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Hudson River Presbytery. March 8, 2008 Address by Rick Barger . Centering John 11:17-45. Adaptive Leadership for a Converted Church. Adaptive Leadership is…. Not descriptive of a leader who can easily adapt to changing situations. Mediating a change of worldviews.

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Hudson River


March 8, 2008

Address by Rick Barger

Adaptive Leadership

for a

Converted Church

adaptive leadership is
Adaptive Leadership is…
  • Not descriptive of a leader who can easily adapt to changing situations.
  • Mediating a change of worldviews.
  • Re-Storying people and communities.
  • Perilous!
  • Never more needful for the church than NOW!
core orientation
Core Orientation

The Thesis of

A New and Right Spirit

Congregational authenticity and its capacity to be the transformational community God desires are not about tactics, strategies, programs, and the like; but is rather about

Clear and courageous identity and calling as a contrast community and sign of God’s mission in the world, grounded in the death and resurrection of Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

  • Mission is not something that the church does.
  • Mission is what the church IS.
  • The church does not exist to meet “your needs.”
  • It exists to meet God’s needs.
  • The church is God’s mission for the world.
  • The church is God’s.
  • The “missional church” is a redundancy.
we are living in historic times
We are living in historic times.
  • We can no longer be just students of history.
  • We are history makers.
  • Never has the church faced the challenges that the North American church faces today – The Perfect Storm.
historic times
Historic Times
  • At the same time, never in the last few centuries has there been a deep spiritual hunger as exists today.
  • It would be hard to find a time when the stakes were higher.
  • You can name the stakes.
  • On top of the narcissistic, self-absorbed, and individualistic culture of entitlement, we have become people of fear.
  • We organize ourselves around the forces of death. Death is Lord.
  • We are chronically anxious and regressive as a culture - evolution in reverse.
the impact of regression
The Impact of Regression
  • Rather that address the cause of anxiety we focus on symptoms or issues.
    • i.e. Why can’t we get our youth involved?
  • We step up the treadmill of trying harder.
  • Quick-fixes become attractive.
  • Maybe we need better “management.”
the impact of regression15
The Impact of Regression
  • The quick-fix fails and the treadmill starts running faster.
  • Emotional gridlock and the absence of the imaginative.
  • Name just about any high stakes issue and with it is emotional gridlock and the absence of the imaginative.
a change in the field of vision
A Change in the Field of Vision

From Reformation.

To Revolution.

the revolution recognizes that
The Revolution Recognizesthat
  • The problem is not the fundies.
  • The problem is not postmodernism.
  • The problem is not the prosperity gospel.
  • The problem is not religious extremism.
the revolution recognizes that22
The Revolution Recognizesthat
  • The problem is us.
  • WE are the problem.
  • We struggle to get out of our own way.
  • We really are in God’s way.

Authentic Servant-Leadership is the capacity to influence others through visionary self-definition that inherently inspires because of passion for a mission, and, at the same time, stresses because of its mature self-definition.

Key words:



Visionary & Mature Self- Definition





Authentic-Servant Leaders
  • Are clear in their identity and calling of self.
  • Are clear in the identity and calling of the “system” they lead.
  • Are mature and evolutionary.
  • Are visionary and revolutionary.
Authentic Servant-Leaders
  • Inspire rather than manipulate.
  • Deploy people rather than employ people.
  • Invest in people rather than manage them.
Authentic Servant-Leaders
  • Choose transformational leadership over transactional leadership.
  • Unleash people rather than control people.
  • Stress people rather than fix people.
  • Understand that pain and death is necessary for conversion and new life.
  • Are slaves to their mission-generated passion.

Humanity’s dilemma

is rooted

in an identity crisis.

See Genesis 1-3.

No other creature

has this crisis.


The most difficult

project in the world is the

reconstruction of the human


- Myles Munroe

We are the sum total of what

we have been conditioned

to think.

We are what we think.

It is not what we are that

holds us back. It is what we

think we are not.

Matthew and Mark

and the first words

out of Jesus’ mouth…


Repent means to rethink




this is hard
This is hard!
  • It’s the “most difficult project…”
  • Adaptive leadership is a courageous kind of leadership.
  • “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” - Einstein

Information does not bring about transformation.

Conversion does.

being clear about conversion
Being Clear about Conversion
  • Not the naïve one-time “conversion” experience.
  • Jesus’ call… “convert and follow.”
  • Jesus’ path towards conversion… Matthew 6:21.
being clear about conversion38
Being Clear about Conversion
  • Jesus’ commission… Matthew 28:16-20 or Acts 1:8.
  • It’s in the being and doing that transformation happens.
  • NEVER does Jesus ask or expect us to have it all figured out.
a brutal reality
A Brutal Reality
  • We function in an un-converted church,
  • Mostly led by un-converted people;
  • Not just running the wrong offense or having the wrong recipe.
a brutal reality40
A Brutal Reality
  • Yet, it is blind to its un-conversion because of its rhetoric, rituals, and symbols.
  • Thus, it rarely imagines or thinks like Jesus,
  • Is both “in” the world and “of” the world,
  • And is emotionally and missionally “stuck.”
the unconverted church asks the wrong questions
The Unconverted Church asks the wrong questions.
  • Why can’t we get our youth more involved?
  • Why can’t we get people to give more?
  • Why is the church always asking the same people to step up?
the unconverted church asks the wrong questions42
The Unconverted Church asks the wrong questions.
  • How can I possibly do any more?
  • How can we protect ourselves from the church down the road?
  • Why …?
symptoms of an unconverted church
Symptoms of an Unconverted Church
  • “The church is supposed to meet my needs.”
  • Functional atheism.
  • We really don’t believe the promises of the gospel nor its claims on us.
  • Our lifestyles and idols are counter to the gospel and kingdom living.
symptoms of an unconverted church44
Symptoms of an Unconverted Church
  • We generally operate out of fear rather than faith or hope.
  • We spin the “success” of other churches from a position of elitism or theological arrogance.
  • We eat our own – see Ed Friedman.
symptoms of an unconverted church45
Symptoms of an Unconverted Church
  • We focus on pathologies rather than on strength.
  • We would rather not anger people than have a spine and be clear.
    • As an adaptive leader, people’s problems are generally not with you but with Jesus.
  • The voices of “club loyalty” are loud. More loyal to the “tribe” than to God.
  • Operate out of an ethic of scarcity than an ethic of abundance.
symptoms of an unconverted church46
Symptoms of an Unconverted Church
  • Fascination with endowments and “hoarding.”
  • Fascinated with more studies, more information, the next solid “program.”
  • Owned by Robert and his rules and the like.
  • Cannot shake the Constantinian hangover..
symptoms of an unconverted church47
Symptoms of an Unconverted Church
  • We resist true calls to model our lives under the authority of the kingdom of God.
  • We have resisted taking the bold steps to take Jesus at his word and live under his lordship.
  • Pastors and leaders have colluded in maintaining an unconverted culture and church because we ourselves do not lead converted lives.


Let that also sink in.

what does this mean
What does this mean?
  • For our congregations?
  • For our councils or sessions?
  • For our judicatory leaders?
  • For our seminaries?
  • For the church?
  • For the world that God loves?
an un converted church
An un-converted church
  • Cannot give itself for the sake of the world Christ loves.
  • Has very little in common with the Jesus who claims it in baptism and calls it to follow.
  • Is shamefully under-potentialized.
an un converted church53
An un-converted church
  • And really begs the question, “What real value does such a church add to God’s vision for the world?”
  • “Are you the one, or do we need to get another one?”

Information does not bring about transformation.

Conversion does.

the core question for conversion
The Core Question for Conversion

If we took with ultimate serious the claim that God has raised the crucified messiah from the dead and that we have been grasped by the spirit that raised Jesus, what would our life together look like?

the core leads to these
The Core Leads to These…

A RE-STORYING (This is adaptive leadership.)

In what would we hope?

What must we do?

more questions
More Questions
  • What is God up to in the world?
  • How can we join God?
  • What is God asking of us?
  • What does God need us to be?
  • What does God need for us to do?
more questions58
More Questions
  • In this ask, what is God promising us?
  • What is God expecting of me?
  • What is God up to in our congregation?
  • How can we make God proud?
ephesians 4 1 6

Ephesians 4:1-6

“I beg you…”