ROUNDING DOWN, NOT UP
Last week I caught up with the new point leader of an organization I’ve been working with, and we began discussing their marketing reach.
When I asked how many people were on their email list, the answer was 70,000… which I take to be pretty strong! I asked how engaged that audience is, and they acknowledged not being sure quite yet… in fact, they offered, the mailing list is actually 90,000. But her early sense is that it’s not very active.
Wait, hold it. What?!
When has this ever happened in your interactions, where a leader intentionally under-states their numbers? This is the exact opposite of the near-universally tolerated and often joked-about tendency of Christian ministry leaders to exaggerate their numbers—sometimes a lot!—as demonstrated by comedian Chris Ruppe in his “Pastor Math” video.
Most leaders would have anchored that list size at 90,000, and then likely rounded up to at least 100,000 to make it sound just a little better, just a little more impressive. Some might have bumped it higher still!
But not this leader. She reported fewer than the actual number, since it better reflected the truth. She spoke of the organization’s platform with humility. This may seem like a small thing, but I’m telling you: it’s not. And I believe this is a trend.
It’s time to say farewell to Pastor Math.
IT’S A NEW DAY FOR LEADERS
This is the future of ministry leadership. This is part of what is changing right now, and it’s a key signal of leaders who are increasingly showing up in healthy ways. I believe the days of leaders needing those false narratives in order to feel validated are also passing, and with them, so are the days of tolerating pretense and false narratives of all sorts.
As leaders become healthy, they have nothing to gain by behaving like Pastor Math. As we grow stronger in our souls, exaggerations naturally become less appealing, less tempting, less the norm.
The days of leaders needing those false narratives in order to feel validated are passing, and with them, so are the days of tolerating pretense and false narratives of all sorts.
The emerging virtue to replace the false claims is simple enough: humility.
Leadership researcher Jim Collins names humility as one of the two defining characteristics of Level Five leaders, who are the critical foundation to moving an enterprise from good to great: “The most powerfully transformative executives possess a paradoxical mixture of personal humility and professional will. They are timid and ferocious. Shy and fearless. They are rare—and unstoppable.”
In his book Humilitas, historian and bible scholar John Dickson describes humility as the virtue that really did not exist until the arrival of the person of Jesus Christ.
Up until that point, he says, humility was seen as something to be avoided. Think humiliation. Both words come from the root word humus, meaning earth or ground, neither of which sound that appealing, at least not at an instinctual level.
Being brought down to ground level, either voluntarily or by someone else, was not something to be pursued. And yet Jesus endorsed it, taught us to do it, and illustrated what it looked like. He was among the first to label humility as a virtue.
And of course, the New Testament writers point to humility as the attitude we should have:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:3-7, NIV).
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time (1 Peter 5:6, NIV).
Thankfully, these scriptures and others like them suggest that humility isn’t a quality we simply possess or don’t, but rather a choice and decision we can make. Regularly.
Humility is actually a direction, a path, and a destination all at once...
Read Mindy's full article at Leadership Network for more stories and practical ways to grow in humility.