I love the Eagles, but I don’t want to lead like them

Well, the Eagles season is over, and despite what the loud-mouthed governor of New Jersey says, the fans in Philadelphia are the greatest. So great, we are paying attention to the front office politics of our favorite football team down in South Philly even in our anti-climactic offseason. Here’s the latest gossip:

After our disappointing 10-6, non-playoff season, there was understandable tension among the leaders of the team. Tension between Howie Roseman, the general manager, and Chip Kelly, the head coach, seemed high. New Year’s Eve, Tom Gamble, one of Chip Kelly’s allies in the personnel department, and the Eagles “parted ways” (that’s the nice word for “fire”). The next week, there was endless speculation on sports talk radio about how Chip might leave and was frustrated at his job (meanwhile his former team, Oregon, marched its way right into the National Championship). In a major surprise, owner Jeffrey Lurie gave Kelly complete and total control over the personnel department (presumably after Kelly threatened to quite), and the now-former GM, Howie Roseman, got a pay-raise and promoted into a business position, which has nothing to do with picking players, just number-crunching. The future of the relationship between Chip and Howie looks bad.

Now, Chip Kelly, along with Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll, have complete control over their teams roster. The “checks and balances” are gone (in the U.S., the one percent controls the checks and balances). Many people disagree with this unilateral approach but it is rarely because that much power accumulation is problematic. Usually it is more about Chip Kelly not being the guy to have such power. He has not proven himself as successful as either Belichick or Carroll (who have Super Bowl rings) and so he shouldn’t have so much power. But, conventional knowledge says that the best way to manage a team is to have an all-powerful overlord running the show.

Most countries have realized that dictatorships do not work for progress. Many of us have also realized that the invisible hand is unforgiving, and really not that invisible. Moreover, democracy itself has major limitations, with lobbyists and the one percent generally running the show. It’s hard to know how to be a Christian leader, how to receive what we are given, and do God’s work. Many of the most “successful” churches, have a major mega-pastor with whom the buck completely stops. I can’t get behind that.

I’d rather be growing and learning together in Circle of Hope in our inclusive smallness. The world teaches leaders to consolidate more power, to protect their image, their security, and even how they feel about themselves. We are learning that there is power in equipping others to do work, and not just gaining it for ourselves. That’s why the pastors are being deployed to the main work of church planting, instead of just being kings of kingdoms. Meanwhile, our Leadership Team, made up of dozens of leaders, are emerging as our major suppliers for our mission.

What unites us is the good shepherd, Jesus, and his mission and our pursuit of it. We have a common good that we are striving for. We are in agreement. Unlike the Eagles, we don’t need an overlord of a leader, and there is not back-stabbing, one-upmanship, and threats in order to rise to power. We work in a system of love and dialogue. Although that may seem impractical to some, it is the only way to work. Dialogue with the body protects us and our gravity. The people that make love happen and make disciples are listened to. No one has a “title” that assigns them authority; our titles are functionary. One’s integrity and faithfulness earn them authority. We do not have one C.E.O. or President. We’re soldiers following our Heavenly General (sorry, I know the military analogy irks some of you—count me among you).

When we get focused on our own power, success, position, or whatever, we crumble. We turn into what appears to be a mess in the Eagles’ front office and it becomes ugly. When we want more power and success, we don’t communicate in love, we do it through press releases. We become impersonal. We become corporate.

I’m glad Circle of Hope is committed to big ambition and small expression. I’m glad we are still face-to-face. Our decisions get made in consultation, in groups, and with prayer. We don’t listen to the loudest voices, or even the majority necessarily, we discern the Spirit of God—that is a group process. We strive not to be singular dictators, and if we start acting like that, we hold one another accountable (to the agreements we have already made). The pastors are friends. We are connected. The Leadership Team is in dialogue together. Our cell leaders form a family. Our Council, which is all of us together, and its Map is what guides us annually.

As much as I love the Eagles, I wish its leadership would act more like it wants its players to. I wish they would work together to win, instead of battling all the time. Chip Kelly cut DeSean Jackson because he was not a team player. It does not look like Chip is one either. He likes to be the head honcho and he wants everyone to fall in line. I am afraid the grave consequence of this might be the continuation of our Super Bowl famine.

Maybe we can ask Coach Kelly to attend one of our trainings, and maybe then, we’d have another parade down Broad Street.

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