Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jack Welch and the Apostle Paul

When you think about the Apostle Paul - if you think about him at all - what are the first four images that come to your mind? For me, the answer is the image of a man who is on a long, hot walk, in the middle of the desert, being struck by lightning from out of nowhere. On that lonely road, Paul is brought to his knees before God on the road to Damascus. For me, the answer is also a person who taught and preached his whole life in public meeting spaces, town halls, and synogogues, an orator of soaring proportions. Another image I have is of a man who had the power to both heal and to cast out demons, and who is constantly being asked by his audiences to do both. Paul was a prophet - "a truth teller" - who didn't mince words or tell people what they wanted to hear, but rather, what they most needed to hear.

However, in my daily devotional time with the Bible this week, I made another profound discovery about the Apostle Paul - he was also a great administrator. One might even say that Paul was first and foremost a CEO!

The Apostle Paul was more like a Jack Welch, a Carly Fiorini, a Meg Whitman, a Steve Jobbs and a Bill Gates, than we really think about or realize. Paul was good at raising money, distributing collections, starting churches, developing young pastors (leaders), and overseeing management structures from afar. Paul's churches were like separate franchises, opened in different countries, across the entire Mediterranean world. These are all of the hallmarks of a great administrator.

One of the best examples of a Bible text that lends evidence to Paul's administrative ability is the last chapter of 1 Corinthians. Remember, 1 Corinthians? 1 Corinthians is the book where Paul writes one of the most famous love poems about God in the history of love poetry: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal..." (1 Cor. 13:1). It's a remarkable love poem. But then, flip three chapters forward, and you begin to hear the CEO Apostle Paul that stumbled upon in my devotional study this week: "Now, about the collection for God's people...on the first day of the week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come, no collections will have to be made." (1 Cor. 16:1-4). These are very specific managerial instructions. Paul wants things to run smoothly with relation to money. He is giving administrative instructions to his church leaders, so that the "show of money" doesn't become the center of attention when he is in town.

Why is this new discovery so exciting to me? Partly because I have come to realize that great church leadership must include the ability to preach, teach, counsel, and minister to. However it also requires the ability to administer, to manage, to direct, and oversee. This discovery also helps me to see Paul as a more nuanced person than I once believed. Paul is not the one dimensional preacher that Sunday School teachers would like him to be. Paul was savvy, strategic, cunning and purposeful. This discovery also helps to explain a lot of Paul's anxiety and agitation that he expresses after he leaves a church. His thoughts an anxieties are those of a CEO, trying to keep hundreds of details in his head at once.

All for Now,

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