those who just speak correctly.
Written by Tom Wise. Copyright © Finding Wonder 2013