Not Common Enough

By Mark A. Taylor

An old friend was catching me up on his career in Internet technology project management. More than once he’s been thrust into dysfunctional situations in companies struggling to reach goals and meet deadlines.

These aren’t Christian enterprises, but my friend told me what he’s discovered about how to make progress: “Good management generally is a matter of Christian principles combined with common sense.”

Excuses he’s heard: She’s wrong. He’s late. They’re incompetent.

“That’s not what we’re going to be about,” he tells employees. “We’re all in the same boat, heading toward the same goal.”

Common sense: We can’t succeed if we’re whacking each other in the head instead of using our oars to paddle forward.

Sept22_MT-art_JNBut you don’t understand how so-and-so messed up/slacked off/wasted my time.

“What can we do to address the problem? What can you do to help make this right?”

Common sense: The soonest we can solve anything is today. The best (likely, the only) person I can move, motivate, or change is myself.

I’m doing my best. No one understands what I’m up against. I wish someone would listen to me. I’m working hard. I’m good at my job. I’m right.

Christian principle: Most dysfunction in most teams stems from a simple root cause: sin. Sometimes it’s greed. Sometimes it’s selfishness. Usually it’s pride.

Office politics prevail in just about every situation: NFL front offices, boards of education, the halls of academia and among those working in every artistic endeavor, whether it be Hollywood movies or city symphonies or local community theaters.

It’s true in most parachurch organizations too. And when I said that to my friend, he chuckled and added, “Not to mention the local church!”

Most of us have seen local church sin masked as something else:

It’s easy to find a few leaders who will be persuaded to see things your way when you can’t get the minister or the chairman of the elders to understand how wrong they are. It’s easy to believe your criticism behind their back is “for the church’s good” when what it most reflects is your need to be right.

If you’re serving on a church staff, it’s easier to stay silent and go along with a headstrong senior minister than to speak up if you think his vision is clouded. Especially when your wife loves her job, your kids love their friends, and you love the house your salary allows you to afford.

And if you’re the leader, it’s easy to assume you know what’s right because, after all, they’ve put you in charge. And it’s natural to want to hide your mistakes, deny your insecurities, or surround yourself with those who won’t challenge your ideas and initiatives.

But “natural” is usually a threat to, if not the opposite of, “spiritual.”

When you think about it, that’s only common sense. But too many, in too many local churches and parachurch ministries are suffering or stalled because, unfortunately, neither common sense nor a basic Christian ethic are nearly as common among their leaders as we wish or would expect.

This column originally appeared September 25, 2015.

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1 Comment

  1. Marshall Hayden
    September 22, 2015 at 11:23 am

    True! Some folks might flinch. OK!

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