I have often heard leaders talk about the need to transform others lives (presumably followers). While we might be able to comment on the leader/follower relationship within the above idea, it is what leaders can and cannot do that I want to comment on. As I speak and consult with churches I am continuing to find churches challenged by the consumerist mentality that manifests itself in people leaving because they aren’t “being fed.” This is without doubt the #1 reason given for leaving a local church. While I often think that is an excuse and smoke screen for other issues let’s talk a second about what underlies such a statement.
My sense is that we, the leaders/pastors, are the guilty culprit. We tell people come and be served. We want you to be comfortable here. We want it to be fun and safe and inviting and non-threatening and and and. The list goes on and on and on. In other words we will transform you if you just show up. While we never say that directly, and I don’t think we believe it either, it is what that front end value offers people that implies to them “Just come!” we will do the rest.
The truth is transformation, as tricky as it often can be, isn’t the leaders responsibility at all. It isn’t the churches responsibility, the small group facilitator’s or the personal mentors. Leaders and churches, at best, create containers of possibility where transformation can take place. In other words leaders create and monitor ethos. This was the thesis and burden of my first book Morph! Leaders broker tools, create context, coach application and model the way. But what leaders do not do is transform lives.
While that may be to state the obvious it is not obvious to the scores of people leaving the church. This is a national problem. On the front end we do not make clear to people all we can provide is a context of possibility and a bevy of resources. Other than that the work is theirs. Of course the Spirit is involved. But the Spirit doesn’t work against or instead of or unbeknownst to the individual. The Spirit works WITH.
This is one glaring example of what we “market” on the front end biting us hard on the back end (double entendre intentional). When people get past the first blush of hearing new things, making a few easy applications, they wake up one day to the reality that growth in the early stages seems easy, but not so much once the preliminaries are out of the way.
Leaders can’t transform. In the words of the iconoclastic business guru Tom Peters…’Nobody “transforms” anybody else! Instead we create opportunities for people…and then encourage them to apply their latent talents to grasp those opportunities. Leaders do NOT….”transform people.” Leaders instead construct a context in which…. Voyages of Mutual Discovery….can take place. Leaders provide access to a luxuriant portfolio of of projects. Projects that challenge people to express their innate curiosity and to visit places that they had never dreamed of.’ (emphasis and punctuation Tom Peters).
I think we might need a brash business guy like Peters to sometimes wake us up to our own short sightedness. Let’s get to work creating context.