Is Ministry Leadership Different? Andy Stanley and Jim Collins in an unexpected point-counterpoint

How is ministry leadership different from other kinds of leadership? In the next exciting issue of Leadership, Pastor Andy Stanley and business expert and author Jim Collins (Built to Last, Good to Great) offered answers that left me scratching my head. Can they both be right? Read some excerpts below.

"What is distinctly spiritual about the kind of leadership you do?" I asked Andy Stanley. Nothing, he said. "There's nothing distinctly spiritual. I think a big problem in the church has been the dichotomy between spirituality and leadership."

His answer surprised me.

As pastor of a thriving megachurch north of Atlanta, with an additional ten satellite locations fed his sermons by video, Stanley is becoming the model for the next generation of large church pastors.

Younger by about a decade than Bill Hybels and Rick Warren, Andy really seems to connect with younger leaders. We noticed it among the attenders at the annual Catalyst conferences. Organized jointly, at first, by Stanley's North Point Community Church and John Maxwell's InJoy Ministries, the Catalyst conferences have increasingly featured Andy. He is the headliner, opening the gathering as incentive for attenders to arrive on time, and presenting the closing session in hopes that they will stay to the end. It works. Andy's frequent speeches on integrity hold the crowd's attention better than Maxwell's chestnuts on momentum and irrefutable laws.

Because Andy connects well with younger leaders, who in general are bent more toward spiritual formation than church growth, I expected Andy to talk about the spiritual nature of leadership. He did not. He did talk about prayer and seeking good counsel and the crucial nature of integrity in the leaders with whom he surrounds himself; but leadership, even church leadership, is not distinctly spiritual, he said.

"I grew up in a culture where everything was overly spiritualized," Andy said. "I don't want to be a cynic, but raking out all the spiritual versus non-spiritual, I think, is healthy."

He agreed with those who contend that good leadership is good leadership, whatever the setting. "One of the criticisms I get is ?Your church is so corporate?' And I say, ?OK, you're right. Now why is that a bad model?'"

Good business principles work for Andy and North Point. "A principle is a principle, and God created all the principles," he summarized.

I must admit I felt a bit incredulous. I thought I'd hear something that backed up the pendulum swing we have heard prominent emerging leaders identify–that younger leaders don't buy all the church growth stuff, that the models that built megachurches worked for boomers, but for Gen-X and younger? Fuggidaboudit. That business models, while they may inform church leadership, do not define it; that church leaders are spiritual leaders and spiritual leadership must be, well, spiritual.

March 27, 2006

Displaying 1–10 of 34 comments


May 12, 2006  8:45pm

Collins and Stanley are right on. I have been a pastor in the "congregational setting" and have seen congregational polity destroy the movement of the Spirit. Francis Schaeffer once stated that "all truth is God's truth." We certainly can learn truth from a variety of sources!

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May 05, 2006  8:47am

Andy Stanley is my hero. I love pretty much everything i have heard him say, until I read the article in the latest Leadership Mag. Andy could not be more wrong in saying that the shepherding model needs to go away. What would you replace it with? The CEO model? The corrupt corporate America model? The get all you can while you can model? There is no better description of what pastors and churches should be about than thinking of ourselves as under shepherds. God used the illustration in the Old and New Testaments to describe Himself as well as the church. If we no longer understand what it means to be a shepherd, we should find out, rather than trying to translate it to something that clearly does not fit. However, I do agree that the parable would probably be different and have a business edge to them, but not the descriptions of pastors.

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April 26, 2006  3:01pm

I think I understand Andy's comments about there being nothing spiritual about his leadership and I agree with the point he's trying to get at. Organizations need structure. Every organization we find in the Bible has a structure of some kind. It helps to eliminate confusion and keep things moving. However, people in those roles are to be or should be governed by God's principles regarding relationships. When they don't we have problems. As followers of God's way, there should be something spiritual about everything we do regardless of the setting. Spiritual leaders must make "business" decisions as good stewards of what God has given them to work with. It is a skill can be learned and should be by anyone claiming to be a spiritual leader. There has to a balance. You can over-spiritualize just as you can over-secularize. Both have their pitfalls. In any event, my take on it would be to say that there's something spiritual about what "secular" leaders are doing as well. I believe all leadership is spiritual. Many people dislike authority, let alone talk about it, yet all authority is derived from God. All of leadership is about relationships. God's law and His book dictate how those relationships are to be governed. To the extent that we don't make them a part of what we are doing we become less effective or downright bad leaders. Leadership itself is not complicated, but it is difficult to carry it out as God intended and apply it to our ever-changing contexts. God's laws and principles apply and work in both secular and religious settings whether the participants know it, understand them or not. We have been created by Him and He's knows what makes us tick and how we work.

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April 20, 2006  10:36am

The responses to the interview with Andy Stanley and Jim Collins seem to contain more heat than light. It all kind of reminds me of people swatting at gnats while the building is burning down around them. I'm a member and a volunteer leader at North Point Community Church, which means Andy Stanley is my pastor. I also work with ministry leaders in other churches around the country. I've been doing that for 35 years, so I'm not wet behind the ears. I don't close my eyes to things I don't want to know, either. I've been around the block a few times and I usually know when things aren't right. Having said that, I have never known Andy or North Point to lead in a way that conflicted with Scripture or sound principles of any kind. I haven't always agreed, but I usually turned out to be the one who was wrong. Does my church resemble Starbucks, Ford or General Electric? Hardly. Our stated purpose is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything we do has to have a piece in accomplishing that or we don't do it. Does my church (and Andy) provide wise and effective leadership? You bet they do. Smart leadership is smart leadership, whether you find it in Luke or at General Electric. All wise leadership has its roots in Scripture, anyway. Leadership is helping people capture a vision and follow it successfully. Leadership doesn't care whether you're a pastor or a CEO. CEOs have a Board of Directors to guide them; pastors have the Holy Spirit to guide them. Leadership is more about who you're listening to and what your vision is. It doesn't really matter whether we all buy into a "corporate model" of leadership. I'm not even sure what that looks like. There are millions of corporations and they all operate differently. What is important is knowing our purpose, remembering who's in charge, and being wise about what we do and how we do it. Maybe if we paid less attention to the gnats and more to the building that's crumbling around our feet, we would do a better job of winning people to Christ and leading them into a growing relationship with Him.

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Florin Paladie

April 13, 2006  11:17pm

Eric, I've read your article and the quotes you've given to support your contention. It seems clear you are trying to create an artificial divergence between the two. On top of it you're doing it leaving fingerprints all over the place. Your surprise to Andy's response shows your belief on church leadership and what your personal agenda is. You hoped Andy would back up your leadership perspective and when he didn't you run to Jim to save you. It may look to the untrained eye he did indeed succeed, but on a closer scrutiny he didn't. What Jim Collins did is to make yet another brilliant observation but this time on the "church world". What he is saying is true. The way the church in America is being structured makes it impossible for a pastor to function like a CEO, therefore he has to "be adept" to the "church organization". Jim is indeed making a valid remark. The question is, is that the way things ought to be? If church would be organized differently (see North Point Community Church model) would Jim Collins sustain his statement? I doubt it. What Andy Stanley says is we have to think and do church differently. It's not just about the leadership style; it's critical how the church is being structured. When Andy Stanley and Jim Collins are speaking on "church leadership" they do that referencing totally different realities, consequently they cannot be compared and forcibly made to disagree.

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April 11, 2006  1:53pm

the thing is is leading the church diffrent to being a persons or groups spiritual leader and more so do we need both do we in church need good leaders just like in buisiness as well as needing spiritual leaders. lets be honest many pastor's aren't pasters in a five fold model, they are church managers, team leaders with maybe a bit if spiritual leader thrown in. Now is that all wrong maybe we just need to balance churches are big community and if our big communities want to not just be a group of people with shared intrestests and relationships but people with shared vision and goals (hopefully something to do with the kingdom of God and resoration and reconcilliantion for the world through the power of christ) then maybe we need good leadership in the buisiness leader style (maybe just the same as the nation of isreal needers guides through the deserts as well as priests moses aaron) to help us achieve our goals as a people. but also as a group of people hopefully modelleing reconcillition restoration and intimacy with God we need within ourselves spiritual leaders (real pastors doing real pastoring ie interacting with people their hearts and souls and helping them grow and heal both) a good team leader/church manager hopefully knows this and so does their job well as too free pastors to pastor people. and so to function fully God would want we surley need both. and so for team leaders maybe the rules and ideas are the same as there buisness counterpoints

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Carl McLendon

April 07, 2006  3:46pm

I need to hear more from Stanley, but from what I've read in 7 Practices made me a little suspicious. Now I need to hear more. I understand that leadership can learn much from corporate world, but should only be supplemental to what our church leaders are about.

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Paul E. Garverick

April 03, 2006  7:19am

Corporate leadership versus church leadership? Stanley and Collins offer brilliant insight into leadership in the world and in the church, and I have read (and recommend) them both. Both men offer insights suggesting leadership is neither simple, nor easy. A blossoming leadership theory with roots nearly 2000 years old gathers steam today called of all things, Servant Leadership. A little digging will challenge your leadership perspective and offer a paradigm of leadership capable of changing the world. Could it be that the church's too minimal impact in our western world stems from too few and too poor of leadership? At the risk of sounding simplistic, Jesus Christ modeled a paradigm of Servant Leadership where his kind of kingdom leadership diametrically opposed the heavy-handed rule of the Jews and the Romans. When we watch Jesus' leadership (including both what he said and what he did), we see that his kind of leadership was both incredibly humble and doggedly determined to do God's will, God's way. Did he not share power with socially marginalized people and develop them to change a world? Do we not see him getting his hands dirty; reputation soiled, and be rejected by common people and people of "authority"? And popularity? … He died a despised and rejected God/man. … And so, how does God evaluate our leadership? I do not believe Jesus ever intended to offer two kinds of leadership in this kingdom we seek to establish on earth. It is not the form of governance as much as it is the heart of leadership that Jesus critiques. Imagine "secular research" from Jim Collins in Good to Great offering that HUMILITY of all things as a cornerstone to the greatest leadership in the business world today! You have witnessed church leaders pulling power plays, playing control agents, or conversely exhibiting laissez- faire "leadership". Those leaders evidence carnal and pagan roots in their leadership. Jesus exposed such attitudes and behaviors as antithetical to the Kingdom of God … from all who use this kind of leadership including Peter, James, and John. So what kind of leadership flows from within you?

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Phil Miglioratti

April 01, 2006  9:54pm

It seems to me we ought to be asking if the person leading knows how to pray. Whether they are 'spiritual" shepherds or "corporate" CEO types, the validity of their leadership rests in whether or not they have actually heard anything from the Lord, are moving forward in the power of His Holy Spirit, for the ultimate purpose of glorifying God Almighty. Spiritual or corporate: no prayer, not biblical leadership.

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BL Wiedenbeck

April 01, 2006  8:51am

Wow, excellent summation, Mr Brenegar! Thank you for that!

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