Pastoral Leadership, Part 6: Competence

I have the joy of teaching in our Doctor of Ministry Program at Southeastern Seminary. It is an outstanding program of study with majors in Expository Preaching, Leadership, Biblical Counseling, Faith and Culture, and Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth. You can learn more about the program by going here or by phone at 919-761-2216.

Recently, I received a very fine paper from one of my students on “Leadership in the Local Church.” The author is a pastor of a very prominent church in the Southern Baptist Convention who is leading it through a time of transition following a long tenured pastor. The focus of his paper was on how to lead a local congregation through a time of transition without blowing up the place. As many of us know this is easier said than done.

With his permission I will share in several blog entries an edited version of his paper. There is real wisdom in what you will read. For obvious reasons the particular church and the pastor’s identity will not be disclosed.

Pastoral Leadership, Part 6: Competence

The sixth principle that must characterize the leader in transition is competence. In Leith Anderson’s book, Leadership That Works, he includes a chapter called, “Expectation-The Rules Are Changing.” One of the changes he discusses is a shift from the old rule that said, “faithfulness is sufficient.” The new rule is “effectiveness is required.” Anderson states, “This is not to say that an earlier generation rewarded incompetence, nor that today’s leaders need not be faithful. It is to say that the pendulum has swung toward an expectation that leaders will not only show up but also know what to do when they get there and get it done before they leave. If they are ineffective, they are more likely to be terminated than they would have been a generation earlier” (119). While Anderson speaks to the issue within the church organization; it should not surprise us that the secular environment shares a similar concern. In The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner, their extensive survey work revealed that of the top four things people look for and admire in leaders, one of those top four was competence. They defined leadership competence as the leader’s track record and ability to get things done. They go on to point out that, “it is highly unlikely a leader can succeed without both relevant experience and, most important, exceptionally good people skills (underlining ours). The most important competency a leader brings to the role is the ability to work well with others” (30). Therefore, it is clear that a principle that must guide each leader is the trait of being competent. So, how does a new leader move into a situation and demonstrate competence? There are two critical aspects. The first is to know your own strengths and weaknesses. The second is to observe and learn the other team member’s strengths and weaknesses.

Peter Drucker, in his work, The Effective Executive, writes: “The effective executive makes strength productive. He knows that one cannot build on weakness. To achieve results, one has to use all the available strengths-the strengths of associates, the strengths of the superior, and one’s own strengths” (71). This truth becomes extremely critical when it comes to building a team of leaders to work with you. As the new pastor begins to consider people for his team, it is important to know the areas where he may have weaknesses. Finding individuals to be part of the team who possess different gifts and different strengths than that which the pastor possesses enables there to be a team that is well balanced and well positioned to minister effectively across a broad spectrum of all types of people which make up most congregations.

The second aspect of this competence is to know your team and be able to help guide and lead them. Drucker again writes: “The effective executive focuses on contribution. He looks up from his work and outward toward goals. He asks: ‘What can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance and the results of the institution I serve?’ His stress is on responsibility” (Ibid). As the new leader recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of all the members of his leadership team he is able to know who and what needs attention. Oftentimes, it is this individual time of leadership development that produces the greatest fruit in ministry. If there is ever a time and place where we must move beyond “turfism” and build a true attitude of teamwork it must be in the staff and leadership of the local New Testament church. This is the whole emphasis of Paul when describing spiritual gifts, and all members working to build up the body (Eph. 4:1-16). Working well with people and investing in them is paramount to the new leader in transition.

Global Context (Central Asia): The Great Game

This series of posts deals with the global context in its historical, social, cultural, political, economic, demographic, and religious dimensions in particular. We will provide book notices, book reviews, and brief essays on these topics. We hope that you will find this series helpful as you live and bear witness in a complex and increasingly hyper-connected world.

The Great Game, by Peter Hopkirk, is the single most valuable book one can read in order to gain an understanding of Central Asia. Hopkirk, formerly a reporter for The Times of London, pieces together research ranging from public news stories to private journals and intelligence files in order to chronicle Russia and Britain’s battle for supremacy in Central Asia. (Note: Central Asia, as a regional designation, generally includes Russia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iran, and the other “stans.”)

The title of the book refers to the “game” played between Tsarist Russia and Victorian England for control of the region. The term was coined by Captain Arthur Connolly of East India Company, who was beheaded in Bukhara as a spy in 1842. In Hopkirk’s masterful retelling of the story, we see the great game played out over more than a century and at the cost of thousands of Central Asians, in spite of their innocence.

In the first nine chapters, “The Beginnings,” Hopkirk sets the stage by tracing the historical context from the 13th century onwards. Chapters Ten through Twenty-Two chronicle the “Middle Years” of the game. He tells the story of countless British and Russian soldiers making their way into Central Asia, often in disguise, to gain information and seeking to form alliances. In general, Russia has the upper hand, making its way slowly toward England’s crown jewel, India.

In Chapters Twenty Three through Thirty Seven, “The Climactic Years,” we learn of Russia’s full frontal advance into Central Asia. Early in the 19th century, the two empires were separated by 2,000 miles, but a century later, the gap had narrowed to only 20 miles. England was paranoid about losing its grip on India and Russia decided to play on those fears, advancing toward India for its own benefit. The irony, as Hopkirk tells it, is two-fold: (1) Russia never really cared about India, and (2) a Russian invasion of India was highly unlikely anyway. It was separated from Russia not only by deserts and mountains, but also by treacherous tribes and local politics.

Who lost the great game? The real losers were the hapless Central Asians caught between two imperial powers who cared not one whit for them. Although the Central Asians were not always peaceful themselves, even those who were peaceful often lost their lives. Their rulers were given a black-and-white choice between two empires, but those empires cared nothing for these “pawn” people groups.

Christians seeking to live and work in a Central Asian context will be wise to take note that Western “Christian” nations have been among the chief culprits in the bloodshed and exploitations of the past century. The phrase “Jesus is Lord” does not conjure up thoughts of a God of love and of life. Rather, for them, it evokes memories of strife and bloodshed. Among the Tatars, for example, who were conquered by Ivan the Terrible, to call a person “baptized” is to call them the one of the strongest curse words in their contemporary vocabulary. It is for this reason, therefore, that believers who wear the name “Christian” will need to work hard, through word and through deed, to fill that word with new meaning.

One should also note that, throughout the book, Hopkirk never mentions a Central Asian woman playing a role in The Great Game. Those Central Asian women who are mentioned are the ones being taken advantage of by Westerners to plunder their cities. The overall impression gained from the book (and confirmed by present experience in some cultures within Central Asia) is that a woman is inferior to a man in her very essence. In Afghanistan, it is not hard to find men who will brag that their wife or daughter has never left their house. That is correct: many women never leave the home; they are not allowed to shop, to drive, or to socialize outside of the home. It is for this reason that women in this region are the “unreached of the unreached.”

Finally, it is evident throughout the book that Westerners have viewed, and treated, Central Asians as inferior people. Although this is evident throughout the centuries, by the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the West had come up with a sophisticated “scientific” apparatus for explaining exactly why and how they were inferior. Darwin’s biological evolution found its counterpart in the idea of cultural evolution.

This is seen, for example, in the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, where Russia and England failed to see the Central Asians as equal to themselves. It is also seen, for example, in Hopkirk’s account of a British officer’s words: “Ultimately the British name will be blessed with the proud distinction…of having civilized the Turcoman race, which has for centuries been the scourge of Central Asia.” The Brits of Connolly’s generation believed that they were to take the message of salvation and Western civility to these people; since British rule was founded in the Christian faith, it was the best way to help the barbarians to become more civilized.

Hopkirk accomplished what he set out to do. He is a Brit and as such does lean a bit in favor of the Brits, but he does not do a bad job of being objective and calling out the bad guys, whoever they were. I recommend this book for those who are interested in doing serious reading about Central Asia.

Book: The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia (1994)
Author: Peter Hopkirk
Region: Central Asia
Length: 524 pp.
Difficulty: Intermediate Advanced