Leadership that is Transforming or Deforming?
For the last few weeks I have been pondering what one journalist calls “The Painful Lessons of Mars Hill Church.” For those who may not be familiar, Mars Hill is a mega, multi-site church in Seattle whose high profile pastor, Mark Driscoll, resigned in October amid “an avalanche of allegations, ranging from charges of bullying, to abusive behavior, to plagiarism and overseeing mismanagement of church funds.”
Two weeks after Driscoll’s resignation, a post on the church website announced that as of Jan. 1, 2015, “the existing Mars Hill Church organization will be dissolved.” So, as of New Years day, Mars Hill will be gone. “Thousands of Christian worshippers gathering weekly across four states, their church boasting annual revenues of more than $30 million: dissolving. Done.”
This situation is painful because of the loss and devastation one pastor’s character patterns have caused to a particular group of God’s people in a particular corner of God’s kingdom. It is sobering because when we are honest, we know this could happen to any leader—to a greater or lesser extent—if we are not intentional about our own ongoing process of spiritual transformation. Not only can a lack of ongoing transformation harm ourselves and those closest to us, it can be deforming to the very communities we serve. As one of Driscoll’s colleagues observed, “You have to realize that you are going to reproduce your soul in your church, whether you intend to or not. Your soul, the fruit of the Spirit that’s in your life, your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, are going to be reproduced in that church.”*
“It is painful because of the loss and devastation one pastor’s character patterns have caused to a particular group of God’s people in a particular corner of God’s kingdom. It is sobering because when we are honest, we know this could happen to any leader—to a greater or lesser extent—if we are not intentional about our own ongoing process of spiritual transformation.”
I have hesitated to address this situation because I do not ever want to use someone else’s difficulties in an opportunistic way. At the same time, this gut-wrenching scenario tugs at my own heart because it so powerfully illustrates the very reason why the Transforming Center exists.
The Transforming Center came into being to create space for pastors and leaders (starting with ourselves!) to be intentional about engaging in an ongoing process of spiritual transformation while in leadership in order to help ensure that our leadership is a transforming–not deforming—dynamic in the communities we serve. Our Transforming Community® experience provides teaching, spiritual direction, and safe relationships that support and catalyze this process and at the time of this writing, Transforming Community 8 is finishing up, Transforming Communities 9 and 10 are in progress and Transforming Community 11 begins in July. Quite simply, providing transforming communities for leaders in what we do.
In 2015 we will also be taking our commitment to Transforming Community one step further as we launch the Transforming Church® initiative which will include a network of transforming leaders committed to leading transforming churches. This past May we completed our pioneering effort of convening 30 church and ministry to engage in a two-year Leading a Transforming Church program. We learned so much about the challenges and what it takes to lead a transforming church or ministry AND we learned that what leaders most need to be effective and empowered in this endeavor is relationships and resources. Thus, we are preparing to launch the Transforming Church network with these leaders in 2015 with a commitment to provide that very thing—relationships and resources that equip and empower pastors to lead transforming communities. This has been our ultimate vision from the very beginning—to call forth communities of spiritual transformation that discern and do the will of God.
We believe that now is the time to consider what it will take for leaders in Christ’s church (including ourselves) to drive a stake in the ground and do whatever it takes to cultivate communities that experience transformation in Christ’s presence! We invite you to join us—in prayer, in financial support, or (if you are a leader of a church or ministry community) to take next steps in exploring what it might look like for you to join the network. Click here for more information.
*All quotes are from Ben Tertin, “The Painful Lessons of Mars Hill,” Leadership Journal, December 2014.