Leadership Insanity


Leadership is broken because leaders are unbroken

All of us are familiar with the definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Based on that definition, Christian thinking about leadership is beyond insane. Leadership is broken, and we continue to count on talent, experience, and success to fix leadership, even when it’s evident that these factors fail to fix the problem. In fact, talent, experience, and success hinder us from accomplishing God’s leadership call to us. We’re caught up in a leadership fad, not the first fad the church has ever faced.

When I started pastoring—a while back—some of us (including me) thought that God would really bless us if we had the right church government! Can you imagine that? The right church government? Crazy! That soon morphed into the worship fad—people will believe in Jesus if we have the right kind of worship—whatever that is. What ever happened to the Holy Spirit? And that’s the question we must ask the leadership fad.

Consider the call for vision statements: short, succinct, catchy, memorable. Churches literally spend months polishing their vision statements, kind of the way antique car owners treat their treasures. Now it’s absolutely critical that ministries know what they’re doing, and vision statements do help bring focus for leaders and followers alike. But vision statements are not any more magical than church government or a particular worship style. Christian Schwarz, author of Organic Church Growth, has studied at least 1,000 growing churches all over the world, and has discovered that no worship style is more effective than any other in helping churches grow. If a church isn’t healthy, it isn’t going to grow, church government, worship style, and vision statements notwithstanding.

When I was teaching in the Doctor of Ministry program at Dallas Theological Seminary, I required the participants to do a simple survey of ten attenders of their churches to find out how many could say the mission statement and report the results to me. With very rare exceptions, the highest number reported was two or three, very often only one out of ten. Two or three at best! After months of work, no more than 20-30% of the people queried could say the vision statement. Some could take a stab at it; others didn’t even know what they were being asked. And the people surveyed always included key leaders as well as regular attenders. Now that’s insane! It might be that the vision statement had been poorly communicated. It certainly is true that virtually no one goes to church because of a vision statement.

There is a missing dimension in leadership today, and that’s why it’s broken. What is this missing element? And what is the role of talent, experience, and success in leadership? Come again for the answers to those questions. See you next time. 
(from "Leadership Insanity" on

Bill Lawrence is the President of Leader Formation International, Senior Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Ministries and Adjunct Professor of DMin Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary where he served full-time for twenty-four years (1981-2005). During this time he also was the Executive Director of the Center for Christian Leadership for twelve years.

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