The Incompetent Can Only Rise so Far, Even in the Church
I keep thinking about something someone said this weekend. Someone who has heard a lot of sermons at my old church was listening to my current pastor preach, and he was impressed. He said the message wasn’t about careers, because unlike my old church, the new one was not a business.
That interests me, because the leaders at the old church talk constantly about leadership principles and success strategies and so on. I suppose this is because the head pastor is a motivational speaker, not a prophet or prayer expert or healer. I didn’t know he was a motivational speaker until recently, or at least, I didn’t know he listed “motivational speaker” in his promotional verbiage.
I wonder how many people will agree with me when I say this: some of the worst leaders and managers on earth talk constantly about the secrets to success. They talk about leadership and management as if they know everything. And they are still incompetent.
If you were to check the Facebook and Twitter accounts of people at the old church, you would see them repeating garbage from Zig Ziglar, Napoleon Hill, and lots of other success “experts.” They recommend books with titles like The Energy Bus. They repeat crap they hear at conferences, with little comments like “so good!”. But the church is run like Boss Hogg’s bar on The Dukes of Hazzard. It’s full of nepotism, cronyism, laziness, and denial. And it’s a huge failure.
Maybe I shouldn’t knock motivational experts and success gurus. Their stuff does work, to a certain degree. I don’t think it’s evil. I’m sure Tony Robbins has helped millions of people make more money. For that matter, I think Scientology, a vile cult, makes people more successful. Positive thinking and corporate training will help you out in life, if you are the kind of person who acts instead of merely hearing.
The thing that bugs me is that these things are taught as substitutes for the power of the Holy Spirit, which is the only thing that will put you on exactly the right track and bring you exactly what you need in order to be fulfilled.
I’ll put it this way: I’m glad there are oncologists out there, and it’s good to have a cancerous leg amputated, but it’s better to have the Holy Ghost show up and destroy your tumors. I think that sums it up.
It’s funny; human beings use training and knowledge as tools to avoid using training and knowledge. We do this with scripture, and we do it with secular wisdom. The people who talk the biggest game often do the least.
I still remember my experiences at the church cafe. They preached responsibility, punctuality, cleanliness, professionalism…you name it. They said that as an Armorbearer, I was supposed to go in there and show them how Armorbearers rolled. We were considerably more responsible than most other volunteers, so we were supposed to teach them our ways.
I rounded up several really great kids to teach. I started making reasonable, intelligent rules about my workspace and the way the food was to be displayed and sold. And in the end, the drive-by pastor who ran the place gave me a very rude lecture in front of half of the staff, telling me I was possessive and overly demanding.
Here are the things I wanted: people were not to pile hundreds of pounds of boxes on my workspace before I came in. They were not to throw out items I brought to church and put in the freezers and fridges. I was to have at least two steam table pans to display the pizza and rolls I made, because I was required to sell two kinds of pizza plus rolls, and the other trays were full of gross deep-fried Sysco chicken offerings which were nearly identical. I expected every day’s work to start with prayer. I expected people to be clean.
Obviously, I was channeling Hitler. At Burger King, this list would have been considered unsatisfactory because it was so SHORT, but at my church–the church of success and positive thinking–it was way over the top.
The pastor violated every management rule you can think of. He refused to communicate with me so I could adapt to his vision (or even be aware of it). He was rarely present on the job. He “corrected” me in front of others before giving me any private input. He gave someone less senior authority over me and my workspace without informing me. He tried to get me to continue there, doing things way below my skill level (frying wings and so forth). He essentially eliminated profitable items in order to focus on embarrassing crap that lost money. He never listened; he knew nothing whatsoever about business, but he did know that everyone else was wrong.
Name a principle of good management; he violated it. There was no possible way for him to succeed in his ignorance and stubbornness, and the advice I gave him was ancient, accepted wisdom guaranteed to work. Of course, the cafe failed miserably, and it was taken away from him, which is what he wanted all along.
They turned the cafe over to a guy who is so ineffective, he stands out even at the church. People marvel at his ineffectiveness, but he’s very close to the head pastor’s family, so he can never be removed from the chain of command. Whenever a problem arises and his name comes up, because it appears necessary to go through him, people are likely to give up or look for a way to go around him. He is extremely effective at one thing: preventing progress.
Before he was put in charge, he was already taking care of the physical plant. When I needed a key to the kitchen, he said he had it in a drawer with a bunch of other keys, but it was too much trouble to dig it out. That went on for months. I never got the key from him.
When he got control, I was told he was going to go in and clean house. Oh, boy. I talked to him a little bit about problems with the junk that was piled up in the back room, and he made fun of the previous regime for failing to conduct an inventory. Like he was going to go in there and do everything the right way! After all, he had been to a bunch of Brian Klemmer EST-derived seminars. He was all about having the intention and finding the mechanism, like Klemmer used to say.
And the cafe failed again.
Like Aaron says, fish rots from the head. The head pastor was no different. He knew how to line up speaking gigs and get paid for telling people to be effective, but he seemed to work at avoiding managing the church. I believe he did that deliberately, to stay free to promote himself. And the people under him seem to do the same thing, which is not surprising, since that’s the example they’ve seen.
We had a vermin problem in the kitchen. I guarantee you, without even looking, it’s still there. I would be amazed if anything had changed. There was a low cabinet about twenty feet long, alone one wall of the back room. It had drawers in it. The drawers were packed with urine, feces, and the odd dead mouse. This stuff can kill you. Look it up. When a place is that full of mouse filth, you’re not supposed to clean it without special gear and sanitary protocols.
I went to the head pastor and other bigwigs and told them the filth needed to be removed. This would be about a four-hour job, given a crew of ten people. It was nothing we could not handle. I informed them that it was a severe health hazard, and I even showed them corroborating information on the Internet. The head pastor responded as though he was concerned. He’s good at that. And he did absolutely nothing.
When I talked to the pastor who ran the cafe, he acted like I was suggesting we build a full-scale replica of the Panama Canal. I guess he was comfortable with mouse urine and feces near the stored food and the equipment, and I know he didn’t want to spend any additional time in the cafe. We’re talking about a guy who usually said, “Walk with me,” whenever I tried to talk to him; I think that tells you what you need to know.
He bought a couple of mouse traps and put them on a shelf, still in the box. I never saw one deployed. There was no cleaning. No one lifted a finger, as far as I know. Out of exasperation, I got a couple of kids to help me clean out and bleach a couple of drawers, but I think it’s safe to say no one else has done anything like that, and those drawers are surely full of excrement again.
When I quit, there was flour and sugar stored in that room. I left it sitting there, figuring they would do something about disposing of it or sealing it up. Weeks later, it was still there. A big bag was open to any animal that wanted to go in and feed. How can you bless a manager who lets things like that happen?
There was a complete leadership vacuum. It was as though the people in charge were only there to loot the place. Now that I think about it, it was a lot like the scene in Goodfellas, where the restaurant owner became a partner with a mafioso. Once the gangster was in charge, the place became a vehicle for pillage. Food and liquor came in the front and went out the back so crooks could sell it and pocket the cash. When the restaurant went broke, they torched it for the insurance and moved on, and the owner was left with no business. That’s what the church reminds me of. You go in and use it as a way to meet influential Christians and business leaders, you get yourself on TV, you get your sons on the payroll, and you teach people to GIVE, GIVE, GIVE. Then the church fails, and you move on to your next demolition job.
One of the fundamental rules of success is that you put the interests of the enterprise above your own. At this church, they did the opposite. Or at least it seemed that way to me.
What I’m saying is that they failed at the nearest thing they have to a mission. They don’t teach much about the Holy Spirit or repentance or deliverance. They teach a great deal about motivation and success. And they end up demotivating and suppressing.
If they weren’t Christians, they’d be in public housing. They could never make it in the real world. Luckily, they have an easy job, which is to convince people to give them money. As long as they do okay at that, they will fail upward. They don’t have to make a product or sell a service. They don’t have to be good at anything, the way real entrepreneurs do. They just have to persuade people to write checks every week. They’re not doing very well at that, which is probably why the head pastor is leaving, but they’ve done well enough to stay in power and hold onto the building for a number of years.
It’s funny; a CEO who does badly has to say things like, “We had a bad year, but please let us stay and fix things.” A preacher who runs a church into the ground can say, “We are facing a special financial challenge, and God is telling me that if you will just GIVE, he will provide a return: thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold! A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over!” Instead of seeing him as a bum and an incompetent, the congregation will want to help him defeat this “attack of the enemy”!
What does this all boil down to? I guess it reminds me of what I already know: never judge a person by his words. Always look at the actions. A nincompoop who spouts Sun Tzu and Dale Carnegie quotes is still a nincompoop. People who actually have what it takes don’t read that junk, because success is already part of them.
I think the church is going to disappear, unless God spares it by sending new leaders. The head pastor is leaving, and there is no way he would do that if it was even close to succeeding. The mortgage is eight figures, and the congregation is not paying it off. They get some government grants, but I don’t think the Obama teat is generous enough to keep the place on its feet, especially if people are going to get nice salaries and jobs for their kids.
Supposedly, the pastor’s son is going to be in charge. He draws big crowds, but they’re young, and they don’t give much. Many of them go to church to hook up for sex. It’s a lot like a nightclub, and the kids don’t have money for clubs, so it makes a good substitute. Some people I know think he’s going to take his Tuesday youth service methods and move them to Sunday. It will be Disco Soul Train Church. That will mean older people (with jobs) moving out. So he’ll have 6,000 people a week and 15 tithers.
They get something like $50,000 per month in rent from business tenants, but the power bill is around $35,000, and the staff has to be paid.
I probably irked them more than I suspected when I publicly debunked the Steve Munsey fundraising tactics they were using. Every chance I got, I went on Facebook and told about 150 people there was no such thing as “Seven Blessings of Passover” or “Seven Blessings of the Atonement.” I even went after “Seven Blessings of Pentecost,” although it turned out they were actually teaching “Five Victories of Pentecost,” which is equally crazy and wrong. They were getting big offerings on these Jewish holidays, promising health, money, and other stuff in return. I don’t know if I had an impact, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I made them nervous. I know some people listened to me. I didn’t want to see my friends cheated, so I spoke up, and I’m glad some were spared.
The dynasty in charge of the church could turn it all around. They could start teaching about the Holy Spirit. They could attend to people’s needs instead of using offering money to fly around promoting themselves. If your church is floundering for lack of leadership, what business do you have flying to other states to spread your failed message? Shouldn’t you stay home and get things under control? They say a captain is supposed to be the last person who leaves a sinking ship, and now that I think about it, the rats leave first.
If people knew they would meet the Holy Spirit there, they would show up and tithe. There are rich churches that succeed that way. But I don’t think the leaders of the church have much faith in God. I’m not sure they believe in him at all, given that they are willing to teach made-up doctrine, but even if they do believe, I don’t think they expect God to come through and establish their church. If they did, they’d be doing things his way already.
They might succeed, if they sell their souls completely and teach nothing but prosperity. They could compete with Rod Parsley. But I don’t think they’re as smart or as talented as the people who make it in that game. Their work is generally third-tier. No, I think it has to be God’s way or selling cars. I don’t think they have any other options.Stumble it! Save This Page