Approved Workmen

Sometimes you hear something so often that you begin to believe it… whether or not it’s true.

While that sounds like a great opening line for disagreeing with the artistic supremacy of Vampire Weekend or the commercial appeal of Steve Buscemi, those targets are just too easy. I’m taking on the 1960’s.

When you think Peace and Love you don’t just think of the 1960’s, you actually see Volkswagen vans and love beads in your metaphysical mind’s eye don’t you. I think that’s all garbage. In my opinion, the ’60’s get the credit for bringing the world together when all it really did was the come up with idea.  Don’t get me wrong, the ’60’s wanted to buy the world a Coke, but it didn’t exactly get up off it’s afghan blanket and reach for it’s wallet.

The 1970’s bought the world a Coke.

It’s probably Time/Life magazine’s fault, but we’ve fallen under the spell of the decade that came up with the idea as we laugh at the decade that did all of the work.

Segregation had done nothing to create a culture where separate meant equal, and America entered the 1970’s a nation of diverse ethnic groups commanded to “get along” by a parenting paradigm that relied more on idea than action.  Standing in the way of brown paper and white paper sticking together with the tape of love was a reluctance by many on either side to to anything together.

This of course brings me to The Doobie Brothers.

The action of the ’70’s brought humans together and The Doobie Brothers provided the soundtrack.  Doobie music sounded entirely different than it’s contemporary counterparts because it incorporated influences from a wide variety of sources. In Doobie music, rock shared a drink with country, country danced with boogie, and boogie made out with soul while the horn section served notice that having different colored “Brothers” made every party better.

The Doobie Brothers were white guys who sang Gospel, black guys who wore cowboy boots, and they all had mustaches that made Latin America want to move to China Grove.  They played concerts in Manhattan AND Motown while spurning convention to join Rerun and Raj for a Very Special Episode of “What’s Happening!”.  The Brothers lived out the idea that people of all backgrounds could make something new and beautiful together.

Sometimes we get so excited about the ideas that changed the world, that we forget about the people who actually lived out the ideas that changed the world.

This of course brings me to leadership.

Sometimes we focus our lens so sharply on “what needs to be done” that we can lose sight of “who needs to join us in doing this?”  In biblical terms, we focus on the “approved works” without actually identifying the “approved workmen“.

Christian ministries are swamped by jobs that need to be done.  The temptation is to find people who we can turn these jobs over to.  When we do this we most often look for capable people who are in agreement with our ideas about ministry.  While this sounds good, it can lead to situations where we overlook the people who are actually already doing work that God wants done in favor of promoting people who want “God” to approve of what they want to do.

This means that equipping and authorizing leaders for ministry happens most successfully after identifying those who are already, quietly demonstrating a capacity and a desire to lead effectively.  For instance…

Surveying servant hearted leaders to determine what will help them develop their ministries and skills is actually more life-giving to a leader than entertaining overtures from excited newcomers who are eager to launch new classes or programs.  It’s like Jesus giving more silver talents to the people who have already invested wisely.

The people who are already leading by loving and serving are demonstrating that they actually do agree with you ideologically.  They agree so much that you don’t actually have to press them into action.  By contrast, prospective volunteers who come to you with programming ideas usually have to be convinced as to why their idea doesn’t conform to the overall vision of the organization.  It’s my experience that these people will agree to any theory as long as they get put in charge of something.  Avoid “pet project” programs that leech people and resources from the essential work of your organization.  Gently encourage this person take their idea to a place that desires to start their program.

There are many subtle traps in leadership, one of them is falling in love with ideas.  Falling in love with ideas keeps us working, but working too many ideas can keep us from falling in love with approved workers.  Loving the people we lead is something that sets Christian ministry apart from most leadership models, and loving the people we lead means having the resources to live out those ideas alongside them… as the Doobiest of brothers.

2 Responses to “Approved Workmen”

  1. Teri Sramek January 28, 2011 at 7:10 am #

    Jon, I am reading your blogs on leadership and processing the thoughts. They have challenged my thinking and left me wondering about my own motivations. I think that sometime I would like to sit down with you and pick your brain.

  2. Jon Furman January 28, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    Let’s do it! Thanks for serving youth.

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