You Probably Shouldn’t Be Attending Christian Leadership Conferences

Christians love LEADERSHIP.

It is a favored theme that has a soft spot in the hearts of most believers. I say “most believers” but actually I think it’s probably “most pastors.” More often than not they’re the ones who have an unrequited need to foist leadership principles upon their congregations. They bring in speakers to talk about it, encourage their members to attend conferences on it, write books about it, have website and blogs devoted to it, and even build churches around it. 

In fact, for evangelicals, the four-week Leadership Sermon Series is one of the High Holy Days on their liturgical calendar, right up there with the Valentine’s Day sex sermon series and the Mothers Day sermon.  You’ve sat through one of these before- where the Pastor invariably uses excruciatingly awful exegesis of the story of Nehemiah to teach on how and why you can be a better leader.

These Leadership conferences are one of the five pillars that the Corporate Evangelical Machine likes to promote, and promote they do. Christian leadership conferences are a dime a dozen.  Catalyst. Global Leadership Summit. Gateway Conference. International Pastors and Leaders Conference. Leadercast. C3.  In fact, every pastor worth his salt with an attendance over 3000 will probably throw on their own conference that you can add to the mix, so there is definitely no shortage.

Here’s a question: why are we sending Christians to all sorts of Leadership Conferences™ when they can’t even articulate the basic tenets of the faith?

[Full disclosure, this my favorite dead horse to beat. And make no mistake, when it comes to misaligned or misguided evangelical priorities, not only will I beat this horse until every bone fragment has been fractured into a thousand shards, but after my horse is nothing but a soupy, gelatinous mess on the ground, I will bury it, wait 6 months, exhume whatever horse bones are left, have them incinerated, and then have the ashes tossed into the Swift river.]

Pastors are doing 24 week sex series sermons, 10 weeks on how to be more assertive at work, and 6 weeks on getting better controlled children. They are learning these things, and yet meanwhile if you asked the average congregation member “How are men justified and made right before God?” You will get staring. And more staring. And that tragically oblivious look on their face as they try to delve into the deepest and furthest recess of their minds, racking their brains and sifting through years upon years of evangelical silliness and leadership principles because somewhere in there…years ago….their pastor surely must have said something about this…it rings a bell….if only they could think of what it was….

Right. They can’t. But they CAN go to Christian leadership conferences and have a blast there.

If I had it my way, there would be  a questionnaire administered at the door of these conferences-  where you couldn’t attend until you can demonstrate your leadership in Christian theology by answering 10 basic questions. Don’t know what sanctification is? Denied. Can’t articulate the gospel? Roughed up by the bouncers and then denied.  Can’t explain justification? Denied, and then given a a busride and guest pass to attend a systematic theology lecture at RTS. 

Or better yet, I will announce a major leadership conference, called “YOU ARE NEHEMIAH! BECOME THE LEADER AND VISION-CASTER YOU WERE DESTINED TO BE” and get the biggest names out there, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Steven Furtick, Perry Noble, Christine Cain, Matt Chandler [only because he attends every conference. cough!] and TD Jakes featured on all the promotional material. And when someone tries to register and sign up, and pay the non-refundable 199$ early bird special, they’ll get sent an automated message emailed to them saying “By signing up for this event, you have failed at being a spiritual leader. Please go home and read your Bible.” And then if I’m feeling particularly cheeky, I’ll tack on  “Also, your registration feesv  will be divied up and used to fund various long term missions,, The Bible Thumping Wingnut, Striving For Eternity and Alpha and Omega Ministries.”

It’s probably appropriate at this point to issue a disclaimer that this is not a screed against Leadership Conferences. I’m not against them or the people attending them. I have personally been profoundly blessed and edified by the speakers at the ones I have attended. But I’ve also graduated from milk to meat, and I don’t have my priorities askew. I also attended with people who have been Christians for a twice as long as I’ve been alive, and these people, when pressed for the fundamentals are found… floundering.

But If you as a Christian can’t articulate the gospel and the basic tenets of the Christian faith, the barebones, primary, fundamentals of the faith, then you don’t need to be spending 250$ on a Christian leadership conference.

Pastors- if your congregation members don’t have a firm belief in the basics of the faith, then you needn’t encourage them in this frivolous distraction when your priorities should be elsewherer. Why send them to conferences where they can get tips and tricks on how to be a better leader at home, at Church, and in the workplace, when they have not yet mastered or even graduated in being the leaders of their own souls?  You don’t need to be getting pointers on how to lead others if you can’t even lead yourself to a Bible.

Here’s a novel idea. Churches need to spend less time turning their Christians into better leaders, and more time turning their Christians into better Christians.

When you take people with poor and underdeveloped theology and help make them into leaders, you get leaders with poor theology. This is destructive and foolish and invariably these newly minted leaders will attract more people unto themselves with even worse theological acumen than they have. You don’t want this.

If you are a good pastor, you need to spend more time trying to develop their sanctification, knowledge, and application of knowledge of who Jesus is, and less time trying to bastardize the text by breaking your back trying to mine little leadership nuggets from the life of Nehemiah or Moses or whichever other dead bible guy you think existed to teach you about leadership.

When you focus on sanctification and helping them become more like Jesus, teaching them about the scriptures by ensuring they understand it, explain it, apply it and be trasforemd by it, you are caring for their souls in a real and practical way, and in that way you are showing yourself to be a leader.

There are priorities here, and it won’t be hard for a real leader to see what they are.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Doug says:

    The more I read your blog in trying to understand your point of view the more it comes to me that you are a hurting “Christian” I bracket that word because I see and hear some one that is on the edge, the threshold of going. Why? It seems that in reading you have an argument, a dislike of organized Christians. You seem to pick on the leadership.

    I therefore feel that you have been wounded whether you realize it or not is another question.

    I have attended churches and if I don’t appreciate what I hear because it is a version of the gospel that doesn’t line up with the Word I move on. I don’t withhold gathering together with other Christians.

    I would be wary of some one who is developing their own version of the Gospel, the true Word of Jesus – a word by the way that seems to be vacant from your blogs.

    Your blogs remind me of The Bible Answer Man – a hard hearted individual who chooses more to teardown than build up.


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