Unhealthy Leadership Commandments


Each semester I teach a class called Leadership Development & Care at Visible Music College. The goal is to address three topics: 1) leading self, 2) developing our understanding of who we are as created by God, and 3) learning to care for (and lead) others. It’s not perfect, but I think those three areas connect to one another and build on one another from the first to the last.

It’s one of my favorite classes to teach in that, if no one else gets anything from it, I certainly do from the reminders of digging into material on emotional health, contemplative spiritual practices, and what it means to care for others in my life.

One of the textbooks we use is Peter Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. Some may have heard of or read his The Emotionally Healthy Church.

Today I picked up the leader version of his Emotionally Healthy Spirituality text and was reviewing some things in the early chapters. Up front, he offers what he calls the Four Unhealthy (and Unspoken) Commandments of Church Leadership. Consider these and what they might mean for you.

Unhealthy Commandment #1: It’s Not a Success Unless It’s Bigger and Better

We “know” this one, but we still want bigger. For some of us, it is a driving force. It’s the American way, the American dream. And it’s taken the church by storm! While big can certainly open doors to things not found amongst smaller churches or organizations, I am challenged to truly consider how smaller is better. Yes, smaller is smaller. Go figure. But there are many beauties to the smaller setting. Remember that we will not be asked how big something was, but rather if we were faithful to what God has asked of us.

Unhealthy Commandment #2: What You Do Is More Important Than Who You Are

We all know the adage, “We are not human doings; we are human beings.” Yet we still find in the air an aroma that says what we do ultimately defines us. Now, let me take a step back and say that what we do does matter. I understand the good news of what God has done in Jesus. But, whether we like it or not, what we do matters – both in our stewardship before God and others. Still, what we do flows out in a much more healthy way when we begin with who we are. Therefore, go out and do, but always take space to slow down and listen to who the Father says we are. I’m convinced it makes a world of difference.

Unhealthy Commandment #3: Superficial Spirituality Is Okay

I regularly tell my students (primarily Gen Z’s) that their B.S. meters are much more attune than previous generations. And while we must guard against vomiting out our problems in the name of “transparency,” we do need to function with a greater measure of authenticity. We don’t need car salesmen and smooth talkers on stages. Please, no more! Rather, we need real leaders who acknowledge (with specificity) their brokenness and are honest about their journey. Matter of fact, to most humans, a superficial stage personality is a complete turn off. So, in our movement toward authenticity, start with one or two folk and build slowly.

Unhealthy Commandment #4: Don’t Rock the Boat as Long as the Work Gets Done

Here, Scazzero offers the importance of actually walking through conflict to create a healthy culture. I remember in college I had a professor who once said, “Conflict shows you care.” It was a powerful statement I still remember 20 years later. Of course, we don’t need to be a bull in a china shop. However, we have to address issues. It is a difficult thing when there are multiple elephants in the room (which are leaving behind a smelly mess) and those big gray beasts are never talked about – either personally or as a group of leaders. Sweeping things under the carpet will never help any of us be shaped into the image of Christ, which is our deep call. We can accomplish a lot of “stuff” and still see a very unhealthy, even toxic, culture form. That setting will ultimately implode at some point.

Hopefully these reflections give you something to chew on.

I highly recommend Scazzero’s work on emotionally healthy spirituality. In all my discipleship as a young Christian, no one really helped me understand my emotions (or feelings) and the gift that they are. Nor was I taught how to navigate them with any health. I am thankful for Scazzero’s books and I look forward to another semester of discussion around these issues with college students.


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