Jim Collins’ book, Built to Last: Successful habits of Visionary Companies (Harper Business, 1994) speaks about how successful business leaders are “clock builders” as opposed to “time keepers.” That is, instead of merely trying to manage a situation, they set out to build a new reality. This new reality requires steady and selfless work. Flashy, manipulative, and creative individuals may achieve short-term success, and detail oriented, skillful managers may coach the maximum revenue out a lack luster situation, but neither brings about the systemic change that leaves an organization better than what it was before they came.
In looking for examples of successful leaders in the business world, it is easy to get sidetracked by the flashy cultural icons like Lee Iacocca or Donald Trump. Collins points out that the great enduring companies of the twentieth century were led by a different kind of leader. These leaders were humble, persistent, and true to their values in the face of conflict. Rather than seeking immediate, dramatic results, they burrowed in and set about the meticulous work of developing a healthy organization.
Turning from the business world to our current church scene, those senior pastors who now lead America’s most successful mega churches are, almost without exception, humble, low key leaders who, over the course of decades, have blended an emphasis upon the importance of building relationships with their own drive to make the church grow. When one looks at Bill Hybels (Willow Creek), Cecil Williams (Glide Memorial), or John Ed Matheson (Frazer Memorial), one sees neither a detail oriented manager nor a shameless self promoter. Instead, one notes their sincere, personal, spiritual passion, as well as their commitment to spend their entire career in one place. In his memoirs, Robert Schuller writes of asking his seminary teacher how long a pastor should plan to stay in one church before moving on. Dr. Lindquist answered that a minister should never go to a church without planning to spend his or her whole life there (My Journey: From an Iowa Farm to a Cathedral of Dreams, by Robert H. Schuller, Harper San Francisco, 2001).
(This blog is page 59 of Ezekiel's Bones: Rekindling Your Congregation's Spiritual Passion -- published by Discipleship Resources in 2007) For more on Donald Trump and what we can learn from him (things not to do): Is Trump a Pharisee? , Church System Lessons from Trump , Where have all the moderates gone?