Converting Leadership

What sort of leadership leads communities into genuine transformation? One book which got me thinking this month was “A New And Right Spirit: Creating An Authentic Church In A Consumer Culture” by Rick Barger. In the book Rick has a lot to say about adaptive leadership, which he contrasts with technical leadership.

Today I would like to draw your attention to a few comments, not from the book itself, but an associated article on adaptive leadership at Rick writes:

Conversion, not information, is the cause of transformation. In the use of conversion here, I am not talking about the naïve miraculous one-time conversion experience. I am talking about a process that begins by acting converted. The Jesus formula for transformation is certainly not information based. Jesus did not put his disciples into classrooms or simply provide the right information as to what a disciple is. If that is all it takes to convert people to the God-life, then God could have sent a fax rather than a person.

Adaptive Leadership is a converting leadership that brings about transformation. The unconverted church asks the wrong questions. Why can’t we get our youth more involved? How can we increase our worship attendance? Why don’t people give more? What new program do we need? Congregations that behave like Jesus and thus are converting congregations ask different questions: What is God doing in the world and how can we get in on it? What does God need for us to do? How can we make God proud? When congregations seek to join God conversion happens and transformation happens.

The place to begin, however, is with the leader. Does the leader reflect in his or her life that the leader’s home is clearly in the sacred story of the church? Does the sacred story and total devotion to and dependence upon God emanate from the leader in lifestyle choices; in radical generosity and leading in giving; in presence and courage in the midst of conflict; in informed and disciplined theological and biblical ways of thinking, analyzing, and deciding; and, in an always-hopeful, tomb-is-empty attitude? Do Jesus’ seemingly impossible words about loving enemies, unlimited forgiveness, and not losing one’s life in trying to gain the whole world seem to be less impossible in the presence of the leader? If so, then you may have a converting leader.

I found this very timely as I am currently in the process of reworking the introduction to Christianity course for our church. The current course is very technical, very much of an information download. Yet for all this I do not think it leaves people which much of an appreciation for the biblical story and how our life stories fit into it. So I am working towards shifting the focus, from a systematic theology focus to a chronological storytelling focus. I want to spend more time exploring how we live the story, how we breath the story, how the ancient story becomes our story.

I am encouraged by the leadership of Jesus in this. For him, leadership was not about being efficient, leadership was about being authentic.

This post is part of a synchroblog on leadership.

The following blogs took part:

Jonathan Brink – Letter To The President

Adam Gonnerman – Aspiring to the Episcopate

Kai – Leadership – Is Servant Leadership a Broken Model?

Sally Coleman – In the world but not of it- servant leadership for the 21st Century Church

Alan Knox – Submission is given not taken

Joe Miller – Elders Lead a Healthy Family: The Future

Cobus van Wyngaard – Empowering leadership

Steve Hayes – Servant leadership

Geoff Matheson – Leadership

John Smulo – Australian Leadership Lessons

Helen Mildenhall – Leadership

Tyler Savage – Moral Leadership – Is it what we need?

Bryan Riley – Leading is to Listen and Obey

Susan Barnes – Give someone else a turn!

Liz Dyer – A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Polls…

Lionel Woods – Why Diverse Leadership is Good for America

Julie Clawson – Leadership Expectations

Ellen Haroutunian – A New Kind Of Leadership

Matt Stone – Converting Leadership

11 thoughts on “Converting Leadership

  1. Hi, thanks for your contribution. I have a question. The article you quoted says, ” I am not talking about the naïve miraculous one-time conversion experience.”
    What does he mean by the” naive” conversion experience?


  2. WAY TO GO, Matt!
    Love stuff about the transformation vs information! If it’s not copyright and classified Top Secret, I’d love to see what you develop for your Intro course, as I think we’ll need something similar at R******. V exciting developments… I attended an “ordination” last night. The community “called” and “anointed” someone to be their acknowledged leader and also an assistant was similarly appointed. They have taken on the hierarchical “powers that be” in God-fearing activist fashion. I am very “proud” of what they have achieved thus far. It’s been a privilege to walk with them.
    Upon reflection, I am realising that the leadership lessons I learned in my past years as coordinator of an international interdenominational creative arts organisation opened the way for me to be open to learning heaps in a situation of almost opposite proportions. I have myself becoming more deeply personally converted to the teachings and person of Jesus Christ. I think I’m even exploring a new kind of leadership which I might call “incarnational missional activist intercession”! LOL 🙂


  3. RJ, Barger seems very committed to the gospel from what I have read so far I don’t think he’s denigrating Damascus Road experiences if that’s what your worried about. Instead, what I think he is trying to express, is that there is much more to conversion than praying the prayer of confession, and that we need to move from ‘milk’ to ‘meat’ in our thinking about this. To put it into theology-speak, I think he’s suggesting we’re making a mistake if we think conversion is just about justification and not also about sanctification. Conversion is both ‘already’ and ‘ongoing’.


  4. Lucy, I am inclined to go copyleft over copyright with this introduction to Christianity course. Happy to collaborate with others. We’ve still got to catch up for lunch, maybe suggest a date for a few weeks time?


  5. Sally, yes I think one of the trademarks of technical leadership is a fixation with efficiency. But transformation is rarely clean and tidy is it? This is not to dismiss efficiency as a concern, but when you’re asking people to abandon loyalties they are looking for leadership authenticity over and above technical proficiency.


  6. Yeah, Matt, we could meet left-field somewhere, I’m sure… can you do Saturday afternoons or evenings or Sun Aft T’s?… Can’t do Sunday lunches any more coz the R****** gatherings are on at noon. We can do Sat 22 dinna; Sat 29 lunch, aft T, or dinna; or same on Sat 6 and Sun 7 Dec 🙂


  7. matt, hey i really appreciated this contrast between two types of leaders & the new kinds of questions that are part of converting leadership. i, too, want to “spend more time exploring how we live the story, how we breath the story, how the ancient story becomes our story.” beautiful.


  8. Kathy, actually, I would recommend checking out the book. I haven’t read it all, but what I have read was really good. Got me critically examining so of the things I’ve been doing, where I had a few blind spots.


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