ONE OF THE BUNCH

I don’t know what your job is, but I know a lot of us are “just one of the bunch” where we work. And there’s nothing wrong with that—most of us not only work with others, we need those who work with us to do what our job requires of us. Team is a better word to describe the group we work with, but I want to use bunch to help make the point of this post.

Earlier this summer I saw an ad for a soon to be published book entitled “HOW TO LEAD WHEN YOU’RE NOT IN CHARGE.” Since I had just been added as a part-time staff member at our church, I thought it was something I would enjoy reading, so I pre-ordered it. I received it a couple of weeks ago and have not been disappointed.

For the past 30 years I had been the leader of the team at the church I served and now I was just a member of the team. Not only was I no longer the top banana, I wasn’t even the second banana. You can see why the title of the book got my attention; but the sub-title closed the deal for me: Leveraging Influence When You Lack Authority. It isn’t that I want to be in charge, I don’t. But I do want to have some influence with our senior pastor, our staff, and our church leadership.

Author Clay Scroggins is currently the lead pastor of North Point Community Church serving under Andy Stanley (well-known pastor and popular author). In this book he draws on his own experience as he has worked his way through a variety of organizational levels having started as a facilities intern. While the context of the book is church ministry and pastoral staff, his observations and suggestions are not limited to a church setting. There is a lot to consider for anyone who is not in charge, but wants to contribute to the direction of the team of which they are a part.

The book is divided into three sections with ten chapters. For me, chapter 8 (Challenging Up) was the most intriguing. The title tells what the chapter is about, and it deals with the most sensitive aspect of leading when you’re not in charge. Sensitive as it is, Scroggins thoughtfully gives sound advice and direction for doing it.

A few quotes will give you a taste of the book, as well as some things to think about:

“. . . we don’t need authority to have influence” (p. 27).

“The lie we believe is that we must wait until we’re in the leader’s seat before we can have . . . influence.” (p. 33)

“. . . leading when you’re not in charge does not mean you learn skills to get ahead by circumventing the authority above you.” (p. 70)

“If you are in a season of waiting, what can you learn now that you can only learn from the seat you’re in?” (p. 164)

“The way you lead into a conversation can often trump the content of the conversation.” (p. 207)

“. . . the whole purpose of this book is to encourage you to begin leading from where you are.” (p. 214)

“Leadership is not simply a matter of authority. Leadership is about influence.” (p. 193)

If the subject of this book interests you, I recommend it. If you plan to get it, let me know. And if you get it, after you read it, please let me know what you thought. Even if you’re not interested, I hope this post has given you something to think about.

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SECRET DISCIPLES?

In the book JESUS AMONG FRIENDS AND ENEMIES (edited by Chris Keith and Larry Hurtado) there is a chapter in the friends part titled “Secret Disciples.” David M. Allen presents a thoughtful discussion of two interesting characters in the biblical record: the two Jewish leaders Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Allen suggests the night visit of Nicodemus to Jesus (John 3:2) indicates “someone who is potentially sympathetic to Jesus but unwilling to express that publically” (p.158).  Citing John 19:38, Allen suggests Joseph of Arimathea became a “secret disciple, one who wishes to be associated with Jesus, but seemingly not in public.” (p. 167).

When I first saw the chapter title “Secret Disciples,” and still as I think about it now, I’m not sure a person can be a secret disciple. The terms sounds like a contradiction to me. The purpose of this post is not to criticize what Allen has written. His chapter is carefully researched and written, well worth reading. I want to use his essay to challenge and stimulate our thinking.

The New Testament seems to teach that the very nature of being a disciple means one has declared allegiance to Jesus. For example, in Matthew 10:32 Jesus promised, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus used two metaphors to describe His followers that contradict the idea of being a secret disciple. While neither “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13) nor “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14-16) demands a confession as such, it’s not easy to reconcile how a person could be both salt and light as a secret disciple. A Christian’s witness as salt and light does not have to be overt, but both do speak to a disciple’s influence.

One of my favorite New Testament teachings on this subject is in I Peter 3:15b, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks to give the reason for the hope that you have.” The instruction to be prepared to respond when asked about one’s faith suggests the believer’s lifestyle has created interest. Similar to the images of salt and light, living with an obvious hope that others take note of does not have to be overt. But equally important to the instruction of I Peter 3:15b is the manner in which the writer tells us we are to answer. I Peter 3:15c cautions, “But do this with gentleness and respect.” Too often Christians acknowledge Jesus before others and answer questions about their hope and faith without gentleness and respect. With gentleness and respect calls us not to be arrogant, or condescending, or combative, or judgmental.

To be potentially sympathetic to Jesus but unwilling to express that publically, or to wish to be associated with Jesus but not in public, hardly gives a person the opportunity to acknowledge Him, to be the salt of the earth or the light of the world, or to live in such a way that one would be asked the reason for his or her hope.

I have often told the story of a little boy answering the door with his mutt dog when a door to door salesman knocked. Trying to create goodwill, the salesman noted the dog and asked, “What kind of dog is that?” The boy proudly answered, “He’s a police dog.” Puzzled, the salesman remarked, “He doesn’t look like a police dog.” The boy responded, “He’s in the secret service.” There very well may be unique situations when it would be necessary to be a secret disciple; but generally speaking a secret disciple is an oxymoron.

What do you think?

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