October 29, 2020

Hard-Ass Leadership?


I will resist the temptation to make this a mere rant today. Although everything within me wants to simply mock and shred the article to which I will respond, in this case I don’t think it would be the best approach.

I say this because the subject is not just a matter of Christian silliness, some act in the evangelical circus that is so tacky or tasteless that I can simply dismiss it and move on. No, this goes right to the heart of the American imagination. It reflects deeply held ideas of authority, leadership, masculinity, success, maturity, strength and vitality. As the article shows, there are many who buy into the ethos the author presents, even in the church. In fact, as you will see, some even try to justify it with an appeal to biblical examples.

Simply put, the attitude is, using Leo Durocher’s famous dictum, “Nice guys finish last.”

The corollary? To be a successful leader, you have to be one tough, no-nonsense hard-ass.

The post in question, at Mere Orthodoxy, is Keith Miller’s piece, “The Mark Driscoll School of Leadership.”

I will not comment on the first portion of the post, in which Miller voices his doubts about Driscoll’s detractors and whether the charges against him really bear the weight his critics say they do. That’s another blog post — but not here, not now.

What tied my stomach in knots was what Miller went on to say, comparing Driscoll’s “leadership” with some of the icons in American leadership culture.

First, he quotes accounts about Steve Jobs and uses them to describe the way Driscoll exercised “leadership” at Mars Hill Church:

DriscollBefore he was deposed, Driscoll had a reputation internally for acting like a tyrant. He regularly belittled people, swore at them, and pressured them until they reached their breaking point. In the pursuit of greatness he cast aside politeness and empathy. His verbal abuse never stopped. From one reported about a half-hour “public humiliation” Driscoll doled out on his staff:

“Can anyone tell me what this initiative was supposed to do?” Having received a satisfactory answer, he continued, “So why the f–k doesn’t it do that?”

“You’ve tarnished Mars Hill’s reputation,” he told them. “You should hate each other for having let each other down.”

One journalist describes Driscolls’ rough treatment of underlings:

He would praise and inspire them, often in very creative ways, but he would also resort to intimidating, goading, berating, belittling, and even humiliating them… When he was Bad Mark, he didn’t seem to care about the severe damage he caused to egos or emotions… suddenly and unexpectedly, he would look at something they were working on say that it “sucked,” it was “shit.”

The surprising turn in this article is what Miller goes on to do with this. He justifies it. He affirms comparisons of Driscoll’s behavior with other leaders who’ve acted badly. He even baptizes this kind of behavior as Christian leadership in the style of Paul the apostle. It’s more than OK to be a hard-ass leader. It’s biblical!

steve-jobs-angryLook at Steve Jobs, Keith Miller says: “. . . his documented jerkiness was not so much a flaw that hindered his talent, but actually part of what made him so exceptional.”

Don’t like Driscoll’s blue language? Miller says, remember General Patton and Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi, of whom it was said, “I couldn’t believe that one man could yell and scream and spout so much profanity.” Made his team better, didn’t it?

These are examples of great leaders, Miller says, with the kind of single-minded focus and determination that is common among good executives and key to their success. What we call “character flaws” may actually be part of the essence of their greatness. He admits their behavior may not always rise to a level we would wholly appreciate as Christians, but come on, these guys get things done. They motivate others to achieve great things.

That’s what the Apostle Paul was like too, according to Miller. “Paul was loud, brash, argumentative, and oppositional.” He had an “un-mellow personality,” he “tenaciously advanced his agenda and was willing to give offense to those around him.” Miller calls his leadership style “assertively confrontational” and notes the “intemperate language” he used in some of his epistles.

Now I know some people have this conception of Paul as a hard-ass, but the evidence is decidedly mixed.

After all, Paul himself knew what others said about him: “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing” (2Cor. 10:10). That was his reputation. Apparently, few would have described Paul as a “tyrant” in his personal dealings. Wrote a few tough letters, though. 2Corinthians was one of those, and the circumstances dictated strong reaction. The Corinthian church was being taken over by some “super-apostles” who were spiritually abusive, threatening to undo all the gospel work Paul had done among them. His agonized, passionate appeals in 2Corinthians were written to counter an extraordinary situation; they were not part of the normal course of church business. He wasn’t being a hard-ass toward the congregation, but toward the false teachers who were leading them astray.

And then there is Paul’s own description of the way he sought to conduct himself as an apostle: “. . . though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children” (1Thess. 2:7). Would Paul transparently misrepresent himself in an appeal to readers who would have known the truth about how he actually behaved?

Now before we get off target here, this is something we could argue about all day. We are talking about someone who lived and served two millennia ago, in a much different culture, in far different settings. Our only access to Paul is through ancient writings that don’t share our modern focus on novelistic character development and detail. Kind of a thin basis for comparison. Miller’s case is weak at best.

'The Sporting News 100 Years of Sports Images'We do, however, know about Steve Jobs, General Patton, Vince Lombardi, and other leaders in our own time and culture. We know about a host of executives, military commanders, sports coaches and trainers, entrepreneurs, innovators, politicians, movie directors, business owners, bosses, supervisors, administrators, and others in positions of power who use their leverage to lord it over others.

Their motives may be “good” — to be successful, to win championships, to create great products, to win battles, or to get the best production possible out of those under them. They build a certain loyalty and devotion among at least some of their followers. American culture loves them, admires them, and holds them up as heroes because of their wholehearted determination to fulfill a vision and achieve goals. So what if they cause some collateral damage?

In Miller’s interpretation, this is how we should view Driscoll and other hard-ass pastors like him.

At this point and from this distance, I do not see a pattern of behavior that makes me unable to believe the best about Driscoll. Instead, I see a leader whose love for Christ and the church comes wrapped in a rather feather-ruffling package.

And that’s where I think Keith Miller is out of his mind and at odds with anything approaching Jesus-shaped Christianity. In the end it’s not about defending or criticizing Driscoll, it’s about listening to Jesus and what he had to say about the “hard-ass” school of leadership.

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

I’m familiar with a pastor, now retired, who built a large church during the heyday of the church growth era. This minister was extraordinarily gifted, obsessively self-disciplined, with a great capacity for inspiring people and building organizations. He could have been a CEO for any enterprise. He preached and practiced excellence and had the highest expectations of those who worked under him. At one point he required all church staff to keep time logs of what they did every 15 minutes so that he could hold them accountable to the highest standards of productivity. Worship services were carefully crafted down to the second. The church program grew out of his vision and he oversaw it with relentless attention. He built a church that was seen far and wide as “successful,” and I will admit that many, many good things were accomplished. The narrative was rosy.

But there was another side. There almost always is. That was the side you found out about when you talked to dozens of ex-employees whose hearts were broken and lives turned upside down under the less than gracious “leadership” of this gifted pastor. That’s when you heard reports of contentious board meetings, dictatorial decision making, constant micromanaging, and political maneuvering and manipulation. That’s when you recognized that a lot of the new churches in the area were being started by wounded ex-staff members of this pastor’s congregation and populated by wounded ex-parishioners. As one person told me, “he may be ‘successful,’ but there’s a long trail of bodies left behind.”

Can we please stop baptizing bad behavior in the name of leadership?

Can we please stop exalting “the Cause” above loving God and people (the true cause)?

Can we please stop justifying Christian leaders whose real role models are the hard-asses of the world, and not the One of whom it is said, He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory” (Matthew 12:20).


  1. First, he quoted accounts describing the way Driscoll has exercised “leadership” at Mars Hill Church:

    This was taken from an article about Steve Jobs w/wording changed to be about Driscoll.

  2. The foolish thing is any organization can grow with such tactics. Kingdom of Heaven, kingdom of hell, doesn’t matter. So long that you’re willing to do anything it takes, for the ends justify the means, you can grow an organization. Once you can convince everyone else that all growth is God’s growth (cancers and tumors and plagues notwithstanding) you can even get Christians to endorse it, despite the trail of bodies.

    This is why Paul made character, not success rates nor education, his sole requirement for Christian leadership. It doesn’t matter if your church grows by leaps and bounds when, in the end, it doesn’t really belong to Christ.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      The End Justifies the Means.
      Just ask Citizen Roberspierre.

      • You can’t make an omelet without breaking a lot of eggs.
        —attributed to Joseph Stalin

      • HUG, I read the linked article by Kieth Miller and then saw your comment, and yes “the ends justify the means” was exactly my take-away as well.
        Which is exactly the opposite message of badass Paul in 1 Corinthians 13.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Putting on my RPG gaming geek hat instead of the Brony one,

          Ever heard of a Nineties paper/pencil/funny dice RPG called “TORG”? Premise was conflicting realities redefining our reality. One of these invading “cosms” was a Victorian Gothic Horror reality called “Orrosh”, where Secret Societies and a Church Militant called the “Sacrellum” battled demons and monsters and cosmic horrors in a world based on Victorian England.

          Player-characters could count on nobody because the Secret Societies and the Sacrellum itself had been corrupted by Orrosh’s Devil-figure, “The Dark Man.” The Sacrellum, a liturgical state church with actual spiritual-warfare powers, had been corrupted and suborned to The Dark Man by introducing one single meme into its theology: Because Spiritual Evil was so rampant, it was permissible to do Evil to stop the Evil. “The End Justifies the Means.” And once that meme was introduced, all The Dark Man had to do was wait as his Hell consumed Orrosh, and the Sacrellum’s spiritual warfare tactics helped the process along.

  3. Jim Collins writes about the myth of the celebrity leader in “Good to Great”. He introduces the concept of the level 5 leader based on studies of successful companies that made it from Good to Great. The level 5 leader is not at all like Jobs or Driscoll – but their impact lasts long after they leave. In English premier league football you can see the same thing happening to Manchester United following the departure of the wildly successful tyrant Alex Fergusson.


    • I thought about Jim Collins’ Level 5 Leadership here as well. Especially Collins’ comparison of the Level 5 Leader with former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca, a prototypical celebrity tyrant leader, who managed to bully and browbeat Chrysler into success for as long as he was there, but whose greatness faded quickly when he was gone.

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

        But many in power – especially those with sociopathic tendencies – actually want this. It raises their personal brand and capital. Obviously this is devilishly at odds with anything resembling Christianity, let alone how one redeemed by Christ would want to influence his Church.

  4. Great post, Mike. In my experience, Mere Orthodoxy is usually a place to find balanced, thoughtful commentary. This article was a real surprise, and not in a good way.

    • I wish I could agree, but my experience with MO and Touchstone magazine is that they have gone far down the road towards the culture war frontlines. I let my subscription to Touchstone slip several years ago for that very reason.

      • Put it this way: I don’t often visit MO – maybe once every couple of months for the past three years or so – but this is the first time I’ve ever read something that has caused me to even raise my eyebrows. Maybe I’ve been lucky…

    • That MO ran this post surprised me too.

      • I guess the question is, are they getting some healthy pushback at that blog for posting something like this. I assume that if someone posted something like that here at iMonk, the article would be getting pushback.

  5. Yes, Driscoll’s and Miller’s views on leadership are very American. And apparently, the exegesis they do to substantiate that view is also very American – that is, “if Paul or Jesus did it somewhere in the Bible, It Must Be OK.” Which, of course, depends on the core principle of American evangelical exegesis – context is irrelevant. Yes, Jesus and Paul did use harsh language at times – as a last resort, against unrepentant religious hypocrites, *not their flocks or unbelievers*. And any defense of “gung-ho leadership” that neglects even a nod towards “the leaders of the Gentiles lord it over them, but it shall not be so among you…” is simply baptizing cultural norms with out-of-context verses.

    • I saw the same thing in Central Asia. The church leadership model there was very reflective of Stalin and the sort of communism he practiced. And of course that worked just about as well as competitive capitalism to nurture God’s flocks or to clothe the Bride of Christ.

    • –>”Driscoll’s and Miller’s views on leadership are very American.”

      Not just “American,” but ‘Merican!

  6. Rather, or including this article, I wish you would have linked to Scot McKnight’s post yesterday: We should measure leadership by character, not (or at least not 1st), by attendance, numbers, growth, “success”, etc….

  7. David Cornwell says

    Chaplain Mike, your description of tyranny driven pastoral leadership is right on. I am very familiar with the 15 minute time log driven kind of leadership some of them provide. However I would have to dispute that any of this is “pastoral” in the biblical sense. It is hard ass capitalism in the American sense. And that is what so much of today’s church seems to be about. Sad. And thank you.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Didn’t “Hard Ass Capitalism” of 100-150 years ago give us a reaction called Communism?

  8. I had bosses like this before, abusive and demeaning. I never thought this went on in churches!

    • Oh, yes. Until the church splits, or self-destructs, or becomes a cult. Or until the pastor is fired by a board of elders that finally comes to its senses.

    • I once had a boss who jumped up onto a table to rant at people on the other line of a telecom. A few thoughts ran through my mind at the time:
      1) He’s an ass.
      2) Does he think that helps?
      3) When does he retire?

      Not appropriate for the corporate world, definitely not appropriate for the church world.

  9. Chaplain Mike, near the end of your paragraph about your retired pastor friend is a sentence that begins, “He built a church….”

    That’s the problem, right there. Too many pastors think it’s their church they’re building, forgetting both Psalm 127:1 (“Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it”) and Matthew 16:18 (“I [Jesus] will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”).

    Sorry for the proof-texting, but I couldn’t resist.

  10. If anyone ever saw Dr.Gene Scott on television, you would have caught a public rant towards his staff AND congragation on a nightly basis ( when he would be on live, the rant would be taped so you could get chewed out when he wasn’t live )

    • I used to really get a kick out of watching that guy and his jumbled up chalk board. What a character. He was a pretty good theologian, too. But he was a “hard-ass”…that’s for sure.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      When he had his own cable channel in the Eighties, I kept it on as background. Mostly just to see “what this maniac is going to do next.” Guy was colorful.

  11. The thing is, Driscoll hasn’t even really been ‘deposed.’ In listening to what Driscoll and Mars Hill are saying, it sounds to me like he’s still calling the shots! There’s no real accountability even in him stepping down from leadership.

  12. Good stuff, Mike. Thanks for saying it.

  13. Mike,

    Thanks for the pushback. I just wanted to make one clarification. I did not say, and do not believe, that

    To be a successful leader, you have to be one tough, no-nonsense hard-ass.

    There are wonderful leaders who lead in a less confrontational fashion and find just as much success. Tom Landry instead of Lombardi. Ike instead of Patton. Calvin Coolidge instead of Teddy Roosevelt. My question is a more limited one: I wonder whether “hard-ass” leadership is to be condemned in the church.

    In love,

    • Thanks for joining us, Keith, and for your gracious reply. As for your last question, I’m not sure Jesus’ words and example leave us much choice but to call this kind of leadership less than acceptable. Of course, God uses all kinds of personalities, and one can be tough without being harsh, unkind, or abusive. But when it crosses that line, I don’t think we should yield to the temptation of excusing that just because someone is gifted or achieving “results.”

      • Patrick Kyle says

        Uh..maybe.. There are plenty of examples of Jesus rebuking, cajoling and otherwise making His displeasure with His disciples known. He tore up the money changer’s tables and beat them with a scourge of cords. (Can you imagine what would be said if a Pastor went to Osteen’s church and destroyed property and socked a few of those merchandiser’s of Christ in the eye? ) He also used a racial slur in front of a crowd about the Samaritan woman. (Imagine Jesus using the ‘N-Word) As a new Christian reading the Gospels I was shocked that Jesus was neither nice, nor polite. I am not defending Driscoll, just saying that Jesus’ idea of servant leadership doesn’t match what we are taught today. Even the Apostles rebuked, used strong language, struck people blind and dead, handed people over to the devil, wished that people would cut their own genitals off, and compared their life before Christ to dog s#(t.

        • Kyle, but there is a difference between a leader occasionally uttering sharp words in an appropriate situation and creating a culture of intimidation. I don’t deny the need for the former but this post is about the latter. You may note that I used profanity to make my point today. But I cannot endorse the cultural models Miller pointed us toward. Their “leadership” may have been temporally effective, but certainly not Jesus-shaped.

        • Sure, Jesus and his disciples didn’t always act or speak in what would commonly be considered a polite, reserved, or diplomatic manner. But in each case (if you read it in context) the motive behind their words and behavior becomes clear, whether it’s Jesus’ zeal for His Father’s House or Paul’s protectiveness over the purity of the Gospel.
          But if someone’s main motivation for being an abrasive, abusive, tyranical jerk is that he values his self image, his public persona, and his bank account over all other considerations, then, as far as I see it, he is not a man of God. He’s a man who wants to be God.

        • I think the operating principle here is that a shepherd is hard on the wolves, but gentle with the sheep. This implies that the shepherd must know the difference between the two.

    • @Keith: thanks for joining in (and starting, in a way) the conversation.

      I appreciated your mention of love in the article. My observation though, is that you appear a little conflicted. Is love the top priority, but getting from here to there (developing a world famous Iphone) an acceptable ground for a christian to accept hard-assed leadership ?? If the “success” is an acceptable goal, at what point do we push back it seems to work against the love you mentioned ? I’m having a hard time seeing how you can have this both ways.

      I would also mention that as I see it, Christ like love is what puts christian leadership in an altogether different category of leadership, and it is hazardous to compare to other types and styles (though maybe not impossible). Again, glad to have you over @ IMONK for the day.

      • To echo Chap Mike: “effective” does not mean Jesus-shaped, necessarily.

        • Calvinists of old seemed focused on God’s glory, not results. Is this emphasis on results unique to Young, Restless, and Reformed or a sign of Arminianism creeping into their ranks?

        • But if it’s “effective” in a church setting, “it must be God’s will”…!

          😉 (tongue firmly planted in cheek)

      • Greg,

        Ultimately, I’m not okay with Steve Jobs. Yes, I’m typing this on my MacBook Air which has an iPhone plugged into the usb port, but I don’t believe that Christians should make Jobs their model. They shouldn’t make Napoleon or Hitler their model, either.

        My point is limited to the idea that if a leader is harsh towards a subordinate, we shouldn’t immediately jump to the conclusion that this leader is unChristian. That could be the case, indeed, it could be the case with Mark Driscoll, but it is not a sufficient fact to condemn the leader.

        • I’m a bit baffled about how your two paragraphs fit together.

          “I don’t believe that Christians should make Jobs their model. They shouldn’t make Napoleon or Hitler their model, either.”

          So a Christian model of leadership should not be patterned on Jobs, Napoleon, or Hitler, but on some other model. Okay. I am with you so far.

          “My point is limited to the idea that if a leader is harsh towards a subordinate, we shouldn’t immediately jump to the conclusion that this leader is unChristian.”

          But if you a leader is (routinely, purposefully, as a matter of philosophy or “style”) harsh to subordinates, such that you would draw comparisons with Steve Jobs & co., they are “not unChristian” and it is “not sufficient fact to condemn the leader.”

          I don’t follow. When a Christian leader is not leading in a ‘Christianly’ way, but in a way incompatible with their mission and responsibilities, is that not rather precise grounds for criticism or even discipline? We should perhaps stop short of saying, “Sometimes the greatest men behave thus”?

          Perhaps you are attaching different meanings to “unChristian” and “condemn” than I am.

  14. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Their motives may be “good” — to be successful, to win championships, to create great products, to win battles, or to get the best production possible out of those under them. They build a certain loyalty and devotion among at least some of their followers. American culture loves them, admires them, and holds them up as heroes because of their wholehearted determination to fulfill a vision and achieve goals. So what if they cause some collateral damage?

    I have heard similar admiration of Vladimir Putin, Autocrat of all Russia.
    “He Gets Things Done.”

  15. Asinus Spinas Masticans says

    Lesslie Newbigin was hand-grenades-and-government-work close to Orthodoxy, and he made a statement that has always remained with me:

    There is no substitute for the gift of discernment, no set of rules nor institutional polity by which we can be released from the responsibility for discernment. The world can never be made safe from all possible risks. The Faith must ever be placed at risk in the commerce of ideas.

    There is a time and a place for hard-assed-ness, It is called akriveia in the Church [2 Corinthians 13:10], and is usually translated “sharpness”, although “accuracy” would be a good word for it as well. On the other hand, the Church makes it clear that there is a time and a place for economia, which is not, as some have suggested, a doing away with the rules, but a more lenient and flexible application of them. Some people, constitutionally, love to apply “akriveia”. It appeals to a deep-seated need in all of us to appreciate predictibility and order in a chaotic world. On the other hand, a lot of us constitutionally prefer “economia”, usually because we are aware of ourselves as very great sinners, and would like others to apply “economia” to us when our time comes around.

    He who would be a wise guardian of souls must know which approach is appropriate. Human beings being what they are, you cannot device a spreadsheet that would tell you how to act in any given situation. The spreadsheets are the canons of the Church, but we’ve already seen how discernment is indispensable in their application. You cannot create a spreadsheet for the spreadsheet, and so on into infinite regress. Discernment comes about through deep prayer and knowledge of God and knowledge of other souls. It doesn’t come quickly, epecially not to someonle like me who can barely keep his mind on the words he is saying during matins.

  16. “One man stood alone
    One man did succeed
    I’m the man, I’m the one
    I didn’t build it for me
    One man stood alone
    Numero uno
    I’m the man, I’m the one
    I’m the man of the hour!…”

    – from “I Didn’t Build It For Me” by Daniel Amos (from Dopelganger…reprint coming soon!).

  17. Hi Keith Miller, I think to be a good leader you should seek to be vulnerable.

  18. “Maybe he’s a self-deceived, self-aggrandizing charlatan with narcissistic personality disorder, but if that were the case it would manifest in a string of unloving actions.”

    /me points to “a string of unloving actions”

    Yeah, maybe.

  19. Apparently hard-assed leaders like to point at things.

  20. I wonder why people put up with this? Some must be very insecure and scared (hence the use of fear in such churches as a motivator). Many have to lack the gift of discernment to continue to put up with this and other garbage in those places for years.

    Also, whatever happened to humility and servant leadership?

    • It makes them feel bad-ass. They emulate the behavior of the leader. It quickly goes from a leader’s flaw to a cultural problem, which spreads the abuse and enables/enforces the leader’s flaw. The leader draws first blood and the minions join in. That is why it is not inflammatory to call this behavior bullying.

      • When the leader has a large media machine, that culture spreads beyond the four walls of the local church to other churches. It becomes a part of the evangelical culture.

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

        This stems in part, I think, from the myth that masculinity is expressed in being a hardass. In the first place, this isn’t even accurate (there are plenty of good books by social anthropologists to disabuse anyone of this notion). But more importantly, being “manly” seems to be more important than being Christ-like or even obedient.

  21. It’s just the same old root problem…or a symptom of it… ie Form doesn’t matter. Means don’t matter. The goal, the intention, the mental certitude/assent – that’s what matters in modern evangelicalism. The seed matters more than the fruit…

  22. That Other Jean says

    I can, sort of, though I don’t think it’s the best way, understand hard-assedness in improving the skills of sports teams, or creating excellent products, or leading an army to victory. I understand how tempting it must be, to the right kind of personality, to apply the same techniques to growing a church. Churches, though, are made up of people. If you put all your energy into enlarging the brick and mortar and technical whiz-bang institution to bring people into the buildings and not into the spiritual growth of the congregation, you haven’t created anything worth having.

  23. I am reminded of the “four humors” in Greco-Roman medicine attributed to a predominance of a particular type of bodily fluid. Today they are generally referred to as the four basic temperaments. They are:

    Sanguine: Fun loving, gregarious, optimistic and social – attributable to a predominance of blood;
    Choleric: Authoritative, realistic and ambitious – attributable to a predominance of yellow bile;
    Melancholic: Low-key, somber, pensive, idealistic and yet often pessimistic – attributable to a predominance of black bile; and
    Phlegmatic: Easy-going, relaxed, peaceful and quiet – attributable to a predominance of phlegm.

    We now know that bodily fluids, with the exception of brain chemicals, I suppose, has nothing to do with basic personality types. But we do do know that these personality types provide a fair amount of explanation for our emotional make-up and that they are mostly congenital in nature.

    I mention all of this because I have found that most “hard-assed” leaders–and this would account for the personality of most leaders I have personally experienced and read about–are choleric in nature. Take, for instance, George Patton, “Old Blood & Guts.” There was a line in the “Patton” movie where a soldier remarked, “Yeah, our blood, his guts.” And so it is with many leaders who fit this personality type. Machiavellian-like statements such as, “The end justifies the means” and “By all means necessary” appear to be their driving force.

    Perhaps Paul fit this personality type, especially in his BC days. But he learned to walk in the Spirit and to imitate Christ. And in so doing he was able to, according to his own testimony, accomplish more to expand the kingdom than the rest of the apostles combined. But he did so in gentleness and wisdom.

    Unfortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule when it comes to lead pastors with a strong choleric temperament. And for these guys, the good they do is swallowed up by the body count they leave on their personal road to glory, i.e., their own, not God’s.

  24. I appreciate that Keith Miller joined the conversation and that he was welcomed by many. My own picture of Driscoll was formed by his public treatment of his wife, Grace. Some of his ‘revelations’ were I believe intended to demean her and I take exception to a Christian man doing that to any woman, but when it’s a minister and a husband, I am appalled for the sake of the woman’s human dignity.

    I don’t understand the fundamentalist-evangelical craving for patriarchy, especially when it treats women poorly publicly . . . it is a harsh doctrine, and I believe it to be profoundly un-Christian in its ethos and its morality. As far as claims that extreme patriarchy is ‘okay’ because it’s ‘biblical’, I cannot see the connection in that thinking to anything that Our Lord Himself taught when He was among us . . . if anything, it counters much of His basic teachings.

    That an author can come here to this post and be well-received is a sign that this is a healthy and open community of people who can examine issues without the usual name-calling and abuse found on so many so-called ‘Christian’ blogs, some managed by pastors. Chaplain Mike, in perpetuating the work of Michael Spencer, has been successful in providing a place for dialogue which tolerates different points of view respectfully. I am very grateful for Michael’s work being continued in this way, which honors his memory.

  25. I belonged to several Vineyard churches throughout my life and knew John Wimber because of it. Most people don’t know that he was a very knowledgeable church growth expert. In one of his seminars he said something that has turned out to be totally prophetic. He said “that it is a scary thought that a man can build a large church without the Holy Spirit and without Gods’ blesing. After all, its just working with people
    “. And so it is today

  26. A thing I’ve noticed with good leadership and bad leadership, or maybe “leadership styles,” is that organizations tend to take on the style of their leaders. When managers and underlings see their bosses doing things a certain way, they tend to mirror them. When they see passive/aggressive bosses reacting in passive/aggressive and heavy-handed ways, there’s a tendency for underlings to react to people and problems in a heavy-handed and passive/aggressive ways. There’s a tendency to say, “Well, my boss is like this, I guess it’s okay.” When people see bosses/leaders reacting to people and problems with humility and accountability, they tend to say, “Oh, it’s okay to be humble and take some of the blame here.”

    Leaders like Driscoll breed organizations that will have a tendency to be just like him. Not good for a church community.

  27. from Keith’s article:
    While Steve Jobs is certainly nobody’s idea of a model of Christian virtue, he did some really big deal things. And his documented jerkiness was not so much a flaw that hindered his talent, but actually part of what made him so exceptional. We may not like some of his methods, but let him who is without an iPhone cast the first stone.

    hard to overlook this: is the goal to be “exceptional” the way Steve Jobs was ?? Seems as if his jerkiness really got things done; looks like peole were afraid, and took action: is that a good thing, even if it produced iphones ?? What kind of leaders does the body of christ need ?? I think looking to these examples as ANY kind of template is perilous , and an exercise in chasing after the wrong model.

  28. Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

    Ok, I wanted to read and objectively evaluate Miller’s piece before commenting. Having done so, I think this article is a pretty good example of most of what is wrong with the “leadership culture” in evangelicalism. These words and attitudes have got absolutely nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus. And he even has the call to baptize his false teaching as “Biblical” (by essentially making stuff up about Paul, because, well, Paul). Very disappointed, and not hesitant to call this balderdash.

    P.S. Never heard of “mere orthodoxy” before, and after this I can be pretty sure I won’t be visiting again.

    • petrushka1611 says


    • While I also disagree with the article I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Mere Orthodoxy; much of the writing there is very insightful, and the owners of the site openly declare its purpose to be hosting conversations on Christianity and culture and not to advancing a particular theological or methodological point of view, which means that it’s not really fair to see a single article as an extension of the site as a whole.

  29. I know in this day-and-age balance is evil and the extremes rule supreme. Just to be a rebel, how about a passionate, focused leader who can direct people with respect, firmness, an executable plan, and defined measures to keep people on track, rather than blowing up after everything goes in the ditch?

  30. So many responses with a gospel-shaped heart. These dear people are not speaking a language the bombastic leader understands.

    However, I’m an INTJ–a” Rational” personality type. I value strategy, and results. I can speak this language of measurement and ends and goals. I am unswayed by thin sentiment. So, organization men, let us play your game for a moment.

    Let me explain to you what I want: I want an organizational strategy that yields results, maximizes our assets, and don’t waste time and energy. I want a system that works, because it is so good, that it keeps running, under multiple contingencies. I definitely don’t want unnecessary drama. It wastes time!

    Let us size up our verbally aggressive superstar-leader type by this criteria. I see some significant assets: Drive. Tireless commitment. Energy. The ability to be decisive. Focus. The ability to remember what the objective is. But, oh dear, there also liabilities, big ones: The go way over the top with people. They eviscerate other people in the organization, who might have been assets to it, when it was totally unnecessary to do so. And, bother, they’re always doing it after my bright-eyed recruits are trained and we’ve spent so many resources on them. They make collaboration difficult. They create yes-men, rather than people who bring independent contributions to the table. They don’t listen to others, so their strategies suffer from a lack of correction or perspective. So it seems that there are many hidden costs to this “leadership style.” You can’t just be good for your contributions to the outweigh the damage you cause: you’d better be brilliant.

    There are, as Miller points out, examples of verbally abusive leaders who flourish despite, occasionally because, of their aggressive style. And yet, if I could find someone with the same abilities and better self-control … I would have so much more time! And would we perhaps have ….better results?

    Of course, we have not even yet approached the question of what the objectives of our organization are. All the above applies fairly well to an organization pushing out product. If, however, you are a church, in the business of forming people, all this sacrificing of people–who are the whole point–to secondary goals is, frankly, a most curious and counter-productive strategy. Why, then, is our brilliant superstar leader doing it? Oh, dear, Superstar, did you … forget to check the organizational goals when formulating a strategy? Surely you didn’t just …well…. copy it from somewhere else, without modification? Ipads and people are not the same, you realize? Come on, man, we just sacrificed 20 recruits for you! You gotta be more brilliant than this!

  31. Well, Jesus’ style wasn’t (and isn’t) hard-ass:

    “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

    Surely we should be very wary of any leadership style which differs significantly from that.

  32. The greatest flaw of Evangelicalism, imo, is the idea that WE HAVE TO PRODUCE something.

    As followers of Jesus would not our greatest testimony be the degree to which we are able to exemplify our Lord’s path of Kenosis?

    “God allows himself to be edged out of the world and onto the cross. God is weak and powerless in the world, and that is exactly the way, the only way, in which he can be with us and help us.”

    – Dietrich Bonhoeffer