Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Hybels on leadership and 'business'

Courageous Leaderhip is a difficult book for me to evaluate. I don’t have Hybels’ experience in leading churches large and small, or his familiarity with the exciting world of wealthy, fast-moving American people. The stories, advice and soundbites that make up Courageous Leadership are inspiring and stirring, and often truly glorifying to God. It’s hard for me to know quite what in leadership practices and theories might be well suited to the church, to many churches, or at least to a very large church like Willow Creek.

But this I know, I won’t be convinced by appeals to what is not there in the Greek text of the New Testament. Whatever else Hybels has got right about Jesus’ leadership style, he did not get the Lord’s words right when he quoted them (from the KJV) on p.71 – ‘“I must be about my father’s business”… I’m fascinated by the very fact that he called it a business.’ But Jesus didn’t call it “a businesss”, his phrase en tois tou patros mou dei envai me [forgive the lack of proper letters] does not refer to a business. In fact the noun that might be ‘business’ is absent from the Greek, with just its article tois to hint at what it might be. Most modern translators prefer to supply ‘house’, and to translate en as ‘in’, rather than ‘about’ (which went with ‘business’ in the KJV).

The extent to which lessons learned from business might come into the leadership of the church will have to be resolved with less flimsy materials. Turning the whole thing on its head, much more provocatively, is Richard Higginson’s contention that

‘The Christian faith is actually a crucial piece of management data. It provides essential clues for understanding who people are, why things go wrong and how situations can be changed for the better. If that seems a bold claim, it chimes in with an observation which I hear increasingly often, that the best in modern management theory is really Christianity in secular guise.’ [Transforming Leadership: A Christian Approach to Management (London: SPCK, 1996), p.19.]

Which is a pretty neat bit of colonisation, worthy of any Calvinist