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audrey ruth

February 15, 2014  11:30pm

Oops, I meant to say John Wooden, not Woody Hayes. Big difference! :) Dorothy, this quote by John Wooden fits exactly what you said: "Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are and that is all that matters."

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Dorothy Greco

February 13, 2014  12:18pm

Woody, I would agree with Audrey Ruth. What does the word success mean? Wins? Earnings? While I have no doubt that some of the men you listed were "good" leaders, I think God's standards are much, much higher. A pastor with a church of several thousand who demeans, fails to respect others, and manipulates is not a success. Not to God nor for those being stepped on as the leader boosts himself up.

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audrey ruth

February 12, 2014  9:11am

Woody, when it comes to 'worldly' leadership (as opposed to church leadership, the subject of the title article), men like Bob Knight and Vince Lombardi 'can' be referenced (but IIRC, didn't Bobby Knight go down in flames?), but this article is not about guys who cuss worse than sailors (Lombardi did, also had an uncontrollable temper) and attack players (like Knight, who infamously could not control his own temper.) Rather, this is about the need for Godly men who lead by example and do not mistreat the sheep, but are faithful shepherds. Since you share his name, maybe you know of Woody Hayes, a man of Knight's and Lombardi's era who put them both in the shade when it came to living a Godly life in the 'worldly' profession of sports. He positively influenced MANY, MANY young men toward the Lord. A lot of pastors and other church leaders today could learn a LOT from him. Pat Williams has just come out with a book about Woody Hayes. I'm really looking forward to reading it.

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woody weaver

February 11, 2014  5:22pm

About one week ago the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Packer beat writer Bob McGinn published his own list of the twenty-five greatest quarterbacks of all time. At number two he listed Johnny Unitas calling him "the ultimate leader of men" and also one of the toughest considering the brutality of the era he played in. He described his pick at number 5 Peyton Manning as having a "domineering personality" and "most prepared". Number 3 Tom Brady was listed as having "strength of character" and a "perfectionist". Joe Montana at number one was listed as "poised" and "poetry in motion". Bob McGinn in his own way was writing about what defines leadership. All leaders have strengths and weaknesses. Men like Bob Knight and Vince Lombardi probably could not coach today because their leadership styles were driven and sometimes harsh but the men they led with a few exceptions cite these men as exemplars of leadership. What one may consider "toxic" may be another's key to perform.

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audrey ruth

February 09, 2014  12:31am

John H, the churches in which I've observed this happen, or have heard about from close friends, have been mainline denominations, independent Baptist (the polar opposite of Pentecostal) and Roman Catholic. IMHO, no denomination or type of church has a corner on this sort of tragedy.

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audrey ruth

February 09, 2014  12:24am

ITA that churches should deal Biblically with toxic leaders. Some are not toxic at the beginning, but power and authority go to their heads. It is terribly easy for seemingly humble, caring true shepherds to be changed from within and become arrogant and uncaring false shepherds - I've seen it happen. When that progression happens, church people can be caught unawares because the guy started out so well (or at least seemed to.) In such an event, they can be very slow to take needed action; sometimes they pray and wait to see if he will revert to his former demeanor and behavior, and sometimes they wait far too long. Sometimes they never take action at all and people are needlessly wounded, even churches divided, becoming shells of their former self. Yes, "touch not the Lord's anointed" is misapplied and wrongly used to intimidate - the scripture means not to KILL a king. Lack of context hinders the Gospel in many ways, not just this one.

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John Holmes

February 06, 2014  10:43pm

The problem of industrial sociopaths is hugely important. Every time I hear the words 'Touch not the Lords Anointed" or equivalent, I am become hugely suspicious. What is being hidden? Who is being taken advantage of, bullied etc. We need to figuratively count the silver ware afterwards, what has been taken. If I seem to be a bit aggressive, I have been burnt in many bureaucracies - small business, large business, Govt Depts, and in Churches. To claim not to be accountable to ones fellow believers but only to God in the local Church, questions the meaning of the first 2 words of the Lord's Prayer. We are equal brothers and sisters before God. This is both an arrogant claim that that person hears from God better than other believers, and this can also be construed as an attempt to reverse the Reformation. Seen this is independent Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches. Tends to create a large number of dis empowered walking wounded Christians as well as driving some from the faith.

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Andy Novobilski

February 06, 2014  3:25pm

Perhaps it's a combination of God's grace to the toxic leader, the leader's acceptance of the change being offered, and the community's willingness to accept the changed leader. My favorite example - St. Paul. Just check out Ananias's response to Jesus's call to disciple Saul after Saul's conversion (Acts 9:10-19). Another example is St. Francis. Francis had everything the world had to offer and still couldn't find what he was looking for. In the end, his encounter with Jesus caused him to return home from imprisonment without gaining the worldly glory he sought and then to wait for God to slowly reveal His Will for St. Francis's life. We all have a part of us that is like Sts. Paul and Francis and will only be able to grow as leaders in Christ's church if we accept our need to change within a community that will support our growth.

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Jen Griswold-Kuhn

February 06, 2014  8:36am

The importance of this article cannot be overstated. However, I actually think it's quite easy to identify toxic leaders, as well as those who aren't yet toxic but are starting to form patterns. But I'm curious what the next step is. What does the military do? What do churches do? Does a toxic leader need to be removed promptly, or can he or she be transformed by the grace and mercy of our Lord (and perhaps some discipline, confession...maybe therapy)? Or are some wolves always wolves? Maybe they shouldn't be allowed to lead? I'm just thinking and asking out loud. I don't know the answers.

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Martin Jacobs

February 05, 2014  9:05pm

In my reading of the NT, particularly Matthew, I see strong criticism of the Temple-Building movement in Jerusalem, which comprised not just the stereotyped individual hypocrite, but a religious culture and leadership that could well be classified as toxic. (Indeed, Jesus' interactions with Nicodemus, a Pharisee, makes more sense if we understand that his criticisms were aimed at the culture and environment of the religious movement, rather than the individuals in the movement.) In this context, Jesus' injunction to not cast our pearls before swine (Matt 7:6), which is usually understood to mean "don't teach something valuable to someone who won't value it", might be better understood as meaning "don't submit to toxic leadership", especially when the "pearls" in question relate to your own, precious soul.

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Ann Armstrong

February 05, 2014  3:49pm

I appreciate you writing on this Dorothy-so disturbing to read of these suicides linked to this toxic leader. Grateful the Army is taking action & pray/hope those of us in the church who experience this dangerous leadership style will choose to do the same.

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Dorothy Greco

February 05, 2014  12:32pm

Grady, you are spot on with that last sentence. My hope is that this piece will help others to see and act. I'd love to prevent future carnage.

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Grady Walton

February 05, 2014  12:10pm

"’A wolf is a lethally dangerous thing, and I will treat him as such.’ Though Jesus calls us to forgive those who wound us, He does not ask us to passively follow them into their dens.” Well said, Dorothy. This is a serious topic. Church boards and denominations have a sacred responsibility to screen and remove toxic leaders. Toxic leaders can leave a trail of human wreckage wherever they go. Cleaning up after them is much more time consuming than dealing with them up front. I’m just saying!

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Tim Fall

February 05, 2014  9:53am

Powerful words, Dorothy, and wise counsel. Leadership in the body of Christ is a responsibility that can only be carried by the Spirit of Christ within us. Any time a leader is not behaving in a way consistent with the Spirit's ministry in the church, it's bound to have a toxic effect.

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