Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Countering the Culture of Complacency

Diverse threads of my reading are coming together in a warning for boards of Christ-centered organizations. One thread is the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Metaxas in which we see the tragic results of complacency in the Christian church during the rise of the Hitler. Another thread is the Association of Governing Boards magazine for boards of colleges and universities with a feature article warning trustees about breathing a sigh of relief and relaxing after weathering the recent financial crisis. Still another is an analysis of such cataclysmic events as the Egyptian revolt, the BP oil spill, and the loss of the Columbia space shuttle. In each case, a culture of complacency contributed to the failure to see the coming crisis.

Boards of Christ-centered organizations have had it good for a long time. We have counted on economic prosperity, evangelical clout, political favor, and traditional values to support and strengthen our ministries. But, to assume that they will go on forever is the trap door into a culture of complacency. Perhaps, we need an old-fashioned dose of “WOT’S UP” in one of our board meetings asking, not just about our internal Strengths and Weaknesses, but also about the external Threats and Opportunities of which we must be aware. The exercise is sure to shake up our assumptions and counter the ever-lurking culture of complacency.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Is Your Business Plan Biblical?

To be in vogue, Christ-centered organizations must have a credible business plan. This is a far cry from the times when our ministries flew by faith and the seat of our pants. What have we gained? As a guy who prizes rational planning and outcomes, the business plan makes sense. It is rational, strategic, and productive. But what have we lost? When I hear about core values, organizational brands, consumer tastes, market share, competitive advantage, and measurable success, I cannot help but asking, “Are we still in line with Biblical values and the Spirit of Christ?” Bear with me while I ask these follow-up questions.
  • Are core values the same as Biblical convictions?
  • Is organizational branding reflective of the image of Christ?
  • Are consumer tastes equal to our need to confess our sins?
  • Is market share consistent with the Great Commission?
  • Is competitive advantage synonymous with total sacrifice?
  • Does measurable success include the reward for faithfulness?
Words can change us. That is why Paul’s job description for a “workman approved of God” included the responsibility for “rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15). Boards of Christ-centered organizations have the same responsibility. To be approved of God, we may have to make some corrections.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Thank You, President Mubarak!

The Egyptian dictator deserves credit for one thing: He gives us a forceful reminder that CEOs can overstay their welcome. Even in Christ-centered organizations, the words are often heard, “It’s time for him to go” or “She should leave while she’s still loved.” Why do successful CEOs persist on overstaying their welcome? Mubarack gives us the answer. After 30 years in office, his identity is in his position and his timing is in his ego. A sad state, to be sure, but no different than CEOs of Christ-centered organizations whose identity has shrunken to the limits of a position and whose timing is self-serving. Under these conditions, there is no life after leaving.

CEOs of Christ-centered organizations need to be stewards of their own identity. While giving themselves fully to their calling as Christian leaders, they should cultivate personal interests and create professional options beyond the limits of their executive position. They should also be self-monitors of the time and tide of their ministries. Isaiah warns against leaders who create gods in their own image to justify their success and take God’s timing into their own hands to assure their legacy. We dare not succumb to that temptation. To go out on the high tide of God’s timing with freedom to explore options is not retirement from ministry, it is redeployment in ministry at its very best.

*See The Leader’s Legacy and Retirement Is Not for Sissies by David McKenna

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Swimming Naked in an Ebb Tide

Billy Graham continues to have Spirit-guided wisdom far beyond his 91 years. When asked what cautions he had for evangelicals today, he warned us about being “victims of our own success.”

Billy is so right. Evangelicals handle poverty better than prosperity. When our faith-based ministries are struggling in the margins, we depend on God, make sacrifices, focus our energies, exercise creativity, and multiply the effectiveness of our ministry. In prosperity, however, we tend to let the good times roll.

Think about the long-term, strategic plans of Christ-centered organizations today. More often than not, they are based on the assumption that the growth of the future will equal or exceed the growth of the past.

Robert Putnam, however, echoes Billy Graham’s caution in his book American Grace. According to demographic studies, the halcyon days of evangelical power, growth, and influence are waning. Leaking out of the bottom of the statistics is a younger generation of evangelicals coming to adulthood who reject politicized faith, tolerate theological diversity, and put individual spirituality over institutional loyalty. If so, boards and executive leaders of Christ-centered organizations had better give our plans a reality check and rethink our strategy according to the disciplines of sound management. Otherwise, as crusty old Warren Buffett put it, “When the tide goes out, you discover who’s swimming naked.” We dare not let good times mask bad management.