Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember. So if I’ve flogged something from you let me know and I’ll happily acknowledge it.
Seek Raw Beauty
Of course we want to do things well. We want this to run in a helpful way, we want people to see that the things we do are valuable and worth being a part of. There’s no reason to intentionally run something badly or awkwardly or do something poorly thought through.
An equal but opposite mistake is to want to do things so well, do things to such a high standard, that they come off as superficial, all sizzle no steak, super-slick hype-fests. These types of productions are oftentimes more damaging than helpful. Because on top of often giving off the above-mentioned vibe of style-with-no- substance, they also end up discouraging people from getting involved in ministry because the skill-level bar is set too high.
Now I’m all for having a high bar for people in terms of moral character and commitment required. More often than not a high bar in those areas encourages more people to jump it in the long run. But a high standard for the level of skills required will usually end up turning more people away than it encourages.
But let’s be clear, I’m not against having a bar at all when it comes to skills for a ministry. That would be foolish. I’m still after excellence. I’m still wanting things to be done well. I’m still seeking beauty. But my point is simply that it’s unhelpful if the skill bar is set high to the same degree as the character or commitment bar. The skill bar needs to be lower.
Doing something well and putting in effort and showing people what we do matters doesn’t then necessarily mean we need to be slick and polished. It simply means we need to seek to do things well. And “well” doesn’t have to mean polished.
Now I’m aware of the thinking from people like Lyle Schaller (mediated most recently through people like Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll) that says as ministries get bigger a higher degree of professionalism is expected. And as a general rule in my experience that’s proven true. But again I don’t think that professionalism means professional. I think it means more intentionality, more structure, more planning, etc. Yes, I’m still after beauty; and yes, beauty takes effort.
But raw beauty is what I’m after. “Raw beauty” is a concept I find almost impossible to describe and define, but you know it when you see it and you know when it’s not there. It’s a nebulous concept that’s hard to grasp and harder to articulate. There will be a genuineness, a real sense of real people, a relationality, interacting with actual people’s actual personalities. A raw beauty. Not a polished, fabricated, airbrushed, manufactured beauty.
It doesn’t need to be professional. But yes there probably should be a certain level of professionalism that is aimed at. We don’t need to achieve it every time, mind you. But here’s the key distinction that is subtle but profound: we don’t aim to look professional; we aim for an appropriate degree of professionalism.
That is, we seek raw beauty.