In his excellent book The Conviction to Lead, Al Mohler has a great section on “the two cultures of modern Christian leadership.”
The first group knows a lot of theology, but not so much about leadership:
The problem is that the evangelical Christian world is increasingly divided between groups we might call the Believers and the Leaders.
The Believers are driven by deep and passionate beliefs. They are heavily invested in knowledge, they are passionate about truth. They devote themselves to learning truth, teaching truth, and defending truth. They define themselves in terms of what they believe, and they are ready to give their lives for these beliefs.
The problem is, many of them are not ready to lead [emphasis added]. They heave never thought much about leadership and are afraid that thinking too much about it will turn them into mere pragmatists, which they know they shouldn’t be. They know a great deal and believe a great deal, but they lack the basic equipment for leadership. As one proverbial deacon said of his pastor, “Oh, he knows a lot, but he can’t lead a decent two-car funeral procession.”
This is a big, big problem in my view. There are lots of reasons, but one of the biggest is that good theology actually gets discredited when nobody who holds that theology can actually lead. For example, when you are able to make great and true statements about the great doctrines of the Bible, but the things you say about leadership are completely wrong, it undermines your credibility. (Let me also add that just because you understand theology, it does not automatically follow that everything you think about leadership is right just because you think it; leadership is a discipline in its own right, and you need to learn it.)
Further, if people with good theology don’t know how to lead, then the church will eventually be led by people with bad theology. Hence, people who care about theology ultimately have no choice — they have to learn about leadership and learn to do it well.
On the other hand, there are many in the church who care much about leadership, but aren’t as clear on what they believe. Mohler continues:
The Leaders, on the other hand, are passionate about leadership. They are tired of seeing organizations and movements die or decline, and they want to change things for the better. They look around and see dead and declining churches and lukewarm organizations. They are thrilled by the experience of leading and are ardent students of leadership wherever they can find it. They talk leadership wherever they go and are masters of motivation, vision, strategy, and execution.
The problem is, many of them are not sure what they believe or why it matters. They are masters of change and organization transformation, but they lack a center of gravity in truth. They often ride one program after another until they run out of steam. Then they wonder, What now?
What’s the solution? The solution is that these groups need to come together. The believers need to learn more about leadership (and stop making fun of it! it is not mere pragmatism) and the leaders need to recognize the great value in diving deeper theologically (it does not have to distract from loving people or turn you into a rigid dogmatist).
Some people will always be more leadership oriented, and others will always be more doctrinally oriented, but at the end of the day the amazing thing is that good, biblical leadership is actually very theological — and good theology is also very leadership-oriented.
Here’s how Mohler brings things together:
You deserve to know exactly who I am and why I am writing this book. I want to turn the Believers into Leaders and the Leaders into Believers. My goal is to knock the blocks out from under the current models of leadership and forge a new way. I stake my life on the priority of right beliefs and convictions, and at the same time I want to lead so that those very beliefs are perpetuated in others.
If our leaders are not passionately driven by the right beliefs, we are headed for disaster. At the same time, if believers cannot lead, we are headed nowhere.
My goal is to redefine Christian leadership so that it is inseparable from passionately held beliefs, and to motivate those who are deeply committed to truth to be ready for leadership.
I want to see a generation arise that is simultaneously leading with conviction and driven by the conviction to lead. The generation that accomplishes this will set the world on fire.