Tag Archives: Bill Kinnon

The Gospel According to Your Own Best Interests

Two friends in Todd Littleton and Bill Kinnon take on THE Gospel Coalition.

First from Todd

What problematizes the Lifeway/SBC sponsorship and support is C.J Mahaney. Mahaney is also a co-founder of the event. Others have noted the curious timing of his re-instatement. The suggestion is that it came so he could participate in this event. An inside investigation into his admittedly poor leadership ethics did not prompt a change in leadership. For others this raises questions about an independent investigation report that may be released.

That Mahaney admitted to behavior that would get most of us removed from the pastorate does not rise to the level where the SBC entity has an ethical position to preserve. Bill Kinnon is aghast at the developments – not Lifeway. Even a member of the SGM network is flummoxed. But, the sorts of practices Mahaney acknowledged were, and who knows if they remain, normal fair in the pragmatic antics pre- and post- CR in the SBC. It is very difficult the pot calling the kettle black. And, since Mohler defended Mahaney when the story broke it would be hard now, I guess, to suggest either Mahaney withdraw participation until the independent investigation is complete or that the SBC /Lifeway would rescind its support, sponsorship, and participation. But wait, what about Baptist autonomy. We do have our trump cards, even when ethics are in question.

The point is not about the “togetherness” of a group of Christians for the Gospel. I am for a much wider vision for “togethering” for the Gospel. I have no issue with Mahaney personally. I am as frail and prone to hubris as the next pastor. What interests me is the way decisions are framed. Lifeway rightly positions itself against abortion – it is an ethical position. But, so is leadership ethics. On the one hand we defend the “not yet born.” What about those lives littering the byways of this world suffering at the hands of powerful religious leaders? Are they less valuable? Surely Ed Stetzer has written something about the reasons there are “de-churched” people in our Country. Clergy abuse fits that bill.

Now from Bill Kinnon

This video of Mahaney with his three T4G co-founders made me sick to my stomach, when I viewed it this morning. These men should be ashamed of themselves. But they apparently don’t know what “shame” means… or “research” for that matter. When the CJ-Stepping-Down scandal first erupted last summer they chose to believe Mahaney over the hundreds hurt by his ministry. Isn’t that typical for the celebrity-driven church.

So back to Carson and Keller. Perhaps they can help me with my confusion; if a poor understanding of Trinitarian theology and the preaching of prosperity are cause for concern (and I don’t disagree that they are), should not one be concerned about a significant leader in your movement who uses blackmail to get his own way. (Trust me, there are many, many more reasons to question Mahaney’s fitness for church leadership, but this one will suffice for the moment.)

The fellows of TGC and T4G are more than willing to call out anyone they believe to be doing harm to their understanding of The Gospel.

Except, it would seem, if it’s one of their co-council members. (And I haven’t even mentioned a certain West Coast church leader, also on said council… well, not in this post, anyway.)

So you have a church leader engaged in large spread emotional abuse and blackmail and that is okay as long as he has the right friends and has enough influence and pull.  A pastor I know had huge integrity issues with money and how he dealt with people yet friends would tell me, “he has the gift of evangelism” or “the church keeps on growing”.   It happens all over yet of all of the places it should never happen is in the church.  The church is supposed to demand better yet it rarely does.  That is what saddens me.

Kinnon on things he is rather tired of

I don’t post a lot on theology and the church anymore but if you are wondering what I am thinking on any topic, head to Bill Kinnon’s blog.  Bill just posted on things he is rather tired of and he has posted what I have been thinking of but have been too disgusted to write about.

I just spent the last hour working on a post called Power, Authority and Control. And I just don’t have the energy to finish it. As you might imagine, it references the recent nonsense from John Piper on Christianity being masculine, more Mark Driscoll than I care to think about and the latest missive from 9Marks on church discipline — as if it’s a line from Hotel California, “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

The post references the upcoming T4G conference where the recently reinstated CJ Mahaney, he of blackmailing-his-church-cofounder-fame, will share the platform with men who will teach young males about the importance of exerting proper control of their sheep. If there was truth in advertising, or a at least Christian advertising, the conference would be called Men Together for the Patriarchal Gospel.

So here are some of the things that I’m tired of:

1) People who deny that they believe that patriarchy is a first-order issue, but then do everything in their power to make it such.

2) The people who insist that they have the answers for the church simply because of the size of their audience. Would they please spend some time in 20th century history. Assuming they are literate, that study should defeat the argument for them.

3) The supposedly Christian publishers who promote anything as long as they think there’s a market for it — I’m getting more convinced every day that I should only read Christian writings from authors who’d been dead for at least 40 years.

4) Celebrity-Driven Conferences that could fill almost every waking moment, if one were so inclined, but in the end have limited to no impact – other than on the bank accounts of attendees.

I like his fourth point because he is both right and I think church leaders actually use conferences as an escape from their own problems.   Like I have said before, I have never understood why one profession (which really isn’t that difficult) needs to go to so many conferences.

The Christian Book Whore

Bill picks up on my post about bloggers whoring themselves out to the publishers for free books and other products.  First of all, the price is quite small, EA once sent my brother to San Francisco for the launch of Battlefield 2 and game home with a bag full of schwag and more free games than he knew what to do with (his really cool older brother took some off his hands) so he could cover it for a gaming site.

Book Sneeze Bill brings up the idea that we are doing this for free and he’s right but what struck me is the damage we do to our own reputations when we allow ourselves to be bought off by free products.  It’s one of the reasons why I posted a disclosure statement as part of my weblog.  It let’s people know where I am coming from and why I do what I do.  It also allows me to communicate my associations and conflicts of interest.  One of the nice things about TheOoze Viral Blogger and Book Sneeze buttons is that it allows me to see right away that the writer has sold out.

This isn’t the same for all of you but there is a price to be paid for being independent, for the views you have being your views and for your voice being your voice.  It’s also why journalists (should) never accept free gifts, trips, or anything else that influences their stories or coverage of events.  You can see it the coverage of Tiger Woods by the golf media.  Many of them knew something was up but because their livelihood was linked to access to Tiger, they never ran with it.  It was the National Enquirer that broke the story because their bottom line wasn’t dependent at all on Tiger’s career (sadly though it was by his sex life).

Of course many church bloggers gave up that independence years ago (twice this week friends said to me “I agree with theologically but I don’t dare say that in my church”) as it is part of many of your spiritual journeys.  By prescribing to church doctrine and practices you don’t agree with in exchange for a paycheck probably makes giving favorable reviews for free books quite palatable.

The other thing is that with most credible news organizations not run by Rupert Murdoch, there is a large degree of journalistic independence that is completely separate from the business side of the organization.  With bloggers there are not normally is not a wall between your editorial and marketing sides (which is why Google, The Deck, and Federated Media help). 

If you are reading this, you know I am not a journalist.  This site has the reach of a fraction of what even a small daily paper does.  At the same time you mean something to me.  Much to the detriment of my savings account, my independence means something to me.  I don’t know how to measure how much you mean to me but you mean enough that I won’t be bought with free stuff here.  There is no pay to play.  It’s the same reason why I don’t have advertising here.  If that changes, I promise you, you will be the first to know.

Missional Challenges

Urban LandscapeOver the last year I have noticed a trend when in a mixed group of churches (often evangelical) and NGOs.  It is the local evangelical churches inability to organize or work with outside groups.  All of them share the following characteristics.

  • The needs and convenience of the local church are more important than other partner agencies.
  • Other partner agencies or the community are expected to conform to the church’s convenience, even though it is a big inconvenience to other parties.
  • The church has a much bigger need for recognition than other agencies and groups.

The result is the same, the church is excluded in future discussions and is left on the margins while it’s reputation is hurt.  One frustrated NGO leader that I know talked about dealing with adults and children and evangelical churches was put into the children category.

Over the years several people have seen this and suggested that pastors are relationally retarded, they just can’t interact outside of a hierarchical power structure.  Bill Kinnon and I have talked about the narcissistic personality disorder and he also suggests that some pastors are sociopaths.  I have noted that many evangelical churches don’t play well with others but I am sure in some cases that is the issue.

I wonder if in many cases it is a case of never interacting outside of the confines of the church.  Growing up in the church –> Bible College –> Youth Worker –> Seminary –> Associate Pastor –> Sr. Pastor leads to fairly limited worldview as it totally focused on the life of the church.  The church has been and continues to be a persons entire life.  An entire career spent organizing within the community mean when in a situation where they need to be part of something bigger, they behave the same way they do inside the church, the needs of the church become the most important.  The issue isn’t that pastors are jerks, it is that their education and career path hurts them.  The more I think about it, the more it becomes a correctable issue.

What if we slowed down the path to the pulpit, either as denominations or as seminaries.  What if a two year stint in the Peace Corps or something like working for the Canadian Coast Guard or navy was part of the journey?  What about a two year stint in the mission field working grunge jobs and funded by the church that is sending them out to ministry.  My friend Gloria always says that church staff need to work in the real world and the more I think about it, the more I agree with it.

The purpose is to show potential church leaders a bigger world and also put them outside the church for a while.  Let them figure out some more about their personal faith, their calling, but also teach them how to work with other groups, learn what it means to be at the bottom of the totem pole. It would also teach them how hard it can be to make ends meet, be a good spouse, parent and participate on the life of the church.  It would give them an idea how how much they are asking and how much people are giving towards the life of the church and what that means.

I know some people will leave the ministry along the way, they are going to find a better spot and serve.  They may choose a career in the Navy, a career working in microfinance in Africa, or choose a career in business.  Some will even lose their faith but that happens now.  For those who are really called to pastoral ministry, it will give them a bigger worldview, a network a friends outside of the church, some more life experience, and the ability to understand how to work as part of a team, rather than just “lead” a team.

There is a reason why for years, culture valued leaders who served in the military as we felt that being part of something bigger than ourselves was a prerequisite of leadership.  Even President Obama did this during his years as a community organizer in impoverished Chicago neighborhoods.  Maybe a four year Bachelor’s of Theology needs to become a six year degree with a year breaks between year two and three and year three and four.  A Masters of Divinity may require an approved year of learning outside of the seminary applying what has been learned.  The Peace Corps, becoming a reservist, serving coffee in a Starbucks, being an intern in a shelter, or spending a year with YWAM become a required part of the curriculum.   By moving people outside the church for education, we may just make them better church leaders who have learned some important skills connecting with others, building partnerships, and living in the community.

Seminary 2.0

Bill Kinnon talks about a video he shot a couple of years ago with Eddie Gibbs

In an interview I shot with Eddie Gibbs a couple of years ago (no longer available online, I’m afraid), Eddie talked about the present seminary model that leads to students incurring huge debts in pursuit of their Masters Degrees. He commented that his banker, financial advisor and a real estate agent he knew were all M.Div’s who couldn’t afford to work full time at a church – they wouldn’t be able to service their seminary education debt.

Eddie was bold enough to suggest that seminaries needed to learn how to give their education away for free – like MIT and Stanford are doing. (Not that I expect to see that any time soon.) He also suggested that churches needed to be the ones sending folk to seminaries, paying for that education and expecting the seminarians to return to their sending community to work there or to be sent out from that community to plant new churches.

This is where the Disseminary makes so much sense to me.

Bill Kinnon on writing

Bill has a wonderful post on writing.  The entire thing is worth reading but this one got me thinking

In 2004, Nielsen BookScan tracked the sales of 1.2 million books and found that nine hundred and fifty thousand of them sold fewer than ninety-nine copies.

So we are looking at author royalties of a couple hundred bucks and a couple of conference speaking gigs.  In the end is it worth the effort?

Bill’s prescription to the cure is to write better stories and he is dead on correct (although writing stories is harder than it sounds, check out this editorial review from Amazon.com) .  Like a lot of bloggers, I get a lot of books sent to me by almost every major publishing house.  In fact two came today and both of them look horrible.  In fact 99% of the books that I see coming my way, including many by friends are horrible.  They are poorly researched, not fact checked (if you are going to use history or science as an illustration, do your homework people!)  It’s one of the reasons why I no longer talk about theological titles here, so many of them aren’t worth my time to read and when I do read them, I am confronted by the fact that these are three hours I will never get back.  Do I keep wasting time on this or move on?  I generally find something by Michael Lewis or Steven Johnson and move on (which proves Bill’s point).

My suggestion for a lot of writers is not to bother writing a book period.  Forget the conferences, forget the interviews on Christian radio, forget the church basement book signings.  Instead throw your efforts into whatever it is that you are good at.  Chances are your ideas are intrinsically linked to your personality and your context and not as transferable as you would think.   That’s why even if I lost some weight and got a blond wig and a sailboat, I still couldn’t lead like Bill Hybels.  The reason isn’t that I didn’t mention his golf shirts (and let’s be honest, he has some nice golf shirts), it is that I am not Bill Hybels and I live in Saskatoon, not South Barrington.

Secondly, is the time away from doing what you do well or time away from learning something that you don’t do well, worth 1000 book sales and $5,000 in royalties?  Is the mini-book tour worth it?  Is the time spamming your friends worth it? What about moderating message boards on infrequentbooksales.com, and trying to get people to fan you on Facebook worth it? 

Thirdly, is giving the copyright of you idea to your publisher worth it?  Especially in the church I don’t know why we don’t see more writers open sourcing their content.  If you believe your idea came from the Holy Spirit, does turning that over to FOX (though Zondervan) seem to be the best course of action?  If you want to publish at least consider negotiating so your book is published under a Creative Commons license.

I have heard Michael Slaughter of Ginghamsburg talk about writing being the best way to influence people and in some ways he is right but as Bill Kinnon pointed out, is less then 100 copies influencing anyone other than your closest friends?

Would the time be better of spent writing a blog (and then doing what Guy Kawasaki did and put it out as a book), doing an excellent series of videos on YouTube which tell your story (great example of this here or here – what either of these stories be as compelling in book form?), or what about creating a world class webcast like what Spencer Burke did with TheOoze.tv or an excellent podcast?  If you are committed to writing, why not introduce your ideas to communities like TheOoze or Next-Wave

I like Rob Bell’s writing but if I was him and had to choose between writing and Nooma, I would choose Nooma. Also wouldn’t the time be better spent putting it into whatever made you think you should write about it.  I am not being flippant.  I remember the great line in Jim Collins’ book Built to Last where he talks about Lee Iacocca being distracted from running Chrysler because he was too busy being Lee Iacocca.

Finally, I know the church goes on and on about visionary leadership and visionary pastors and everyone including the pastors dog is a visionary (Maggi is visioning a piece of pizza as I type) but there have few game changing ideas that I have read in the last decade.  Most of it is regurgitated stuff and doesn’t need to see the light of day again.  Maybe the best use of our time would be coming up with some new ideas, instead of repackaging some old ones.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Bill Kinnon is writing about the Narcissistic Personality Disorder and church leaders.  Narcissistic Personality Disorder is not simply about taking normal egoism to extremes. NPD is one of fewer than a dozen personality disorders described by the American Psychiatric Association. These differ from the major mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and manic-depression, which are believed to have a biological origin. Personality disorders are seen as a failure of character development.

As Bill points out, it is a disorder that is seen in church leadership.

For the NPD church leader, church is all about numbers and size. The church reflects who they are. And provides them with the lifestyle they believe they deserve. NPD’s are particularly gifted at winning affection by selling you what you want to be sold.

Like Bill I know of a couple of pastors who fit this profile.  One told me once that as long as he as the visionary leader survived, everyone else on his staff was expendable.  His vision and best interest trumped that of the community and the community’s primary job was to support him.

Of course one would like to see the wider church community confront and help bring healing to these leaders (and their communities) but in many ways the system feeds their disorder.  Powerful pastors are often outside their denominations or in some ways, bigger than their denominations.  In many ways they become in a microcosm  AIG’s or Citigroup, they are the ecclesiastical version of too big to fail, or in this case, fall.  Robert Webber once said that what drives the evangelical church was big buildings and powerful pastors and I don’t think he is that far out of line.

If the building is getting big and the pastor has influence, we tend to look the other way.  I heard one person dismiss the ethical failings of their pastor by observing what a great evangelist they were.

Over the last couple of days I have been getting a new computer up to speed.  Lot’s of downloading, updating, rebooting, downloading, updating… While I was sitting there I picked from Good to Great by Jim Collins.  I have always been a fan of Collins.  His views on business are often quoted in the church out of context but in the field which he is writing, I appreciate him a lot.  It’s odd because for all that he is quoted on leadership, people seem to ignore that he is describing the antithesis of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder leader.  His Level 5 leader is devoted to the cause, not to the fame.  He has a great line in one of his books about Lee Iacocca where he said that Lee Iacocca was distracted from running Chrysler by being Lee Iacocca.

He writes

Virtually everything our modern culture believes about the type of leadership required to transform our institutions is wrong. It is also dangerous. There is perhaps no more corrosive trend to the health of our organizations than the rise of the celebrity CEO, the rock-star leader whose deepest ambition is first and foremost self-centric.

He continues with more thoughts on a Level 5 leader

On the one hand… Creates—and is a clear catalyst in creating—superb results. Yet on the other hand… Demonstrates a compelling modesty, shunning public adulation and never boastful.

On the one hand… Demonstrates an unwavering resolve to do whatever must be done to produce the best long-term results, no matter how difficult. Yet on the other hand… Acts with quiet, calm determination and relies principally on inspired standards—not an inspiring personality—to motivate.

On the one hand… Sets the standard of building an enduring great organization and will settle for nothing less. Yet on the other hand… Channels ambition into the organization and its work, not the self, setting up successors for even greater success in the next generation.

On the one hand… Looks in the mirror, not out the window, to apportion responsibility for poor results, never blaming other people, external factors, or bad luck. Yet on the other hand… Looks out the window, not in the mirror, to apportion credit for the success of the company—to other people, external factors, and good luck.

I used to think of these leaders as rare birds, almost freaks of nature. But then a funny thing happened after a seminar where I shared the Level 5 finding and bemoaned the lack of Level 5 leaders. After the session, a number of people stopped by to give examples of Level 5 leaders they’d observed or worked with. Then again, at another seminar, the same thing happened. Then again, at a third seminar—and a pattern began to emerge.

It turns out that many people have experienced Level 5 leadership somewhere in their development—a Level 5 sports coach, a Level 5 platoon commander, a Level 5 boss, a Level 5 entrepreneur, a Level 5 CEO. There is a common refrain: “I couldn’t understand or put my finger on what made him so effective, but now I understand: he was a Level 5.” People began to clip articles and send e-mails with examples of people they think of as Level 5 leaders, past or present: Orin Smith of Starbucks Coffee, Joe Torre of the New York Yankees, Kristine McDivitt of Patagonia, John Whitehead of Goldman Sachs, Frances Hesselbein of The Drucker Foundation, Jack Brennan of Vanguard, John Morgridge of Cisco Systems, former Secretary of State George Shultz, and so on. My list of Level 5 leaders began to grow exponentially.

Then it dawned on me: Our problem is not a shortage of Level 5 leaders. They exist all around us. Like the drawing of two faces that transforms itself into a vase, depending on how you look at the picture, Level 5 leadership jumps out at us as soon as we change how we look at the world and alter our assumptions about how it best works.

the_brand_called_you1No, our problem lies in the fact that our culture has fallen in love with the idea of the celebrity CEO. Charismatic egotists who swoop in to save companies grace the covers of major magazines because they are much more interesting to read and write about than people like Darwin Smith and David Maxwell. This fuels the mistaken belief held by many directors that a high-profile, larger-than-life leader is required to make a company great. We keep putting people into positions of power who lack the inclination to become Level 5 leaders, and that is one key reason why so few companies ever make a sustained and verifiable shift from good to great.

Sadly you don’t see a lot of Level Five leaders writing books or speaking at conferences (although there are exceptions).  Tom Peters may disagree with me but they aren’t that interested in the Brand Called You, they are serving out there serving somewhere and trying to make a difference in the world and not worried about themselves or their own career.