This is the second installment of the series. See Part 1 here.

Last week, we learned that leaders are managers. They must manage well, viewing management as a ministry, to connect conviction and operation, and to accomplish their organization’s mission more effectively.

But what exactly is management? Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman write on what I consider a people-centric kind of management. (And from this point on, I will be referring mostly to the authors’ management viewpoint.1) In their excellent management book First, Break All the Rules, Buckingham and Coffman describe the manager role as the “catalyst” role:

As with all catalysts, the manager’s function is to speed up the reaction between two substances, thus creating the desired end product. Specifically, the manager creates performance in each employee by speeding up the reaction between the employee’s talents and the company’s goals, and between the employee’s talents and the customers’ needs. When hundreds of managers play this role well, the company becomes strong, one employee at a time.2

In order to speed up the reaction, the “catalyst” (manager) must select a person, set expectations, motivate the person, and develop the person. These are the primary activities of a manager. If you noticed, these focus on the individual, on people. (So there goes away the conventional thinking that management is just processes, systems, and whatnots, lifeless and mechanical.) Sure, the manager may do other responsibilities. But he ought not to deviate from these if he would want to excel in his role.

Buckingham and Coffman go more specific on these activities. They say that managers must select for talent, define the right outcomes, focus on strengths, and find the right fit. These are the “four keys” to great management. (I will discuss more on this in a future installment.)

I think Buckingham and Coffman’s viewpoint is the “best management thinking”, in agreement to Matt Perman. It respects people’s individuality, freedom, and autonomy. Moreover, it ultimately respects the individual who is created in the image of God. This respect for people, according to Perman, is “the guiding principle of management.”

Leaders, are you a playing the “catalyst” role well? Do you speed up the reaction between your people’s talents the organization’s goals?

PS In this article, we just described what management is. In a future installment, we will be more specific on how to apply the “four keys” to great management. It will be the most practical in the series.

PPS Don’t forget to read Matt Perman’s whole article. It is a more comprehensive treatment on the subject of management. The title alone should already entice you to read it: “Management in Light of the Supremacy of God: How Should Christians Think About Management?”

1Dr. Albert Mohler have more in mind when talking about management, including budgets, policies, structures, etc. But in this series of articles, I will mostly be referring to management that focuses on people.
2Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, First, Break All the Rules (Great Britain: Pocket Books, 2005), 54.

As a leader of a student ministry, I organize weekly fellowship gatherings. To determine growth (or decline) of the gathering, I check for attendance. And to be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with attendance.

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I have to admit that when attendance is high, I’m happy and encouraged. But when it’s low, I sometimes get discouraged and even question my calling, which is quite stupid. (The lesson here? Don’t place your joy and sense of affirmation in the performance of your ministry.)

Sometimes, I fall into two extremes as well. The first extreme is being too numbers- or quantity-oriented. A church or ministry is said to be doing well when attendance is high. But we— church/ministry leaders—know that this is not always the case. Quantity doesn’t automatically mean quality.

The other extreme is not caring for attendance at all. But if we don’t care at all, then we have no way to determine if the church or ministry is growing. We also can’t tell if our people are inviting and evangelizing non-Christians enough, and if we’re spending resources wisely.

So how do I now view church/ministry attendance? Thankfully, I am helped by Timothy Z. Witmer. In his excellent book The Shepherd Leader, he contends that “shepherding” is at the heart of the biblical picture of leadership. Just like literal shepherds, one of the key responsibilities of a shepherd-leader is to protect his “sheep”—the people—especially from straying. Witmer notes that “[o]ne of the first observable evidences of straying is a change in church attendance patterns.”1 He also writes:

If reduced attendance is a warning sign of straying, the shepherd-elder must have access to the attendance patterns of his sheep. If this is the case, then it is urgent that leaders develop a system for monitoring the attendance of members. Remember that one of the key synonyms for “elder” in the New Testament is the word “overseer.” Many elders are not aware of the attendance patterns of members and, therefore are not in a position to make a swift response to their absence. All too often, by the time a member’s absence is noticed, it is well into the “difficult to re-involve” stage. Despite the fact that there is a universal agreement about the importance of members’ worship attendance, many churches fail to make an effort to keep track. Yet, this is one simple means of [protecting the sheep from straying]…2

Different churches or ministries employ different means to check attendance. In the student ministry that I lead, we check by counting attendance in our gatherings. If there’s a significant drop or a consistent decline, we are alarmed and make swift response.

But how do we determine who are absent? Our student ministry, just like our church, employs a small groups strategy.3 So the small group leaders determine who are absent and makes the follow-up.

So I hope that your view of checking and counting attendance changed for the positive, even slightly.

What’s your view of checking/counting attendance? How does your church or ministry check attendance?

1Timothy Z. Witmer, The Shepherd Leader (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2010), 182.
2Ibid, 184.
3Witmer points out in his book that a small groups strategy can be disadvantageous to a shepherding ministry when there is a low small groups involvement among the people of the church. In light of our topic of attendance, this means we can have a difficulty of determining who are absent and doing a follow-up on those people.

This is the first installment in the series.

Leadership and management.

I used to pit them against each other. I tend to associate the former with the words vision, influence, and conviction; the latter with process, systems, and structures, which are lifeless and mechanical. When I think of a leader, I think of a person serving the people placed under him, just like the Lord Jesus. But when I think of a manager, I think of a person bossing around his subordinates. Thus, I elevate leadership and look down on management.1

But my idea of management started to change when one of my intellectual heroes painted a new picture for me. Dr. Albert Mohler claims that leaders are managers. Not all managers are leaders, but all leaders are managers. In his excellent leadership book The Conviction to Lead, he devotes a chapter on the topic of management and starts it with this paragraph:

Leadership and management are inseparable, and no effective leader can disparage or neglect competent and efficient management. Leaders who cannot manage quickly become leadership failures. Leaders who leave all management to others are no longer leading the organization, no matter how they may flatter themselves by pretending otherwise. If you think you’re above the tasks of management, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.2

These are strong words!

So why should Christian leaders, inside and outside the church, be concerned with management?

Mohler believes that leadership is deeply convictional. Now if leaders don’t manage, “the actual mechanics of the organization, its policies and procedures, will be in the hands of others.”3 When that happens, “there will be a disconnect between conviction and operation,”4 and the organization is doomed to fail.

Furthermore, Matt Perman claims that management is a form of ministry and allows an organization to be exponentially more effective in accomplishing its mission. He writes:

Christians should care about whether the organizations they work in are managed well and, if they are managers themselves, they should manage well.

Leaders, we are also managers and we should manage well.

So leader, are you convinced of the importance of management? Are you managing well?

PS In the next installment, we will learn what management exactly is.

1I took management subjects in my college years. To be honest, I enjoyed them and even excelled on them. But I tend to dichotomize between leadership and management. And when compared with one another, I lean towards the former.

2R. Albert Mohler Jr., The Conviction to Lead (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2012), 115.

3Ibid, 117.


A Bodiless Head

November 9, 2015 — Leave a comment

I miss writing my thoughts on theology, as it always stretches my mind and brings me to a greater understanding of spiritual things. So let me give it a shot with this hopefully humble post.

I once encountered a post on Facebook which says: “Don’t bring people to church. Bring them to Jesus!” (I can’t remember the exact phrase. But the thought was something like that.)

But can we really bring people to Jesus and not bring them to church? If the post meant bringing people to a local church or a church group without actually introducing them to Christ, then it’s correct. But if it meant that we can bring them to Jesus and not the church and be fine, then we have a problem. Moreover, it’s not theologically sound.

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The Bible tells us that the church, among many others1, is the body of Christ (Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 1:22-23). So to bring people to Jesus and assume that they’ll do fine without the church, both universal and local, is like bringing them to a “bodiless Head”.

In his book Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Jonathan Dodson writes:

We are not converted to a disembodied Head; we are converted to an embodied Christ, which includes Head and body. Unfortunately, many of us have a disembodied Jesus, perhaps a bobble-head Jesus, all Head and very little body.2

To be converted to a “disembodied Jesus”, or a bodiless Head, also have profound implications in our discipleship. Dodson continues:

When we practice discipleship that focuses on Jesus as a disembodied Head, we distort his body, and we distort his gospel.3

So when we introduce people to Christ (the Head), let’s also introduce them to the church (His body). Our discipleship is incomplete if we only bring them to the former and not the latter.

Are you bringing people not just to Christ but also to the church? How will this truth change your discipleship and ministry?

1In many places, the Bible also uses the imagery of a groom and bride to describe Christ’s relationship to the church. Thus, the church is also known as the “bride of Christ”. So if we are to bring people to Christ but not the church, it’s like we’re bringing them to the Groom who is separated from His bride.
2Jonathan K. Dodson, Gospel-Centered Discipleship (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 109.
3Ibid. Of course, there are other implications, including practical ones. Let’s just reserve that for another time.

Read Widely

October 19, 2015 — Leave a comment

I love reading books, especially Christian ones. There was a time in my life where I was only confined to books within the Christian genre and found no value in reading books outside of it. So in a sense, I’m just reading “narrowly”.

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Is this okay? Tim Challies makes a comment and an advice, which made a profound impact on how I read:

Christians read a lot of books. This is a good thing. Christians read a lot of Christian books. This is another good thing. But it’s also an easy thing, a safe thing. Though I am glad to see many Christians reading many books, I believe there is value in reading not only deeply but also widely. And this means that Christians should read more than just Christian books—we should read books that are in the cultural mainstream.

Read narrowly is “an easy thing, a safe thing.” So Challies suggests that we Christians not limit ourselves to the Christian genre but “read in the mainstream.” Or as he puts it another way, read “widely”. He offers four reasons for it: Common grace, cultural engagement, the practice of discernment, and added learning.

This year, I took Challies’ advice more seriously and intentionally. So I listed down non-Christian books that caught my interest, bought them, and read them. I’ve been learning a lot from these books. Though I have still yet to expand to the fiction genre, I could say that I’m already a wider reader than before.

Here are the “read widely” books that I read this year:

  1. The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick. Mark Zuckerberg’s genius got my interest. I once read Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires to know the story behind Facebook’s founding (though some say that Mezrich’s account is inaccurate). And with Kirkpatrick’s book, my knowledge of Zuckerberg and Facebook widened. It goes beyond Facebook’s founding and into its growth, future, and the challenges it faced/faces. (I’m planning to buy Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. Sandberg is the COO of Facebook.)
  2. First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham with Curt Coffman. This is the first management book that I read for leisure (I read management textbooks back in college). What I liked about Buckingham and Coffman’s management perspective is that it centers on people.
  3. Quiet by Susan Cain. Being an introvert, I found myself puzzled with introversion. Cain’s book seeks to help us understand more about it. (Quiet left me an impression that introverts are better than extroverts. Well, the book is written by an introvert.)
  4. Start With Why by Simon Sinek. I’m deeply moved by Sinek’s mantra, “People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.”
  5. Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo. I’m fascinated with TED talks. I’m amazed how TED speakers manage to inform, persuade, and entertain audience at such a short time. With this fascination, I determined to learn how to talk like a TED speaker. Gallo’s book is a help. (I have to admit, though, that the book is just another public speaking book. However, Gallo draws from scientific research and examples of TED talks to prove his points. I think that’s a unique feature.)