Leading a Healthy Church Culture - Lesson 17

The Example of Jesus

As you explore this lesson, you will gain knowledge of five culture handles that determine the values of an organization, including the church, and how Jesus dealt with them as he prepared his disciples for the inauguration of the church. By understanding the values he incorporated and instilled in his disciples, you will gain insight into the importance of leadership in establishing an organization with strong values.

Rick Sessoms
Leading a Healthy Church Culture
Lesson 17
Watching Now
The Example of Jesus

Jesus' Model for Leadership: The Five Handles

I. Introduction

A. Importance of Jesus' leadership in building the church

B. Question of what values Jesus instilled in his disciples

II. The Five Handles

A. Overview of the Five Handles

B. Demon Possessed Man - Handle of Power

1. Reaction of the townspeople

2. Principle of being less afraid of evil we can control

3. People are more important than possessions

4. Jesus' teaching of passing on the demand of Baynham

C. Handle of Vision - Investing in People

1. Jesus' focus on people over possessions

2. Importance of passing on leadership

D. Handle of Truth - Importance of Honesty

1. Jesus' teaching of being honest in all circumstances

2. Importance of being truthful in leadership

E. Handle of Love - Putting People First

1. Jesus' teaching of loving others

2. Importance of putting people first in leadership

F. Handle of Faith - Trusting in God's Plan

1. Jesus' trust in God's plan

2. Importance of trusting in God's plan in leadership

III. Conclusion

A. Summary of the Five Handles

B. Importance of Jesus' model for leadership

  • 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. 

Recommended Books

Christ-Centered Leadership at Work: Called to Serve on Mondays

Christ-Centered Leadership at Work: Called to Serve on Mondays

Jim DeVries, a successful entrepreneur, and Rick Sessoms, an acknowledged leadership educator, join together to challenge existing and potential leaders to impact our...

Christ-Centered Leadership at Work: Called to Serve on Mondays
Leading with Story: Cultivating Christ-centered Leaders in a Storycentric Generation

Leading with Story: Cultivating Christ-centered Leaders in a Storycentric Generation

Eighty percent of the world's people--including seventy percent of Americans--are storycentric communicators; that is, they prefer to learn and are most likely to be...

Leading with Story: Cultivating Christ-centered Leaders in a Storycentric Generation

Dr. Rick Sessoms
Leading a Healthy Church Culture
The Example of Jesus
Lesson Transcript

Well, let's look at these a little bit more one by one. Now, we talked about the fact that these five handles are descriptive. There is nothing, in other words, whatever you do about these five will determine the values of the organization, the church. But what we have done and made an effort to do is to take a look at these handles that that Edgar Schein has graciously provided for us through his research, and we've looked and asked the question, how did Jesus deal with these handles? Now, the reason we asked that question again in a little book that we've written called “Culture Craft” is because the fact is that Jesus was preparing these twelve to establish the church, right? That was one of his primary roles. It was to give his life a ransom for many, but it was also to build the church. He said, “I will build my church.”  And his focus on these twelve was to prepare them for the inauguration of the church shortly after his resurrection and ascension, and so the question that comes to us is if that's so, if these disciples were following him, if they were watching his every move, they were watching his demonstrated leadership, if they were listening to his teaching, then what values was he incorporating and instilling in their lives during those years that would prepare them to perpetuate that kind of culture in the church into which you and I have been swept up these 20th centuries later. You understand that question? That's a critical question, and I'm not sure that question has been asked a lot, but it seems that it's so obvious, as you look at the gospels, that these guys went on to be the fathers of the church that we're part of today.

So, whatever Jesus did in preparing them and laying the groundwork and establishing the values that would become part of the early church was incredibly powerful. So, let's look at how Jesus dealt with these five handles. Our little book is a simple book that that gives you example after example after example after example, and I've just chosen a few of these as starting points, and we'll go through these rather quickly, but as we think about what leaders model and teach, perhaps you can remember the story of the demon possessed man at the Gerasenes; remember the guy that was running around among the tombs, and they would chain him up, and he would break the chains, and he would run through the village like a wild man? He was a wild man because he was possessed, and I'm sure that he scared all the kids to death, and I'm sure that the parents said, now kids, don't you go near that graveyard; there's a crazy man in the graveyard. Well, Jesus shows up, and he, of course, delivered the man. And do you remember the reaction? What was the reaction of the townspeople? Well, Luke says that they were filled with fear. That's the first statement, which is an interesting thing, because it seems that they should have been afraid of the man among the tombs, right? But the principle there is it seems that sometimes we're less afraid of that evil that we can control than we are of the power and the wonder of God that we can't control, right? So, there's a principle there. But then, Jim, to your point, what was their action? They responded by asking him to leave. Why did they ask him to leave? What happened after the demons left the man? When God shows up, somebody has to pay for the pigs, right? That's a tough one. You know, we can control the evil and the nonsense that goes on, but when God shows up, it's a mess. It's a fiasco. But what did Jesus model and teach to his disciples? They're watching this thing, right? 

STUDENT:  That people are more important than pigs, that that one demon-possessed man was worth investing in, and sometimes your possessions are collateral damage. 

What do you think? I mean, that seems to be an obvious principle, isn't it? We're talking 2000 pigs. This was that whole society's livelihood. What else might he have been teaching here and demonstrating to his disciples? What values was he instilling within them? I mean, I don't have a ready answer for these things, so let's explore together; think with me. 

STUDENT:  I think it’s absolutely profound that, of course, the demon man, he’s cured, he wants to follow Jesus, and Jesus says, “Go back to your own people,” so not only did Jesus have a vision of not creating a following of –

Powerful, powerful –

STUDENT:  -- but to pass it on; it's like love, it’s meant to pass on, but the man obeyed him!  It just blows my mind. I want to be at this Jesus’s feet! I'm clearly not capable, but the Lord passed something to him that he took and paid it forward. 

Great point. So, it wasn't about amassing this great following. It was about empowering people to go pay it forward. Great example. Anything else that comes to your mind? 

Now imagine you’re a disciple sitting there watching this. This is over among the Gentiles, right? This is among the people that are godless people, and a demon possessed man to boot. Can you imagine the value that he placed on one person in that context? It's amazing. Total outcast.

STUDENT:  And things get messy. We can't always control. We sometimes try to control everything that’s going on. As you're saying, when God shows up, sometimes it gets messy, are we comfortable? We're getting messy and being somewhat out of control, but under God's control? Questions I have. 

So, let's look at a little bit tougher one, Jesus’ clearing the temple. Somebody recount the story for us. What happened? 

STUDENT:  Jesus looked at the temple, and they were selling so that there could be monetary conversion for an animal for sacrifice. They were cheating the people, basically, so maybe there was that going on, plus just bringing it into the temple area. 

And Jesus did what? 

STUDENT:  So, he overturned the tables and messed all the accounting, shall we say the measuring things, and disrupted that. 

STUDENT:  So, it would be a house of prayer. 

STUDENT:  And whipped the guys with a whip. 

So, now you're a disciple watching this. What are you thinking? 

STUDENT:  Not worried about what they think about him, not worried about his ego; they’re thinking he's got real passion. 

STUDENT:  They’re thinking, there goes bingo on Friday night.

STUDENT:  I would be questioning, why doesn't Jesus talk to whoever is in charge of these people here in the first place rather than just demonstrating in anger what's going on here? Why didn’t he go to someone who could ask these people to leave rather than go directly and start overturning tables? That would be one question of mine.

So, you're suggesting that rather than take the political approach, he took the prophetic approach. 

STUDENT:  Understood it was a church-approved activity.

STUDENT:  That's right. 

STUDENT:  He might have, you know, that would've been the diplomatic way, you know, why don’t we change this, and suggest that they talk about it –

-a new policy –

STUDENT:  -- and then they would have a hard time, you know, debating it and all this stuff. And then they might come to a conclusion that may or may not be the one he wanted. But the thing is, if this guy comes in there with a whip and turns all the tables over and, I mean, if I were one of those guys being a money changer, I’d be going like, man, I don't know if I want to go back. You know, if you weren't scared of him, maybe you were convicted about what he was saying. But if it was like they'd changed the rule and like, oh, we can't do it anymore, they changed the rule, it's a completely different sort of change of course, you know, instead of kind of being thrown out and convicted of this is not what my Father's house was meant to be like; then it's just like, oh, well, they changed the type of policy and we now have to sell outside the gates. So, it's a different kind of thing; it's a different change. 

STUDENT:  So, Jesus had the insight and the ability to see what we can't see. But this was really the way to cure or to address it. 

So, a strong value on the proper use of what belongs to God is the value that that was coming through, the very least, in that scenario. So, it wasn't politicized. It was a demonstration of God's heart for that which belongs to him. 

STUDENT:  I think, observing his behavior, you'd say Jesus really values prayer because that's what he was protesting, that the house was no longer a house of prayer, and he's really jealous for God's property, not a building, but the temple concept that this is a place of worship, is really jealous for God. 

STUDENT:  The civil process really doesn't, I mean, maybe there's a time and place for that, but this isn't –

This isn't the place for it, yeah, good point. Well, as we look at how we allocate scarce resources, we talked about how Jesus prioritized his time because that was a precious commodity that he had. When Jesus’ feet were anointed with perfume and there was the response of the religious leaders in that text in Luke, what was Jesus teaching about the use of resources in that text? You remember the story about the sinful woman that came and washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair and then anointed his feet with costly perfume, and there was a backlash from the religious leaders. What was he teaching? 

STUDENT:  He was also, I think, wanting them to realize it was not about just the here and now, but the spiritual life that we have and that he was being prepared for a greater purpose than in this one ____[12:53] existence. 

STUDENT:  Well, one of the things I think he was showing them is that she could see him as the son of God because she recognized her sin and repented. They could not see him as the Son of God because they did not recognize their own sin and had not repented. 

And so the cost was irrelevant to her. It was not something she thought about because it became an expression of gratitude. 

STUDENT:  I think Jesus is rewarding by paying a compliment to this woman. He is rewarding someone who values him. You know, he said, I came in here for dinner, and you guys didn't even wash my feet. You clearly don't value me. But this woman has not ceased to wash my feet. He's rewarding that value that she has, valuing Jesus.

STUDENT:  His focus is on her heart and her faith, not her actions. Her actions are demonstrating that contrast with the actions of others. The others were being more practical, and her heart was focused on her Savior.

STUDENT:  And that costly perfume is an expression of how much she values him. 

Well, what I see here is a lavish giving out of extreme gratitude, that he's teaching that value as a core value of what you see Paul taught in Corinthians about and he conceptualized. But you see that coming through in terms of the values that he was incorporating in those that he led. Let's go on. Behaviors we reward. We could spend a lot of time here. Again, we've gone through many, many passages, and you could do this just for a long, long time, just go through the scriptures and look and ask the question, what was Jesus teaching? What values was he instilling within these disciples? And of course, the examples, a couple of them that I put here are the Beatitudes. What is he rewarding? What behaviors are those behaviors that Jesus wants to highlight, the peacemaking, the poor in spirit, the meek, and those that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, those kinds of things. Clearly, Jesus is saying ‘these I want to champion.’  The wise and foolish builders; that kind of motif is something that as we work through, what does that mean for the values of the church, and how did that impact the early church is a powerful study.

What we measure. Interesting that Jesus was kind of all over the page on this. The Parable of the Sower, of course, is -- I heard William Willimon, who used to be over here at Duke, speak about the Parable of the Sower one time, and he said, at the very least, it was an agricultural fiasco. If you know anything about farming, that's no way to farm. You know, you just throw this seed, wherever it lands, it lands, and most of it lands in these places that it can't possibly grow. But some of it does happen to land on good soil, and it grows to, you know, so many times what it originally was intended to grow. So, there doesn't seem to be that ROI sort of appropriate, you know, proportionate ROI, as Jesus is outlining it within this text, and it's about the fact that that God is the one who brings about the fruit, and the church is a mess, and you could go all the way through those kingdom parables if the farmer didn't know about sowing seeds, didn't know much about weeding either, you know, when you get to the one about, well, should we tear out the tares so that the wheat can grow, and he said, no, just leave them all till September; we'll sort it out then.

Willamon says what in the world kind of way is that to farm? But the fact is that there's not this close, careful, now how we deal with that in terms of measurement is a very fascinating scenario, but there it is, and I just lay it before you. On the other side, the Parable of the Mina in Luke chapter 19 was dealing with a very clear scenario that when the king went away to receive the kingdom, he left these servants each with a mina and said, put it into business and make a profit, and when the king returned, he rewarded people according to what they had done with what they'd been given, and the interesting thing about that rendition in Luke 19 is each was given the same. So, it wasn't about how much you have, but it's about what you've done with what you've been given is the emphasis there. So, there is a measurement there that's pretty clear, but the emphasis on responsibility with what I've been entrusted, that's the key point in that text. So, again, I just want to encourage you that as we think about these handles, think about how Jesus incorporated these handles to teach and train and prepare his disciples for this church that they were going to be responsible to grow and lead in the future. 

One of the most fascinating studies is how Jesus responded to crisis. One of my favorite stories is John chapter 6, when Jesus is pursued to be king, you know, he had fed the thousands with the fish and the loaves and immediately he went to the other side of the lake, and they followed him there because they wanted free lunch forever; they wanted a good welfare program, so they wanted to crown him to be king. And he really offended their Jewish sensibilities when he said, look, what it’s going to cost you is if you eat my flesh and drink my blood, that'll do it, and eventually, most of them left him at that point to the extent that he turned to his disciples and said, what about you? And they said, well, where else are we going to go? And so the text there is in a crisis moment, when Jesus could have become the political leader of thousands, maybe tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, he chose instead to follow the Father's way and actually to reduce his “influence” over the masses at that point. So, that response in crisis is critical for us to see what he valued, and as we play that against the bigger-is-better motif that we talked about last week, it can be very instructive to our lives and to our leadership. 

And of course, the woman caught in adultery. What's happening there? Let's talk about that for just a moment. When the woman was caught in adultery -- we all know the story -- you know, Jesus writes in the sand something, we don't know what he wrote. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” but what’s he teaching? In that moment of crisis, what is Jesus communicating? What value is he instilling within those that are watching this happening? 

STUDENT:  Perhaps mercy. 

A huge amount of mercy for sure. 

STUDENT:  Repentance and forgiveness trumps the law. 

Forgiveness trumps the law. 

STUDENT:  We need to take a personal inventory. 

Personal inventory. 

STUDENT:  Before making a decision ____[21:28]. 

Would you say that that was a critical moment? It was life and death, wasn't it? That's pretty critical.

STUDENT: Not only for the woman, but for Jesus. I mean, he's in a crisis situation there, too, because what's he going to do and how are people going to respond to him?

Log in to take this quiz.