Revision Date: June 30, 2014
As a senior leader for a Chicago consulting firm, one of my roles is thought leadership. It is my job to bring new ideas to the table and cause the client, even my peers, to look at solutions differently. This usually includes both a strategic and theoretical overview, but also includes a tactical and practical approach that makes the strategic successful. A good Thought Leader in the corporate world is a pioneer of sorts, creating a new path for new opportunities, dealing with business and technical pain points, and proving a clear roadmap to achieve the well-defined goal.
For the last 3 months what has been stirring up in me is how pulpit ministry lacks thought leadership, and specifically in the Finished Work, Grace, Sonship, or Kingdom message, as we are called. This message is not new even though many are hearing it for the first time in recent years. This is a message that goes back to the late 40’s and 50’s, and pioneered by authors such as Bill Britton and George Warnock, who are the Thought Leaders of their day. They handed their baton to next generation ministers such as Kelley Varner, and a minister who was at our church this week Lynn Hiles. The message is a finished work message, with a good view of grace, which aligns with the foundation that I built Temple Builders Ministry on in 1986. The progression for this thought leadership roadmap has endured great criticism over the years, but in the end set many free from law-binding doctrine. Thought Leadership in the corporate world and in the pulpit may build on what others have laid as a foundation, but they not only build on that foundation, they also extend that foundation to house more capacity. Kelley Varner is the best example of that, authoring books that extended the foundation that will take many years for the church to digest.
It was in 1986 that I discovered George Warnock and Bill Britton books, the original thought leaders in my estimation. At the time, I was in the Word of Faith movement. For me, though others pioneered the path, my thinking was revolutionized in 1986 through a minister friend and pastor at the time Barry Taylor. The Temple Builders message, however, quickly exceeded this message in the late 80’s and 90’s. By exceeded, I mean it brought thought leadership to the table–Holy Ghost thought leadership. This is what produced the Temple Builders book and articles. As with Kelley Varner, the Temple Builders message simply extended and built on the foundation. This was necessary to fill gaps that were missing in the current messages, but also demonstrated that the message is not narrow focused. The message is much broader, and must have the capacity to rescue others from the pit, to deliver from affliction, and to make the walk in holiness sustainable.
Today, the current Grace ministers, as we call ourselves (for lack of a better term, maybe), remind me of the Faith ministers of old, who thought that their message was the most progressive, and had a habit of comparing themselves to the old order ministries–typically spirit-filled pentecostals in traditional churches such as Assembly of God. What I realized in about 1984 is that the Kenneth Hagin camp believers were stuck, so our progression path was to the more progressive word of faith ministers, who brought more of the gifts and more spontaneity into play. But for doctrine–still no real thought leadership. Kenneth Copeland did start teaching the body who we are in Christ, which was a big stepping stone into the Grace and Finished Work message, though.
Reading books in 1986 by George Warnock (available online here at http://TempleBuildersMinistry.com) brought into my life thought leadership from pioneers from the late 40’s and 50’s, though some of the writings continued much later. These pioneers are still somewhat unknown, but they certainly produced ministers such as Kelley Varner, who assisted me in extending and building on the foundation. The Temple Builders: High Calling book teaches about the mixture in ministry, and we have to always remember that the mixture is always present. Just because you teach Finished Work or Grace does not exclude you from mixture. This is no different in the corporate world. Our roadmaps and new ideas are heavily vetted by executives. We are sifted, we are humbled many times, but we end up with a plan that we can execute with confidence in most cases.
Today we have the same dilemma of previous camps of thought leaders in the pulpit: grace ministers are exactly like the Word of Faith ministers of the 80’s: no real thought leadership. They rehash the same message, with slight scriptural insights here and there, or more accurately, they color the words a little different yet are saying the same thing. This is fine, but if you think you are progressive and are doing any contrast to the less progressive, you have no real thought leadership going on. This is the core of this message: contrasting, yet producing no thought leadership.
I recall back in 2000, the Holy Spirit taught me the Book of Job in a way that produced incredible thought leadership. This message is included in “Temple Builders: The High Calling” book. When I taught the message from the pulpit in an Association of Vineyard grace church, I was raked over the coals because it so differed from the current paradigm teachings for how that Book is interpreted. Later, I befriended Kelley Varner, a teacher of teachers in the finished work/kingdom teaching message. He taught that Elihu of the Book of Job was immature, and an issue. I taught that Elihu was the Prophet of God, and the man of the hour. So where does thought leadership take you? Whether it is in the client site as a consultant, or in the pulpit, it is conflict. In Kelley’s case, I presented my message and argument. Even though he preached the opposite, he gave pause. When a “layman” can give pause to a high-caliber, professional minister, it shows humility for the minister. To this day I have never heard the Job interpretation taught.
Thought leadership causes conflict. Only real leaders will assault the current ideas of how things work, whether on the client site, or in the pulpit. If all we are doing is changing the color of words but what underlies is the same thing, we are doing little in the way of thought leadership. I do not believe that all ministers have to be thought leaders. This is not true of the corporate world. However, when you constantly contrast yourself against the “less progressive”, you are setting yourself up as a Thought Leader, and you need to deliver. A Thought Leader DOES contrast, though. They contrast a current state assessment with the future. They contrast where they are, their local church is, and the whole church is, with a roadmap to the future state. Current state versus future state. Providing solutions, and a clear way to get there.
Where is the progression, the thought leadership from the finished work grace message? If the message does not progress to how we add discipline to our life and still stay in grace, apart from law, then we leave the people hanging. If we do not progress the message through affliction, and demonstrate HOW we get through affliction properly, we give no tactical solution for our strategic message. Real thought leadership provides solutions that we know how to apply. In addition, real thought leadership will lead us to a new church government paradigm where the one pastor system has become the old order. (more on that model in future articles)
This message is a rebuke not to the majority of ministers, but to the ones who think they have arrived when they are simply no further than the Warnocks and Varners of days past set for us. The contrasting must stop. Thought leadership is about examining current state, and moving it forward in a manner that creates something new, and dramatically more successful. If we are truly “Grace” ministers, let us accept the grace of God to be Thought Leaders for a Third Day Church, and move them to a maturity that they cannot even imagine in this current state.