I just finished reading Andy Stanley’s 7 Practices of Effective Ministry for one of my classes. I have to say, I’m not sure of my impression of the book. The seven practices described are very helpful. Stanley refrains from the excessive detail that marks other books I have read on church leadership. The brevity of 7 Practices leaves the application of the steps to the church leader to implement. In other words, there is not a lot of opportunity for readers to try to imitate North Point Community Church. So, the actual content is good.
My difficulty lies in the presentation of the content. The book begins with a fictional conversation between a discouraged pastor and a business man who is not involved with church at all. The business man teaches the pastor about running an effective organization.
Before I begin my rant, let me just say, I know that all truth is God’s truth. The source is irrelevant if the content is true. Second, I also understand that churches with large congregations must adopt management strategies to keep things running smoothly. I get it. However, I struggle with the corporate world portrayal of the church with talk of marketing and branding. These concepts are, to me, a weak substitute for evangelism and authenticity. Corporate world language in church matters has the feel of cold calculation aimed at the bottom lines of congregation size and giving totals. In the same way, a pastor’s use of “people skill” often comes dangerously close to manipulation. When I read the gospels and the accounts of Paul, I do not see people skills, but genuine love expressed in saying what needed to be said, whether in confrontation or encouragement.
I have been through training in Evangelism Explosion. I think the material is good, especially for people who lack the confidence to share the gospel organically. However, the trainer I sat under presented the material in a very salesman-like manner. It felt plastic and packaged. In an attempt to increase effectiveness in sharing the gospel, the scripted sales pitch approach may actually work against this goal in our current cultural setting in which postmoderns are skeptical of neatly wrapped packaging.
Here’s a thought. What if the church, instead of being transformed by business principles, actually influenced how leaders conduct their business. What if the church trained business leaders in Jesus’ principles of leadership: genuine concern for people, servanthood, generosity, etc.? What if the church adopted a different set of metrics and counted how much money is going out instead of how much is coming in? What if we counted how many people leave the church to engage in mission instead of many people are sitting in the pews? What if the church were to conduct itself as though it is a wholly other type of enterprise than the corporate world?
The church can learn things from the business world. But, I believe we must be much more discerning in which lessons we adopt and how we implement them.