Chess Pieces and Ego

October 16, 2014

For those that haven’t heard yet, In February next year, I’m taking up the role of Director of Church Planting and Church Development for the Elim movement.  I thought I would share some of the details in the background around one specific issue.  That of transitioning from being a CEO to having a boss or three again.

Theres a line in a well known Pacino movie that goes something like this:-

“Vanity, my favourite sin.”

In the movie, Pacino is the devil in disguise as a lawyer and uses the snare of ego and vanity to get his man.  Its a film every Christian leader should take note of.

After nearly 10 years in leadership at CVM and years before that as senior pastor of a large church, I felt for a whole number of reasons that it was time to step aside.  Some of these reasons were highly strategic.  I had come to the conclusion for example, that CVM needed to known for its aims and objectives rather than for one man at the front.  I also felt that I needed to make way for some highly gifted and talented people on the team.  There were of course, many other reasons for making the change but something I haven’t really spoken about yet was one (there are others) of my own personal reasons.

When I went to CVM I had been leading a large, multi congregational Baptist Church.  When I moved on I went to serve another leader as his “number two” on the team.  Many people at that time thought that I was mad.  “Why on earth would you leave senior leadership to work for someone again?” Was a regular question.  In due course I became the boss but first I had to learn to serve again.  It was a character forming time.

A few times in recent weeks people have asked a similar question or expressed mild surprise.  It seems that in the Christian world, this isn’t viewed as a common trajectory for a “minor personality” or senior leader.  In my new role I will have a day to day boss again and will also report to a National Leadership Team that I won’t be part of.  Sure, its a senior role and I will have a significant amount of freedom but the fact remains that for the first time in many years I wont be calling the shots or setting the overall direction or culture of the movement in which I will serve.  I may also have to deal with my leaders not agreeing with my views and getting on with it anyway without sulking or complaining.  I’ll also have to deal with asking for permission again for some things.  It’ll feel a bit weird but strangely, I’m actually looking forward to it.

Senior leadership has many privileges.  You are the culture setter.  You can make final decisions and you are in  sense, master of your own destiny on a day to day basis.  It has its pressures of course but the sense of freedom to “be” and to create is a fantastic thing.  However, you also get your ego stroked.  You walk into a room and people take notice of what you have to say.  You get announced as a “the leader” or ‘the founder”.  You become acknowledged for being successful (if you have been) and you get a seat round the table at some key meetings.  You also get invited to some pretty cool places.  It’s fun but if you’re not careful it can play havoc with your sense of self.

There is no doubt that God uses profile, personality and leadership.  You see that all the way through the bible. But it beholds us leaders to hear Gods call and not to let ego and vanity get in the way of taking what could be viewed as a “step back” in human terms in order to get the work of The Kingdom done.  In the margins I had several opportunities to still run a ministry or go freelance as I transitioned away from being a CEO but I knew that in this next season there was a specific role and task that God wanted me to fulfill and that as part of it, I was to serve a movement rather than to create one.

My conclusion is this; as servants of God, who have signed up to follow him where ever he tells us to go and do whatever he asks to do, we are in a sense his chess pieces to move as he sees fit.  Therefore, if as the overall boss of a church, ministry or business (as this applies to all followers of Christ) you aren’t able to move at his request and serve another leadership and lay aside some of your current privileges or status, then perhaps you shouldn’t have been a CEO type in the first place?

As for watching a new team leadership taking on CVM, I plan to delight in seeing things change and develop from a place on the board of trustees.  I pray that I will be an encouragement and strong support as they do things differently and progress CVM in ways that I couldn’t have done.  Thats what its all about.  I suspect that when we die and meet Jesus, the status or position we had in the eyes of men and women will count for very little indeed!

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One Comment

  1. […] Carl Beech has written a very elegant piece on the reality of stepping away from front line leadersh…, into a role where you have a boss. I am in the middle of the same transition and Carl has captured […]

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