Christ-Centered

Trusted governance starts with spiritual leaders who deeply know God,
seek to find God’s will, and delight to obey God.

 

by Dan Busby

 

 

The Lord wants you to have
an extraordinary board.
Imagine the potential
when you energize
exceptional board members
who give spiritual oversight
and excellent governance
to your God-given mission.
John Pearson

It’s your first meeting as a member of the board of a Christ-centered ministry. What does Christ-centered governance feel like to you? Is it any different than the board meeting of a secular charity or a corporate board in the for-profit world? Is there an easily observable difference in governance approaches?

A recent ECFA governance survey reflected nearly 92 percent of CEOs believe there is a difference between how a “secular” board governs and how a “Christ-centered” board governs. The same question was posed to board chairs and other board members. They provided comparable responses at the 92 percent and 94 percent levels, respectively.[1]

These board results are very encouraging. Only two years earlier, the same survey reflected nearly 92 percent of CEOs believed there was a difference between how a secular board versus a Christ-centered board governed. But only 65 percent of board chairs and board members believed there was a difference.

Christ-centered boards are different from other boards if biblical principles are applied. Otherwise, there is little difference in governance between secular organizations and Christ-centered ministries.

Only by new life in Jesus Christ and the gift of His Spirit can we develop the nine fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—leading to central virtues of Christian character: faith, hope, and love.[2] So, does your governance model clearly evidence the fruits of the spirit? How can you tell?

Christ-centered boards
are different from other
boards if biblical
principles are applied.

C.S. Lewis was fascinated with mirrors. Whether in the mythical Chronicles of Narnia, the apologetic Mere Christianity, or the sobering Problem of Pain, the reflection of the face in the mirror tells the story.[3]

Mirrors are also instruments for revelation in God’s Word. Using a mirror to assess the presence or absence of Christ in our governance practices helps with our self-evaluation.

If a Christ-centered board on which we serve is different from other boards, it will be apparent when we hold up a mirror to our governance practices. “Spiritual leaders who know God; are confident in God; seek to find God’s will; are self-effacing; find and follow God’s methods; delight to obey God; are motivated by love for God and man; are God-dependent.”[4]

How then shall a
Christian bear fruit?
By efforts and struggles
to obtain that which is
freely given? . . . No:
there must be a full
concentration of the
thoughts and affections
on Christ; complete
surrender of the whole
being to Him; a constant
looking to Him for grace
.
Harriet Beecher Stowe

What does Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered leadership look like? It includes the following five areas:

  1. Trusted governance starts with Christ-centered leaders. Christ-centered leaders create a climate for spiritual discernment. The leader’s prayer closet is a key: Scripture, prayer, reflection, Sabbath lifestyle, silence and solitude, and a personal rule of life.[5] Acts 6:4 notes that the governing leaders wanted to remain focused on the Word and prayer.
  2. Trusted governance flows from a healthy governance model. This includes the following traits:
  • Emphasizing the importance of the selection process
  • Placing high importance on selecting the board chair
  • Understanding the continuum between policy-making and hands-on boards in order to determine the best model for the ministry’s board
  • Understanding the roles of the CEO, the board chair, and other board members
  • Balancing the board roles of governance, volunteer, and participant
  1. Trusted governance means discerning God’s direction and understanding. Spiritual discernment does not conform to the pattern of this world (Rom. 12:1–2) but includes considering questions like these posed by Ruth Haley Barton[6]:
When individuals join
a board, they often
enter an arena full of
lions and tigers while
expecting flowers and
melodic tunes.
  • Direction and calling. How does this choice fit within the direction and calling of God on our ministry?
  • Consolation and desolation. Which choice brings the deepest sense of life, inner peace and freedom?
  • Desire. What is my deepest and most authentic desire relative to the choice we are facing?
  • Scripture. Is there a particular Scripture that God is bringing to mind relative to this choice?
  • Life of Christ. Is this choice consistent with what I know about the mind and heart of Christ and His loving, redemptive purposes in the world?
  • Love. Given the primacy of love and unity in Christ’s teachings, what does love call for in this situation?
  • Clarify perspective. Which choice fits the larger patterns that are already in motion?
Governance must be
measured by its
effectiveness. Is it
servant or master?
Does it help or hinder?
Olan Hendrix
  1. Trusted governance is harmonious. If we are like-minded in Christ and not self-focused, harmony will be a natural result. If harmony doesn’t exist between the board and the ministry’s leader, both will be ineffective.

One problematic board member can destroy a board’s harmony and hold hostage the organization’s progress (Phil. 1:9–10; 2:2). Boards must discern when a problematic board member is in their midst and boldly take appropriate steps to help the individual find other service opportunities.

What can cause the lack of harmony?

  • A leader and/or board members who are not in tune with the Holy Spirit
  • Unrealistic expectations by the board of the leader and/or vice versa
  • Board policies that cause leadership frustration
  • A leader’s actions that cause board frustration
  • A leader, board chair, or one or more outspoken board members who are ill-equipped to serve on a particular board at a certain point in time
Our problems as leaders
is we do everything
we know to do.
That's not enough.
We need to do everything
God wants us to do.
Richard Blackaby

 How will a lack of harmony be evidenced?

  • Deterioration of communication between the board chair and the ministry’s leader or vice versa
  • Lack of respect by the board for the ministry’s leader or vice versa
  • Dysfunctional board and/or leader
  • A loss of grace and civility in the boardroom
  • When problem-makers outnumber problem-solvers

How can a lack of harmony be avoided?

  • Sensitivity of the board chair and the ministry’s leader to the voice of the Holy Spirit. How often does your board chair pause the flow of a board meeting to pray about important matters?
  • Picking up on warning signs
  • Helping the dysfunctional leader and/or board member find another service venue
  1. Trusted governance is grounded in prayer. We are people of prayer and we count everything to the Lord (Ps. 37:5). As Paul would say, we must have the mind of Christ (Phil. 2). In 1 Corinthians 3:9, he adds: “You happen to be God’s field in which we are working. Or, to put it another way, you are God’s house.”

My ministry colleague Dan Bolin has written an out­standing board prayer. Consider this prayer as you desire to report honestly, see clearly, speak cautiously, plan wisely, and remain unified.

Christ-centered governance starts with a Christ-centered ministry. And a Christ-centered ministry is “centered in the name of Christ for its identity; shaped by the DNA of Christ in its character; consistent with the mind of Christ in its personhood; attentive to the timing of Christ in its life-cycle; motivated by the mission of Christ as its driving force; unified by the love of Christ in its relationship; integrated as the Body of Christ in its functions; and accountable to the Son of Man for its faithfulness.”[7]

 

A Board Prayer

Dear God,

Thank you for calling this ministry into existence and for allowing it to serve and care for the people you love.

  • Thank you for the various perspectives represented in this meeting and the things we will learn from one another.
  • Thank you for the privilege of corporately receiving reports and with one voice establishing policies, discovering direction, setting goals, and encouraging those who serve in this ministry.
  • Thank you for the many people whose lives will be influenced through our meeting—other board members, staff, volunteers, donors, participants, vendors, and generations yet unborn who will benefit from the decisions we make today.
  • And God, thank you for entrusting your ministry into our care. Help us to be worthy of the trust that you and others are placing in us.

Father, allow me to report honestly.

  • Help me to tell the whole truth, not just the parts that make me look good.
  • Let me not bury bad news in mounds of data and detail, and don’t let me gloss over painful issues or personal failures.
  • Help me to give credit to others and take responsibility for failure and lack of progress.
  • Don’t let me trivialize serious issues or magnify minor successes.
  • Let me tell stories and provide statistics that are accurate.
  • Help me remember that good information provides a smooth pathway to good decisions.

God, as we approach this meeting, help us to see clearly.

  • Help us to see the issues before us from many perspectives—but ultimately from your perspective. Align our thoughts with your thoughts and our work with your desire.
  • God, help us to see our ministry’s strengths and weaknesses and to embrace both.
  • Help us connect the dots between the many good ideas to find the great idea you have for us.
  • Help us to distinguish what is significant from what is superficial, what is short-term from what is long-term, and what is best for me from what is best for all.
  • Allow me to focus on what is being said more than how I will respond.

Help me to speak cautiously.

  • Let me use the least words, the least intensity, the least volume needed to be understood.
  • Help me voice my opinions with care, strength, and meekness.
  • Help me to ask good questions, open dialogue, explore options, and deepen discussion.
  • Help me to say nothing degrading and nothing that would draw lines of conflict unnecessarily.
  • Help me to affirm and agree whenever possible.
  • Help me to give second voice to a courageous and wise first voice: those who risk presenting a new, contrary, or unrefined perspective.
  • Lord, help me to accept compliments and approval with humility.
  • God, give me the grace to watch with dignity as my proposal fails.
  • Give me humility when my idea meets with approval.

Dear God, give the board wisdom to plan wisely.

  • Help us to see opportunities and threats and to count the cost and to weigh risks and rewards.
  • Help us to see the possibilities for a better future.
  • Help us to honor the past, but give us the courage to abandon the methods that provided yesterday’s success but will lead to futility tomorrow.
  • Help us discover and employ the most effective methods to accomplish your mission for this ministry in the days ahead.
  • Help this board to avoid the herd mentality that could stampede the ministry in a dangerous and reckless direction.
  • Help us to see which decisions are easily reversed and which ones are changed at great peril. 

And dear God, help us to remain unified.

  • Allow every member to express his or her opinion fully.
  • Help us to engage the dreams for the future with harmony and enthusiasm.
  • Help each of us to leave this meeting with the commitment to speak with one voice and to support the group decisions in public and private.
  • Help us to remember that few decisions are worth the divisions caused by dominant winning or belligerent losing.
  • Help us to seek Your glory and not ours.
  • Grant us the joy of arriving at adjournment closer to one another because we are closer to You.

Amen.[8]
 

 

  Questions   for reflection

 

  1. Do you believe there is significant difference between secular governance and Christ-centered governance
  2. If so, how do the differences play out in the Christ-centered board on which you serve?
  3. Does your board spend a significant time in prayer in the board room before diving into the agenda and at unscheduled times during the meeting?
  4. Does your board pray for the leadership and staff of the ministry between board meetings?
  5. Does your board emphasize discernment in qualifying and selecting new board members?
  6. Are all board conflicts resolved in the Matthew 18 manner?
  7. Does your board have an effective process to help dysfunctional leaders and/or board members find another service venue?
  8. Does your board use eternity-based measurements for the ministry?
  9. How could God be more glorified in the Christ-centered board on which you serve?
 

[1]  3rd Annual ECFA Nonprofit Governance Survey (Winchester, Va.: ECFAPress, 2014), 6.

[2] N.T. Wright, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters (New York: HarperCollins, 2010), 214.

[3] David L. McKenna, Christ-Centered Leadership: The Incarnational Difference (Eugene, Ore.: Cascade, 2013), 21.

[4] Stephen A. Macchia, “Feeding the Neglected Soul.” Presentation at Re-Ignited Conference, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Mass., November 11, 2011.

[5] Ruth Haley Barton, Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 68–69.

[6] Ibid.

[7] David McKenna, “What Is a Christ-centered Organization?” Paper submitted for the ECFA Board Governance Roundtable for the Christ-centered Organization Sector, January 26, 2011, 6.

[8] Dan Bolin, “A Board Prayer,” Dan Bolin Resources, Inc. (2014).

 

From TRUST: The Firm Foundation for Kingdom Fruitfulness, ECFAPress, 2015, www.ECFA.org/KnowledgeCenter.


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.

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