Monday, September 07, 2015

Principle & Pragmatism in Christian Leadership

I notice that The John Owen Centre annual conference, which started today, is on Putting Theology into Practice: Principle and Pragmatism in Church Life. It is an interesting subject and I hope it will be possible to listen to the audio online.

People sometimes talk of a principled pragmatism. And I guess I'm in favour of that. God would have us learn wisdom and maturity, partly from observing how the world works. We want to go with the grain of the universe God has made and under him seek to do what will be effective. Christian leadership, like politics, is sometimes the art of the possible. There are ditches to die in, but one must choose well.

But of course one cannot choose pragmatism at any price. Better to die than to sin.

And even if an obvious outright sin is not being advocated, there are so many tough judgement calls.

For example, the Bible doesn't tell you how long your sermons should be. If (some of) the (loudest!) the people want 7 minutes and no more, thank you very much, should you preach for 6, 7, 12, 15, 20, 30 or 45 minutes? It is not easy to say which is the principled or pragmatic approach. For example, it maybe that ultimately 20 minute sermons are pragmatic. If God grows his people though his Word prayerfully preached in the power of the Spirit, maybe a decent chunk of that will, in the long run, be the path to growth, even if there are some growing pains along the way. What is easiest in the short term may not be best, or even most effective. Sometimes a little pain now can mean gain, and less difficulty in the future.

For the Christian worker, effectiveness always ultimately means faithfulness and seeking the blessing of God. Nothing of eternal significance can be achieved unless the Lord builds the house. So it turns out to be pragmatic to be principled. The most effective thing to do for the Kingdom is to prayerfully seek to do the right thing, to obey the Word of God as best you can. Seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness and see what the Lord will add.

Leaders must of course lead. They need to be out ahead of the people to do this. But the leader also has to take people with him. If no one follows, he ceases to be a leader. It can't always be my private principles or the Highway. Others must be persuaded that the way the leader wants to go is God's way.

No doubt the good John Owen Centre folks will have a lot more useful and thought through things to say.

No comments: