Periodically throughout the history of the Church, God brings about transformation in the form of renewal movements. These movements have changed the face of local congregations, seen throngs of people turn to Jesus in faith, changed communities and dramatically changed the culture. Each has been marked by seismic shifts resulting in conflict between the traditionalists and the change champions. Whether in a denomination or a local church, new movements of God generate intense conflict between the old and the new guard.
Paul Pierson is a Presbyterian Minister, Missionary to Brazil and Professor at Fuller Seminary. He contends in the renewal and expansion of the Church, the breakthroughs always occur on the fringe of ecclesiastical power—never at the center. In every generation, in some obscure place, using unknown people, God is beginning something new that will one day impact the center. The epicenters of these movements are never the denominational “headquarters,” seminaries, theological conclaves or church governing boards.
At times in my coaching of pastors and CEO’s of Christian organizations, my heart goes out to the person I’m coaching. People are attacking their leadership. That’s so common I consider it little more than “white noise.” But what breaks my heart is when pastors and other leaders believe the criticism.
Truth is, any and all of us can justly be criticized for our leadership. None of us is perfect. Truth is, often the one’s criticizing would make a mess of things if they were in leadership. Maybe they were and did! It’s also true that some people have more innate leadership skills than others. The fact there are natural-born leaders out there does not mean the rest of us are failures.
Over the years, I have seen people born with very little natural leadership ability still lead very effectively. What’s their secret? How do they do it? Simple. They study highly effective leaders and observe how they lead. And then they learn how to act like effective leaders act.
Okay, I’ll admit it; one of my all-time favorite bands is the Eagles. When Gwyn and I go to Cabo San Lucas, we drive to Todos Santos to have lunch at the Hotel California. There must be at least a dozen or so “Hotel Californias” all claiming to be THE Hotel California made famous by the Eagles. Now the Eagles themselves would be the first to admit their memories have been clouded by their use of certain substances and excessive libations. So even they don’t know for sure which one is the real Hotel California. But the one in Todos Santos works for me because about every thirty minutes or so the sound of the Eagles singing Hotel California escapes the bar and envelopes the dining area and lobby.
One of my favorite Eagles’ songs is Frail Grasp on the Big Picture. The recurring refrain is a series of variations on:
“Frail grasp on the big picture
Light fading and the fog is getting thicker
It's a frail grasp on the big picture”
Two recent experiences have caused me to reflect a bit on the coaching and mentoring phenomena. There’s no doubt that coaching and being coached has become so common that they are the “in thing” these days.
Coaching and Mentoring in North America
I just spent three days on retreat with the staff of a church dealing with a variety of ministry issues related to growing past their current plateau of 1,200 in worship attendance. At one point we were reviewing the hot trends in the church of North America over the past 70 years. Among other things we talked about the centralization of denominations, the Christian education (Big Sunday Schools) era, the Jesus movement, the rediscovery of worship, and the ensuing worship wars. We noted today’s trends of church planting, community engagement, multi-venue, multi-site, coaching, and mentoring.
We noted that each hot trend had a life span of about 30 years. We talked about how some of the hot trends were nothing more than fads while others have had a more lasting impact on the church even though they can no longer be considered one of today’s “in things.” One staff member asked me if I thought coaching and mentoring were just another fad. While answering I was recalling my recent experience in Latvia.