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