From the Heart

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Living in ChristBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Christian leadership often begins with a broken heart. In Mark’s Gospel we read:

When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:34)

How do you react to seeing friends and family trapped in needless sin and pain?

Moving the Heart

The call to action in many of my essays starts with citing statistics on suicide, often a result of despair and loss of hope. For me, suicide is personal because I lost my first best friend as a kid because his father shot himself to death and the family moved away. For those of us able to experience joy because of the hope we have in Christ, suicide is needless because it indicates a lost opportunity to share the joy we have. What moves you to take action?

Technical and Adaptive Change

Heifetz and Linsky’s (2002, 14, 18) distinguish technical from adaptive challenges. In a technical change, authorities apply current know-how to solve a problem while in an adaptive change people with the problem must learn new ways to solve the problem. A technical change typically requires nothing more than additional budget while an adaptive change requires an entirely new approach, often the need to change not things but ourselves.

This distinction between technical and adaptive changes is helpful because making technical changes when adaptive change is needed is the classic bureaucratic ruse to show progress in an organization sliding downhill. Grabbing for “low hanging fruit” is safe and permits the manager to petition for increased budget without asking for other sacrifices or convincing anyone to change how they approach their work. In a church context, this is like the annual appeal for members to bring a friend to church as a response to declining membership.

The Aging Congregation

Adaptive changes are required when something fundamental needs to change. Consider the aging white congregation located in what has now become an Hispanic or African-American neighborhood. I tell my kids—you better get used to making new friends because when you get older your old friends have a nasty habit of dying off. Asking members to invite a friend to church is probably not going to stimulate a lot of new members at this church. An adaptive response might be to plan holding events for the new neighbors—something harder; something riskier. Christian leaderships often requires difficult heart work before any real action can be taken.


Heifetz, Ronald A. and Marty Linsky. 2002. Leadership on the Line:  Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

From the Heart

Also See:

Value Of Life

Other ways to engage online:

Author site:, Publisher site:


You may also like

Leave a Reply