September 14, 2010

We Have the Who; Now for the What

 THE EVENTS SURROUNDING THE LEADERSHIP SELECTION PROCESS AT THE ?most recent General Conference session would have had all the trappings of an American-styled election-night drama were it not for the fact that those being elected to office were “gearing up” for responsibilities that have far greater import than those in the secular, political arena.
The Who
As the Nominating Committee recommended names to the delegates to serve in various positions in the General Conference, it was obvious that what emerged was a solid team that would lead the world church in the years to come.
While I’m not sure everything was completely intentional as to who would lead in every position (some solidly committed leaders were not reelected), there was still an overarching sense ?that there was a serious attempt to get the right people on the (leadership) bus in the right seats on that bus.
2010 1530 page29Devotees of Jim Collins’ insightful leadership book Good to Great are familiar with the above metaphor. Collins identifies what he calls Level Five Leaders, those able to move their organizations from good to great.
But Collins’ most poignant point continues his bus metaphor: Deciding where to drive the bus, before getting the right people on the bus, will not work. He calls that the “who” question. Who will be on the bus? is critical. But once the “who” is decided, leaders must immediately pivot to the “what” question. That is, What are you going to do?
The Nominating Committee, with the counsel and input of the General Conference president, did just that. It dealt with the who part of the leadership team at almost every level of the General Conference organizational sphere. But if leadership stops with just getting the right people on the bus and little attention is given as to where the bus is going, all the forward momentum of the fifty-ninth General Conference session will evaporate in short order.
The What
With the right people on the bus, leaders and their teams have to determine where they want to drive the bus. For Spirit-filled leaders, this instinctively means asking God for the vision/direction about where He wants the church to move collectively. God, what is the plan?
Seeking a vision/direction means that our leaders have to go beyond powerfully restating our core values and beliefs as a denomination. The imperative of restating our denominational values and making clear the biblical foundation we stand on, supported by the counsels of Ellen White, is essential.
The incisive expression of cautionary notes about worship, biblical interpretation, music, and sampling methodologies used by churches beyond Adventism is absolutely necessary. But it does not translate into vision/direction; it is only at its core a “launching point.”
The challenge facing leaders across the broad spectrum of our leadership community is learning the value of heading to the “mountain” and spending significant time with God seeking which way to go. Slogans won’t do it. Programs won’t do it. Strategic plans won’t do it.
After Moses called the people to a higher level of commitment about what it meant to be God’s people, God showed him exactly how they would take the Promised Land. He gave Moses details about how to move the people, and when.
My prayer is that before our new leadership team gets immersed in day-to-day activities of ?committees, boards, and travel, it carves out time to head to the “mountain,” for the singular purpose of asking God for direction in advancing the mission of the church. This is basic for Spirit-filled ?leaders—inquiring of the Lord.
When leaders ask for God’s direction, He gives it. 
Fredrick A. Russell is president of the Allegheny West Conference, with headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. This article was published September 9, 2010.