The School of Mafia Leadership

One thing I observed about the Mafia having grown up in a Chicago suburb was that they knew how to lead. No one ever questioned this. Most of their methods however, involved fear and intimidation. One thing’s for sure, their variety of leadership always got the job done, at least until the Feds caught up with them. I think it should be pretty obvious to Christian leaders that not every method of leadership is worthy of emulating. Too many ministry leaders act like graduates of the school of Mafia leadership. It doesn’t take long for those serving alongside these folks to notice the traits and feel the brutality. Leadership of any kind will always bear its appropriate fruit. Only good leadership will bear good fruit yet so many are drawn to lead by dishonorable tactics. Though you might be tempted to slip over to the leadership dark side, these four traits and activities will always get you in trouble.

1. Unchecked Authority

Without question there needs to be an authority structure in the local church. However, any organizational flow chart with only one unaccountable leader at the top is flawed and fails to represent the character of God. Good leaders will seek out accountability. I often ask another pastor to read a letter or statement before I hit the send button. Why? Because I want to be open to the critique of others. Mutual accountability keeps our motives and agendas in check. It shows we’re not beyond the scrutiny of others and makes it known that authority never belongs to us alone. Wise leaders who are humble will make themselves accountable to others. Those who don’t will find that trouble is not far behind.

2. Hidden Agendas

An elder chairman in a previous church used to write into the agenda for our meetings the words “Hidden Agendas.” When we arrived at that point in the meeting he would always say, “Now if you have a hidden agenda you’ll see that this is the place for it to come out.” He always got the intended laughter and it made the point that hidden agendas were unacceptable. If something needs to be hidden it probably isn’t honorable. Plans that come from the Lord have no need for secrecy and blindsiding. Those who are honest and above reproach aren’t afraid of transparency.

John 3:19-20 (NIV) This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

3. Manipulation and Spin

There really is no place for spin in the Christian world. Plans that stand on truth have no need for the work of a Public Relations Director. If we are doing the will of God then why do we need to have things presented in a certain light? Recently my daughter was caught cutting a corner in her school work. When questioned about it she initially painted the picture that the fault was with the teacher, her mother, the curriculum, and her lack of sleep. My precious child, what you have is a problem, but it’s not a PR problem. Your trouble is that you didn’t do the right thing to begin with. Honest ministry plans that are birthed in Scripture and prayer have no need for spin. These kinds of plans do very well in the light of day.

4. Palm Greasing

You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, so the saying goes, but what about the fact that our Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills. (Ps. 50:10) Who are we really trusting in if our plans require the favors of our Good ‘Ol Boy network? Doesn’t Scripture teach that the Lord is the one who builds the house? (Ps. 127:1) Ultimately, these kinds of behaviors simply reveal that we’re trusting in something other than God. Every hero of the faith in the pages of Scripture faced the challenge whether they would trust in the Lord or not? That is the same challenge all leaders will face. Will we trust in our networks or will we trust in the Lord?


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