In the recent past, the leadership of organizations was built on a mechanistic model. There was a clear organizational chart, decisions flowed from the top down, and responsibilities were codified in job descriptions. The primary responsibility of each succeeding level of supervision was to make sure that those individuals at the level below were doing what he or she was hired to do – nothing more and nothing less. This mechanistic model stifled creativity, meaning and relationships for everyone except (perhaps) those at the very top.

The new organic model of leadership is built on a core of spirituality and relationships. When the leadership team of the Union Baptist Association in Houston began seeking to create a way to lead churches in transformational change, they realized that spiritual and relational vitality was the driving force for church transformation. They also realized that they needed to model it themselves as a team if they were going to guide churches in transformational change (see Jim Herrington, et al., Leading Congregational Change).

Spiritual and relational vitality are two dimensions of single reality taught by Christ in this way:

“One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’” (Matthew 22:35-40)

If a congregation or judicatory does not have a commitment to a spiritual walk as well as healthy relationships at its core, it will neither survive nor prosper. Even a secular organization must have both core values that look beyond itself and vital relationships among its people if it is going to be something other than a machine.

Spiritual and relational vitality form the basis for effective leadership in the 21st century. Why? Because people are looking for meaning and they want to be valued for whom they are. If these basic needs are not met, the organization is dead in the water. How are you developing spiritual and relational vitality in your setting?


Ircel Harrison is an associate with Pinnacle Leadership Associates and director of the Murfreesboro center of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. A version of this column appeared previously on his blog.

Share This