For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12.3–8 -emphasis added)
Some great empirical examples of this idea are detailed in Jim Collins and Jerry Porras' book Built to Last. This description of the gift-fostering culture created by William McKnight of 3M is one such example:
"McKnight did not want the evolution and expansion of the company to depend only on himself. He wanted to create an organization that would continually self-mutate from within, impelled forward by employees exercising their individual initiative. McKnight's approach was captured in phrases that would be chanted often by 3Mers throughout its history:'Listen to anyone with an original idea, no matter how absurd it might sound at first.''Encourage; don't nitpick. Let people run with an idea.''Hire good people, and leave them alone.''If you put fences around people, you get sheep. Give people the room they need.''Encourage experimental doodling.''Give it a try - and quick.'...Again quoting McKnight: 'Mistakes will be made [by giving people the freedom to act autonomously], but... the mistakes he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it is dictatorial and undertakes to tell those under its authority exactly how they must do their job. Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative and it's essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow.'"
As church leaders, we have a biblical mandate to lead a body of many parts, each doing its work, to grow up into Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16). It's important to remember that each of these parts (ourselves included) is a sinner in need of grace. So, when we encourage each part to do its work, there will be mistakes and methods different than our own (which may, by the way, be wrong). Because they distrust God and what He has ordained, lording leaders are never comfortable with that (Ephesians 4:11-12, Matthew 20:25-28, 1 Peter 5:3).
Delegate and Disciple
Give people opportunities to grow and strengthen the church and then get involved with their success. Don't sit back with crossed arms saying "We'll see how you do with this and, when you mess up, I will clean it up and you'll see how hard my job is." Dream with them. Plan with them. Pray with them. Celebrate with them. Be an encouraging support. Put a biblical rock under the bad times and the good. Value Christ's exaltation in their faith-filled service above being recognized or being right yourself. Remember, the body, when working properly, builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16).
This Is Not To Say...
I realize that some leaders (especially the more visionary types) may read this and say "that sounds touchy feely at the expense of focus and progress" and, yes, there are balancing biblical concepts. We must realize that, in encouraging each part to do its work, the Bible is not saying:
- That individual success or ability is championed over service to the body (Romans 12:10, Ephesians 4:1-6).
- The exercise of gift is superior to the worship of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 4:10-11, Titus 2:13-14)
- That the church is a democracy without distinguishing roles for leaders (Hebrews 13:17).
- That leaders do not lead (Romans 12:8).
Ask Yourself (or someone close to you) Some Questions
So how are you doing here? A periodic examination is good for every leader.
- What am I doing that some one else could do?
- What responsibilities could I delegate?
- Where could I encourage creativity in the people I lead?
- How could I give them more ownership of the organization?
- What am I uncomfortable delegating? Why?
- What are the gifts and abilities of the people I am leading?
- Do I desire the "success" of the people I lead? Success even greater than my own?