Gene Wilkes Discusses Mission-Minded Leadership
- Friday, May 27, 2005
How has this culture impacted the church’s view of leadership?
Almost every generation is tempted to adopt the form of leadership most respected by its culture. Right now, that form would be the entrepreneurial, CEO, management-oriented leader. Pastors today are expected to keep busy growing and managing the local congregation, much like a business. It’s the “bigger is better” mentality.
What’s the key for leaders to succeed in this culture, then?
As the church takes on the culture, the leadership must respond to them. If church is seen as an aggressive business plan, you’ve got to adapt to that if you’re going to please everyone who has been impacted by the culture. Jesus tends to mess all of that up! It’s about people, not institutions and organizations.
What’s the most positive trend you’ve noticed in leadership in the church?
The intention I see in many leaders today. As far as style is concerned, you have everything from authoritarian to passive. My biggest encouragement is seeing guys that really have the ear of the nation, like (Rick) Warren and (Bill) Hybels, they really are servant leaders. To them, it’s all about the mission. These are men who have said, “We’re here to carry out the Great Commission and the Great Commandment” It’s not about being the biggest and best denomination, but about having the type of influence that Jesus modeled – servant leadership.
Why does it seem that so many church leaders struggle with integrity? Is it really the epidemic that it seems to be, or is that a result of media emphasis?
I don’t think it’s any worse today than it’s ever been, as far as corruption is concerned. I think the problem in a lot of places is that church, because it uses cultural benchmarks for success, has become just as competitive as the world. Christian leaders, like all of us, are spiritual beings. If we don’t do the things we need to do to keep our lives in balance, like practicing the spiritual disciplines, this is the unfortunate result. Today, many people want you to act and look a certain way as a pastor – basically like a CEO. There are the expectations of congregants, the media, the world, and our colleagues. And in the end, that’s a lot of expectations!
What does the next generation of leaders look like? How can today’s leaders prepare them to carry the torch?
We’re in a hinge time in church leadership. Seminaries, on the whole, are not able to train the next generation of leaders to meet the needs of the church. There is no one model that you can point to and say, “You’re going to go lead one of these.” It’s a missionary mindset, where you need in-field experience and mentoring.
Now that I’ve said that, let me also say that I don’t think there’s a better time to “do church” than right now because the Gospel is so distinct, we really have something to offer. It really is another way of life. I am not discouraged at all, just blessed that I get to do what I do.
About the interviewer: Allen Duty, a 2004 graduate of Texas A&M University, lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Kendra. Currently a student in the Christian Writer’s Guild, Duty aspires to vocational ministry through speaking and writing. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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