Preface to Culture Craft

A leader of an evangelical agency in the U.S. asked, “How can I lead like Jesus and meet my organization’s demands at the same time?”

An HR officer from India who serves in a global Christian organization asked, “Why are none of our real spiritual leaders in positions of senior leadership?”

A Christian worker in Europe said, “A popular speaker in our ministry has been accused by several women of immoral sexual conduct. Why have our senior leaders denied these women’s allegations without due process?”

A youth worker in Brazil asked, “How can our pastor preach about honesty on Sunday morning and be dishonest about the benevolent fund at the board meeting on Tuesday?”

A young leader from the Middle East expressed it this way: “I work with a small Christian mission in my country. We face security risks every day.  The leader of our mission recently read a book written by a well-known Christian leader that teaches principles for success. Our leader is trying to practice the lessons from the book, but the lessons are creating much confusion in our mission. What does ‘success’ mean for Christian ministries in our nation?”

This book is a response to these kinds of questions from leaders in many nations. They are often frustrated with the leadership approach in their own organizations.  These leaders are committed to the leadership approach of Jesus, but they encounter conflict in their organizations when they attempt to live out these biblical principles.  Their organizations’ stated values appear to support Jesus’ way of leadership, but the senior leaders are not actually functioning according to their stated values.

The purpose of this book is to provide tools for leaders to assess their organization’s real values and to develop their organizational culture toward better health.  We believe that organizations are healthy when the values that they actually demonstrate are consistent with the values and example of Jesus Christ. We have written for existing and emerging leaders who want to apply Jesus’ way of leadership in their organizations. We want to equip them with some proven assessment tools for evaluating their organization’s culture.  These leaders can also use these assessment tools to craft their organizations toward better health.

In Section 1, we describe the culture-related conflict that leaders encounter, and summarize our proposed solution.

In Section 2, we discuss perspectives on evangelical organizations from the recent past, from research, and from the present.

In Section 3, we explain the essential components of organizational culture. In Section 4, we present our views on Jesus’ way of leadership.

In Sections 5-9, we describe the “handles” that leaders can use to assess and develop their organizational cultures toward better effectiveness.  We offer insights into how Jesus used these tools in His leadership to shape the culture of the early church.

In September 2004, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization hosted a forum in Pattaya, Thailand. Attending participants from around the world expressed a common, urgent need for Christ-centered leaders in their churches, missions, and organizations. This book is one contribution among several initiatives to address this need.

This book is also the result of our own experiences with Christian organizations.  We are impressed with the impact many of these churches, missions, and organizations have made over the past half-century. But we have also seen our share of tragedies. We have observed a few excellent Christian leaders, but we are mostly disappointed with the organizational cultures that evangelical leaders have fostered in their organizations.  Masses of committed, capable leaders are leaving these organizations because they cannot reconcile the evident chasm between Jesus’ way of leadership and their organizations’ dysfunctional cultures.  We hope that this book provides some relevant answers in this impending crisis.

We have used a dialogue format to present much of the book’s content. This style reflects our relationship and the way we typically facilitate seminars and conferences together. Although we believe that the subject of this book is extremely important, you will also notice that we often do not take ourselves very seriously.  We hope that you will find our approach refreshing.

We also want to confess at the outset our cultural limitations.  We have travelled and consulted with organizations in many cultural contexts, but we are still most familiar with organizations in North America and Western Europe. We were born and raised in the West, and many of the illustrations in this book are from these contexts that we know best.

Moreover, we have written this book with the deep conviction that many leadership models have been imposed by our respective countries on the rest of the world with damaging effect. We do not believe that western leaders have the answers for everyone.  In fact, our experiences in other cultures convince us that many Christian organizations will have to shed western leadership  models and return to universal, timeless, biblical principles in order to pursue their Kingdom priorities with faithfulness.  Therefore, we invite our readers to determine how the concepts and tools we offer herein apply to their distinct cultural settings.

Rick  Sessoms & Colin Buckland

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