Life and Growth
by Matthew Cramer
“Management is doing things right;
leadership is doing the right things.” — Peter Drucker
Missing in our culture today, is the notion that acceptance of respon-sibility, along with commensurate authority and power, brings a requirement to exercise that authority consistent with God’s intent.
This is the last of our four part series on Authority and Power. Overarching Care established that while God’s authority and power were the instruments of creation, He also shares them with mankind; charged to care for the earth and its inhabitants. The reach of this injunction is breathtaking — “have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth”.
There is no distinction here between sacred and secular. The injunction applies to every area of responsibility: Individuals, families, secular or religious organizations and their subsets; governmental positions, education, nature; and so on.
In The Name Of Jesus defined the unique delegation of Jesus’ authority and power to His disciples so that Signs and Wonders will accompany the proclamation of the Gospel, and validate the truth of Christian life. Peaceful Lives presented key elements that authorities must implement in pursuit of their objectives: protection, justice, accountability and spiritual warfare.
Still, the question remains: How do we know we’re doing things right, and how do we know we’re doing the right things?
Life and Growth Measure Success
The evidence of creation is existence and life, put there by a God of Love Who wants to share His existence with us (see A God Who Loves Us). Just as God creates life and a place for it to grow, the primary mission of the authority and power delegated to us is to bring life and growth to all within our legitimate responsibilities.
“…Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. …Thus you will know them by their fruits.” (Mt 7:16-18, 20 RSV)
The fruit of our management efforts can be measured by the quality of life and its growth within our assigned responsibilities. This principle is familiar to most of us in a limited way. The effectiveness of a leader in business is measured by the health of his organization and its growth in fiduciary metrics — profit, sales, employees, etc. The same is true in religious organizations — membership, conversions, various ministries, contributions, etc.
But we must keep in mind the last part of the scripture quote used several times in this series. The fruit of well-executed authority is peaceable lives that are:
“… godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1Ti 2:2-4 RSV)
People who lead peaceful, Godly lives, who are respectful in every way, are an example used by the Holy Spirit to draw others to salvation, knowledge of things Godly, and an encounter with Jesus (i.e. “knowledge of the truth”).
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (Jn 14:6 RSV)
Life and growth in God’s perspective is a very broad term that goes far beyond the ubiquitous fiduciary metrics required by accounting standards. To be sure, God’s perspective includes these metrics, but it also refers to the very fabric of life in the organization, its members and their relationships.
One could hardly expect a secular organization to have a direct, evangelistic result from their efforts — especially in our highly compartmentalized separation of church and state. Still, regular contact with organizations that exhibit the peace of Christ has a telling effect on the uninitiated. It speaks to our innermost needs. These life-giving experiences are used by Our Lord to steer prospects towards initiation, and confirm in them the peace they receive at conversion.
There are also times when a direct result occurs. Mother Teresa went to Calcutta and began to bathe and care for the worst cases of sick and dying people on the streets. She didn’t hold services, quote scripture verse, or use popular phrases from prayer meeting lexicon. I’m not suggesting these things are wrong or ineffective, just that she didn’t use them. Instead, she peacefully went about her business caring for the lowest dregs of society. The result, among others, is a worldwide order of nuns drawn to her example of selfless giving. Today, she is one of the best-known Catholics in the world, second only to the Pope.
Whether in families, business, government, or elsewhere, authorities implement life and growth through: Vision, decision, policies, example, mentoring and training. And if those efforts weren’t difficult enough, it’s even harder to assess their results beyond the accounting metrics. What is the current state of life in the organization? In which direction is it moving? Are there major issues that threaten movement in the right direction? Do existing policies and mentoring succeed in promoting life and growth in the right direction?
Metrics that answer these questions about the organization’s quality of life don’t exist. Some organizations use surveys of management, the performers, customers, and even suppliers to develop a more comprehensive assessment. Surveys and polls are helpful, but they depend a lot on how questions are asked and the overall mood when the poll is taken.
We can get some help from Scripture where the fruit of the flesh (Adamic DNA) is compared to the fruit of the Spirit.
“Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like…” (Gal 5:19-21 RSV)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Gal 5:22,23 RSV)
In the final analysis, assessment of the organization’s life and growth is a judgment call by management. But that doesn’t mean it should be avoided or minimized. To the contrary, one of our most significant management priorities is a regular, honest, no-nonsense assessment of the organization’s quality of life and its growth.
Standard practice dictates every new program, every major decision, every change in the organization’s mission include an assessment of the anticipated results, expressed in fiduciary metrics. But it is just as important to include an assessment of their impact on the quality of life and its growth in the organization.
These may be based on judgment calls, subject to the whims and agendas of the participants. But the effort must be made anyway, to maintain focus on our primary mission, i.e. to foster “… quiet and peaceable [lives], godly and respectful in every way, …[that] all men…be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”.
It is God’s Spirit that brings His peace to an organization. Excesses and inappropriate attention to emotions, appetites, desires and egos can easily rob us of that peace, introducing a spiritual death. In the midst of decision-making, I like to ask, privately or publicly, depending on the situation: Will this bring life or death to us?
We Need Wisdom To Maintain Balance
The fields of commerce are littered with the detritus of failed businesses whose “Spirit-filled” owners focused so much on presenting a “Christian” witness, they neglected the hard issues of marketing, product performance, quality, cash flow, competition, and the myriad other issues that populate the mine-fields of business survival.
However, those same fields include substantial rubble from failed businesses, done in by excessive focus on profit or market share, allowing other key parts of the business to drift into dysfunction and sink the ship. There are many cases where family squabbles and internecine strife fatally damaged the organization; causing its demise or fractious splits. Whether sacred or secular, it matters not; the number of ways in which an organization can fail, are legion.
To insert a high priority requirement for peaceful lives seems an almost impossible addition to the mix of management tasks. Balance is crucial. Most people in authority are already astride a teeter-totter that can shift significantly at a moment’s notice. Where to shift focus and resources next — is usually at the forefront of their minds.
Whenever I think about this issue, I am reminded of Solomon’s situation after David died. Solomon had been anointed king at David’s direction, and reigned for a short time before David’s death. He was well aware of his father’s struggle to unite the kingdom, and God’s involvement in the process, guiding David’s governance and battles in many spectacular ways. In Solomon’s mind, the Israelites were selected, formed and trained especially by God. They were God’s people; they belonged to Him.
Solomon had witnessed David’s special relationship with God, developed over a long process of successes and failures. His father had a close relationship with God, he knew the Chosen People, and was well qualified to rule them. But now David was gone, and Solomon was thrust alone into leadership of a very important people. In short, he knew he was not qualified for such an important task — he was in over his head.
“At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” …O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people whom thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered or counted for multitude. Give thy servant therefore an understanding mind to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to govern this thy great people?” (1Kg 3:5, 7-9 RSV)
Most people, given an opportunity to receive a special favor from God, would maybe ask for wealth, power, or long life. But Solomon asked for wisdom to rule God’s people correctly. In today’s vernacular he said: ”I need help to keep from messing this up.” This selfless attitude of heart placed the people’s welfare above his own, and recognized the overarching mission of the authority and power he’d been given.
“It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” (1Kg 3:10-14 RSV)
As if to emphasize the importance of Solomon’s selfless priority, God also blessed him in the very ways a more self-serving attitude would have preferred. This scripture emphasizes the priority God places on those under authority, and the necessity for those in authority to seek wisdom and discernment, that through wise governance they might bring life and growth to those placed in their care.
Many years ago, I first encountered this lesson about management inadequacy, God’s special concern for the managed, and how Wisdom is a gift provided by God to bridge the gap. I was so convicted, I made personal petitions for an increase in Wisdom and Faith a permanent part of our daily prayers. I tacked on Faith, figuring our ability to implement what Wisdom inspires would need regular strengthening.
I lay no claim to the incredible Wisdom of Solomon. I’ve not served at his level of authority and power; nor have I received his abundant riches. Nevertheless, I often experience a sense of Wisdom guiding me through difficult situations in ministry and business; and Our Lord continues to provide for us comfortably. Here is one of my all-time favorite scriptures:
“Come aside to me, you untutored, and take up lodging in the house of instruction; How long will you be deprived of wisdom’s food, how long will you endure such bitter thirst? I open my mouth and speak of her: gain, at no cost, wisdom for yourselves. Submit your neck to her yoke, that your mind may accept her teaching. For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her. See for yourselves! I have labored only a little, but have found much. Acquire but a little instruction; you will win silver and gold through her. Let your spirits rejoice in the mercy of God, and be not ashamed to give him praise. Work at your tasks in due season, and in his own time God will give you your reward.” (Sir 51:23-30 NAB)
Serve The Needs Not Wants
One of Jesus’ most surprising and controversial teachings concerns the notions that govern our use of authority and power:
“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:25-28 RSV)
In a few brief sentences, Jesus inverts our tops-down, hierarchical concept of organization and authority, and debunks the usual aspirations of those in authority — power, riches and notoriety. He mandates the governing attitude must be the mentality of a slave or bondservant, one who serves at the feet of his master, and puts his master’s needs before his own.
Secular management circles approached this concept in the early 1950’s with Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives that emphasized individual autonomy and responsibility of the performer. Those that tried it, soon discovered key talents, creativity, wisdom, and experience was released — awesome tools to improve problem solving and effectiveness in the organization.
By the late 1980’s, secular management learned that autonomy and the release of latent capacities could only happen when authorities took a genuine interest in the needs and aspirations of the performers. Performers will not participate and invest more of their capabilities unless they are given the trust, respect, and opportunities that facilitate their release.
Thus, performer’s needs must become a matter of serious interest for management. But the interest must be genuine, not put-on or manipulative. Performers easily detect insincerity on the part of management, and they respond by withholding full investment.
The most effective method of communicating trust and genuine interest in the performers is an egalitarian approach that listens, lets the ideas of others influence decisions, makes the performers’ growth and development a priority, and avoids the perks and trappings of managerial position. Thus, the secular arrived at the beginning of the servant leader, the biblical approach.
The secular concepts originate from a profit perspective; seeking substantial increases in productivity by releasing untapped creativity and problem solving capabilities. While this falls short of the biblical mandate, considerable empirical data has been gathered that defines the benefits, detailed techniques for implementation and perceptions about how the principle works in members of the group. These are significant and very helpful.
The biblical injunction rests on a different approach. All of the organization’s members are created by God and redeemed by Jesus. In the eyes of God, performers are on the same footing as the leaders. All owe their existence to God. All are given gifts for the benefit of the others. All are to be treated with the same respect and worth.
The servant’s heart is motivated by God’s love, agápe love, self-sacrificial love; a love that brings life and growth to all in its care through a genuine interest in their needs.
Implementation has surfaced two important issues.
- Servant leadership is very difficult to establish and sustain — Introducing and maintaining servant leader behavior for a long time or even at all, is very difficult. The attitude of heart is central and presents the greatest challenge.
A servant’s heart allows the manager to implement an egalitarian, participative, deferent-yielding leadership style with genuine care and concern. This non-threatening attitude provides the required credibility necessary for performers to fully release their latent experience, creativity and talents.
On any given day, or in any particular set of circumstances, a limited number of managers might put the interests of a few performers above their own. But widespread, long term use of the servant leader principle requires higher motives and values than those fueled by our Adamic DNA (see The Train Wreck Of Humanity).
Nevertheless, it is God Who enjoins the special mission on those in authority, Who shares His authority and power with them to enable successful execution. Thus, I am certain that anyone who attempts to practice servant leadership, be they Christian or not, will be honored and supported by God to the degree possible in the individual.
Still, it’s very hard to put the needs of others above our own desires and agendas over a long period of time. Only agápe love has the power to sufficiently redirect our motives. Without the transforming power of the New Life in ascendance (see What Jesus Did and Embracing Conflict With Hope) our attempts at servant leadership, necessary as they are, will be difficult indeed.
The meaning of servant must be clear — Does servant mean a kind of human doormat, someone who does whatever the master wants without limit or discernment? Clearly that kind of approach could enable spoiled, selfish performers, and obviate other scriptural injunctions that management provide order and protection, and promote the growth of all.
The key lies in the meaning of needs versus wants. Wants are emotional issues; often shallow vagaries, not rooted in the long-term, best interests of the one experiencing them. Wants are fickle — driving, intensely powerful, urges one moment and all-but-forgotten the next (see The Train Wreck Of Humanity).
Needs, on the other hand, are deep, long-term issues that involve the survival, protection, development and community aspects of the individual. No organization should attempt to provide for all of an individual’s needs — children excepted. But to the extent needs fall within the legitimate control and mission of the leader, they are the keys to develop life and growth.
How does a leader detect, prioritize and integrate the various needs in an organization? The secular suggests Management By Walking Around (MBWA) as a start. This approach involves a hands-on, direct participation of managers in the day-to-day life of the organization, instead of distant order giving.
While MBWA is very helpful, leaders also need wisdom, discernment, faith and courage. It is God’s power, commensurate with the authority He shares with us, that gives us the ability to see what is intended, what is needed, and in what direction to go. This visionary (prophetic) power becomes more helpful as we better learn to recognize His voice through our developing relationship with Him.
God used His authority and power for the benefit of man, even when that meant humiliation, pain, and death for Jesus. This is the ultimate example of a loving, servant’s heart. It is based on a self-sacrificial approach that puts the needs — not emotional wants — of others first. Agápe love reaches out to sacrifice for the overall good of the beloved.
God shares His authority and power with those in leadership positions. Exercised in concert with Him, we are enjoined to bring life to people, situations and organizations assigned to our care. Human beings can only use God’s authority and power properly, as it proceeds from their relationship with Him. But when they do, they act in the fullest concert with God’s plan for His people and His creation — so all can rise to their fullest potential and the Kingdom of God on this earth will be healthy indeed.
Our Adamic inheritance gives us a dysfunctional life. Our passions and wants are often out of harmony with our best interests. We can analyze, diagnose, and discuss. We can even change a few things for a time. But we have no power to become life-giving managers, or preachers, teachers and miracle workers like Paul. The power to be transformed into the character of Jesus can only come from God through our cooperation with Him.
Each of us is still free to choose. We can choose our desires instead of God’s will. We can refuse rebirth into the new life established by Jesus. We can refuse transformation into God’s original intent for us. If we do refuse, the effects are disastrous, not only for ourselves but for creation as well. As scripture says:
“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Ro 8:19 RSV)