Leading a Healthy Church Culture - Lesson 13

Leadership Values of Jesus

In this lesson, Dr. Sessoms discusses the importance of creating a healthy church culture and the role of leaders in doing so. A healthy church culture is defined as a set of shared values, beliefs, and practices that promote spiritual growth and maturity in its members. He emphasizes that creating a healthy church culture is not a one-time event but a continuous process that requires intentional effort and investment. 

Rick Sessoms
Leading a Healthy Church Culture
Lesson 13
Watching Now
Leadership Values of Jesus

I. Introduction

A. Definition of a Healthy Church Culture

B. Importance of a Healthy Church Culture

C. Key Elements of a Healthy Church Culture

II. The Role of Leaders in Creating a Healthy Church Culture

A. Modeling a Healthy Church Culture

B. Communicating Expectations

C. Addressing Unhealthy Behaviors

III. Practical Steps for Creating a Healthy Church Culture

A. Building Relationships

B. Developing a Shared Vision

C. Fostering Communication

D. Encouraging Accountability

IV. Conclusion

A. Recap of Key Concepts

B. Encouragement for Implementing a Healthy Church Culture

  • This lesson covers the importance and characteristics of a healthy church culture, the biblical foundation of church culture, diagnosing the health of a church culture, and cultivating a healthy church culture through prioritizing relationships, creating a safe environment, nurturing spiritual growth, empowering the congregation, and celebrating God's work.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the characteristics, and importance of a healthy church culture, how to diagnose and address unhealthy church culture through biblical leadership and communication, and how to cultivate a healthy church culture.
  • You will gain insight into how to lead a healthy church culture by learning about the importance of healthy leadership, building healthy relationships, establishing healthy structures, and implementing healthy practices.
  • In this lesson, the class discusses a fictional case study called "The Shadow of a Leader," which describes the decline of a Christian leader named Dr. Robert Avella, who became obsessed with power and control over time, causing damage to the ministry and losing trust in his team, as they reflect on the early and later stages of his leadership.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into the challenges and pitfalls of leadership, particularly when leaders lose focus on their spiritual values, become driven by fear and control, and lack accountability and community support. By understanding these factors, you can recognize and address toxic leadership in various contexts.
  • By engaging with this lesson, you will gain insight into the complex dynamics of power and control in leadership, the prevalence of misused power within the Christian church, and the critical importance of fostering accountability and community to maintain a healthy balance of power.
  • This lesson explores Jesus' unique leadership style in the context of the foot-washing event in John 13:1-17, highlighting principles such as leading from a secure sense of self, addressing the deepest needs of followers, and paying it forward through service to others.
  • This lesson teaches you about the significance of developing a Christ-centered church culture, including the exploration of culture's components and the positive and negative aspects it can have within a church setting. You will also learn about the role of leadership in building a healthy church culture, adapting to change, and overcoming challenges.
  • This lesson provides insight into church culture by examining its components, revealing how assumptions and values impact products and practices, and discussing the importance of addressing these core beliefs and assumptions for lasting change.
  • This lesson examines assumptions and worldviews in church leadership by comparing different mental constructs and their influence on leadership values and roles, while also exploring the machine metaphor's impact on organizational life and the new generation's response to this worldview.
  • In this lesson, you learn the importance of cultivating and nourishing people in a garden model of leadership, comparing it to the machine model, and discovering how various biblical metaphors shape the understanding of the church. Emphasizing core beliefs and values, you realize effective leadership focuses on following Christ and maintaining the right attitudes.
  • You will gain insights into the importance of leadership in creating a healthy church culture, including the role of leadership in setting the tone and creating an environment that fosters spiritual growth, discipleship, and healthy relationships. You will also learn about the characteristics of a healthy church culture, practical steps for building a healthy church culture, and the challenges and obstacles to building a healthy church culture.
  • By studying this lesson, you will gain knowledge and insight into the importance of creating a healthy church culture and practical steps for doing so, including the role of leaders in modeling and promoting a healthy culture, building relationships, developing a shared vision, fostering communication, and encouraging accountability.
  • This lesson covers Luke 5, gleaning lessons regarding Jesus' leadership and the four pillars of Christian leadership, which are relationship, influence, follower potential, and common purpose.
  • As you go through the lesson, you will learn about the four primary handles for developing a healthy church culture, which are stories, rituals, symbols, and power structures, and how they shape the values that become the real values within a culture.
  • By understanding the importance of what we measure, we can determine what is significant to us. Measuring something objectively makes it valuable, while not measuring something can result in losing its importance. The example of churches measuring attendance and donations is used to highlight this point, and the lesson suggests that churches should also measure other important aspects like outreach, discipleship, and community service.
  • This lesson discusses how Jesus prepared his disciples to establish the church, and how his actions and values during his time with them set the groundwork for the culture of the church; you are encouraged to explore the principles Jesus instilled in his disciples by examining specific stories, such as the healing of the demon-possessed man and the clearing of the temple.
  • Learn to lead a healthy church culture by analyzing current values, identifying actual values, and creating a strategy matrix to establish and support desired values using four embedding mechanisms.

This course is one of many taught by Dr. Rick Sessoms. It can be taken as a stand alone course, or as a part of the Christ-Centered Leadership Certificate. 

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Dr. Rick Sessoms
Leading a Healthy Church Culture
Leadership Values of Jesus
Lesson Transcript

The next slide that I have to share with you is probably, if you walk away with anything from this course, this is kind of the nexus of it in terms of how we define what is this thing called Christ-centered leadership, and what does it look like, and where is the focus? And so let me unpack this, and then I'd like to share a narrative from the life of Jesus and get some feedback from you; first of all, that it is founded upon relationship rather than control. There is a fundamental reality that to lead like Jesus requires the leader to enter into relationship with those they lead. There is no leadership without relationship in a Christ-centered model. So, this whole idea of span of control is not a Christ-centered concept. Span of relationship is, but not span of control. Span of control was a management concept out of the early 20th century, for those of you that studied that kind of stuff. But span of relationship is what Jesus was really all about, and so that's the first fundamental premise, is there must be relationship if it's going to be Christ-centered leadership. 

Secondly, it's activated by influence rather than by position. Remember that Jesus held no earthly position; His only authority was from the Father. He was not CEO of anything. In fact, he had no place to lay his head. Those that followed him followed him because they chose to follow him, and what we see in leadership today oftentimes is people lead out of position rather than by influence. I'm sure that there are those that you have followed that didn't have a position. So, in other words, you can probably think of people in your life that you would have followed regardless of their position, and then there are others that you have followed only because they had the position. And there you can see the difference. 

The reality is that if leaders have to exhort to their position to get people to follow, then they have sacrificed the ability to influence. In other words, I learned early on that if I had to exert the full extent of my positional power, to that extent, I have forfeited my capacity to influence the people that I lead. Does that make sense, what I just said? So, there's a disproportionate balance; if we apply the position and the power that comes with it, we lose the capacity to influence. By the way, this says to us that leadership can happen from anywhere within the structure. Leaders that lead people to follow them can be the Sunday school teacher that leads the elder. It can be the line person that leads the CEO, in many respects, because it's really about influence. It's not positional at it's orientation. Management, on the other hand, is delegated authority. That's an important distinction. Management is about delegated authority. You don't manage unless you have been delegated the authority positionally to manage. But leadership is a different function; it is about influence, fundamentally, rather than position. Does that make sense? Very important distinction. And so as we go back to Jesus, Jesus used influence exclusively with the people that he led. 

Thirdly, and this may be what sets it apart, is this cultivation piece. The focus of a Christ-centered leader is on the followers’ potential, rather than productivity. Now, that is a profound statement, not because I made it, but this is what Jesus was about. Jesus could have chosen -- we all know that based upon those throngs that came to see him and to follow him around the countryside, he had to get in the boat and go to the other side just to get away from them -- He could have had the most magnificent megachurch in the history of humankind. He could have had a very successful ministry, but instead he risked it all on investing his life in a few followers who would themselves become the agents to plant and develop the early church, that church into which you and I have been swept up these some 21 centuries later. That's a huge risk, isn't it, to have put his energy, his priority, his focus on these 12 people, one of whom sort of blew it, but these 12 guys and a few others, these are the people that he invested in, and he was focused on their potential, and out of that potential, God did his work, and if there's anything that I can say to you tonight and to those that are taking this online, is that this is what distinguishes a Christ-centered leader; it's really about seeing my priority is investing in those people that follow, and if I do that well, God will take care of the fruit. God will take care of the productivity. Does that mean I don't care about productivity? Does it mean I don't care about fruit? Absolutely not. I do, but it takes a risk, and it takes a huge risk, to focus in on the potential, focusing in on how can I help this person, these people that I'm leading, to reach their highest kingdom potential? That's the question, and there's huge risk involved. 

Let me go to the last one and say that it's committed to a common purpose rather than the leader's agenda. Now, that also says it's not committed to the follower’s purpose; it is committed to a common purpose. Now, understand that these four are to be taken as a package; if you separate one out, and leave the others, it's a bit of a crippled model of leadership. But taken together, it's a beautiful model of what Christ was all about and what he calls us to as Christ-centered leaders in today's world. I'm interested in your thoughts, your reflections. Do you buy it or not? Jan? 

STUDENT:  Well, you know, to me it just makes me think about that whole sense of _____[8:02] what could happen with that sense of the possibility, because there's no end to the possibility when you look to the right side there. If that's really what's done, with the focus there. It also reminds me of us early on when we chose to homeschool. There's something there too, about this idea of the person, the potential there, you know rather than there's a certain amount of production I want, or whatever, that you're deciding what that is rather than this, that we don't even know what it is yet.

Now you're using the example of the homeschool. Obviously, you are saying, in effect, that when you're focused on followers’ potential, this is not just syrupy, you know, let them do whatever they want to do kind of stuff. There's a tough love sometimes; it's built into that being absolutely committed to a person's final potential. This is not soft leadership, necessarily; it is really focused on sometimes tough love to help people move in the direction of their potential, their God-given potential. So, this is not about a wishy washy kind of leadership; it takes enormous courage to lead this way. Think of the courage it took Jesus to focus on these 12 motley people when he could have done it himself, and by the way, he had no backup plan. There was no second chance. There was no ‘if this doesn't work, what then’ kind of thing; this was the plan. It was focused on these people's potential that would carry it forward, that would do greater works after he was gone. It’s a powerful, powerful model. Other thoughts? 

STUDENT:  One of the things we've been trying to do here at the church in recent years is emphasize and grow the sense of team ministry and the teams within the church that are doing different kinds of ministries. When I think about that, it's about relationship and influence and the team's potential, the people on the team's potential, having that common purpose that you hope with the team, which is not just a collection of sole proprietors, and it's interesting to think about that; I had not thought about the team in this type of a matrix, if you will. 

That's a great point. We're going to get into leading teams next week. I don't know that we'll finish all of this one this week, but we will work on leading teams, and it's important that we have as the basis for what we're talking about these models, because they do affect how we view teamwork, which is interesting as we go along. 

STUDENT:  I keep thinking as you're speaking, Rick, that all for these, I work in an entity, a local law enforcement agency, that has some morale issues, has some challenges because a law enforcement officer on the streets basically has a lot of bosses, and they're into position rather than influence. If you could in my organization do these four things, it would be hugely different. Then I think if we could do that in the church, what a huge, I mean, both of them would have profound witnesses in the communities in which they reside. I think we are designed as people for relationships, and yet we tend to want to be in control and hold those relationships at an arm's length rather than embracing them and working as that team to accomplish that common goal, that common purpose. But yeah, profound; that would be remarkable.

Other thoughts, questions? 

STUDENT:  Jan brought up the thing about schooling, and there were some researchers, too, who came to some conclusions years ago that the relationship with a student and a teacher, how that student learning is more related to their relationship with the teacher than the teacher's ability to teach. 

STUDENT:  That’s so true. You are more invested as an individual if you're connected with that teacher or leader, you know, it's harder to walk away. 

It's true, very true. 

STUDENT:  And you want to do your best for them. 

STUDENT:  Yeah, you're definitely more engaged with following that leader if they're engaged with you and committed to that relationship. 

STUDENT:  And that's some of the challenge in the current educational system. If you've got one teacher with 25 students, you can't have that influence. The one room schoolhouse basically had the concept with the older kids working with the younger kids, so you were doing about one on three or four, so it's a model that’s much more workable for that influence than it is for a position. 

Good point. 

STUDENT:  It's just that sense that there's no end to what could be accomplished. 

But Jan, would you say that this is risky? 

STUDENT:  Oh, definitely. I mean, how many people don't you want to control, don’t you want to know what the outcome is? I mean, don't you want to be able to predict and assume that certain things are going to happen? 

I've shared this with CEOs around the world, and I can't tell you how much pushback I get. I'm delighted with this group, but the CEOs that hear this say, you can't possibly tell me that I'm not focused on productivity but on follower potential. And the reason they say that is, frankly, because when they show up at their board meetings, their boards are holding them responsible for production. 

STUDENT:  It's also very short term, what has happened in the last quarter or in the last year, not where is our potential in five or ten or twenty years. We appreciate the discussion of potential, but how are we doing this month? 

So, you feel that tension? This is the tension. And so as we talk to leaders, this is a risk; this is a massive risk, but it’s the risk that Jesus took, and it's the risk that he took to say I will commit to prioritizing my time and my energy and my focus on developing the highest kingdom potential of those I lead, and through that, the production will happen, the fruit will be born, and it happened. It did happen. But there was a huge risk, and there was no backup plan. 

STUDENT:  And there's a huge risk on the left hand column as well. There's huge risk on relying on control and position and production in the leader’s agenda, and you look at corporate America and see some of the companies that no longer exist, some of the recent companies that have come about that are having trouble. I read something today that Yahoo has its fourth CEO in five years. So, the point being it's not as if the left column is working in business, but the other would not; there's a lot of examples where that control-position-production agenda is not working.

STUDENT:  And you mentioned it already, Rick, and that's that I think we assume that if we tried to go to the relationship side that there's chaos, that fear that it's loosey goosey, and if nobody's in charge, then we can't have an outcome; it’ll be a hippie commune. 

So, what you're saying is that this doesn't take away the role of functions, but it does affect how we go about our approach to leadership is the issue. Good point. 

STUDENT:  You mentioned there wasn't a backup plan. Just a little tweak. You know, he picked twelve, one washed out, so he supernaturally stepped in and got Paul. 

Yeah. So, maybe there was a backup plan. That's a good point. 

STUDENT:  He wanted to keep it at 12, so he pulled in Paul. Paul was pretty significant. 

STUDENT:  I think another fear of people who are in business or an organization who are going forward with this model of leadership as Jesus led might be that if they are not the one who's in control, then somebody else will try to take over --

STUDENT:  -- Or do it all –

STUDENT:  -- So, I think it makes it even more important that everybody have that common purpose so that there isn't somebody else trying to try to step in and grab that control. 

I think when Tim and I have worked together, I've said to Tim often, “Tim, I'm committed to your highest kingdom potential, but I also recognize that I'm ultimately responsible to answer to the board for this organization, and that's how we function.” But that's the risk of this, but I think that it's the right direction for what we're trying to accomplish as we reflect the life and leadership of Jesus.

STUDENT: I feel like what you just said was a both/and not an either/or. 


STUDENT:  And sometimes we want to hear that as an either/or; which way is it going to be? And what you're saying is a leader is a both/and. 

Yeah, because at the end of day, I am responsible, but as I focus, I'm focused believing with all my heart that if Tim and others on our team are reaching their highest kingdom potential, then the productivity will happen. That doesn't mean that I don't hold him to account on deadlines and so on, and so on. Those are realities in our ministry, but that's all about reaching highest kingdom potential. 

STUDENT:  But don’t interpret my comment as not supportive of this. 

Go for it. 

STUDENT:  But, you know, basically what we're looking at is two things here. We're looking at power through authoritarianism on the left or power through influence on the right. And, you know, some leaders have looked at those two things and they say, well, there's a third option, and that's called situational leadership, where based on the situation, the leader moves in one direction or the other of those two. I mean, like in the military, for example, it would be very hard in the military to send people to their deaths, you know, without some situational –

Well you're right that there is situational leadership; it's also called contingency leadership, and it's where in certain contexts there are certain appropriate approaches to leadership. What you're saying is that when you're getting shot at, it's not a time to have a consensus-building exercise, it's saying you get your head down or you're going to die. You know, there are points. Situational leadership we're going to talk about in the leading teams process, because that has to do with leading people based upon their need and where they are in terms of the maturity brackets, and we'll get to that. That's a Ken Blanchard concept. But all of these are very true, and they do take into account. And I would say, by the way, that why I said that we take these as a package is because there are people that can be just as evil because they are leading by influence rather than position. I mean, you can see some of those evil leaders in the history of the world that gained their power through influence, not by position. Adolf Hitler was one of them. He was able to rally people because of his capacity to influence before he ever had the positional power. Jim Jones is an example. So, this is not about taking one of these and isolating it. We look at it as a package and recognize it’s about relationship. It's about influence. It's about follower potential and common purpose. When we see these as a package, then it begins to make sense.

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