Does it really matter who is elected as General Superintendent?

Proviso #1: I love our current Church of the Nazarene (CotN) General Superintendents (GS). They are all are qualified and have had distinguished ministries prior to their election as GS. Their love for the Lord and for the CotN is undeniable. 

Proviso #2: The GS life is a difficult one. It’s not a cushy job. The schedules we ask them to keep are terrible. It’s not glamorous. Those that serve in this role sacrifice much. Too much? Maybe. Thank you Board of General Superintendents (BGS). We love and appreciate you!

Proviso #3: The title seems to indicate that the following article is a little like Ecclesiastes 1:2: Meaningless, Meaningless, everything is meaningless. That is not my intention. I have hope (even if it doesn’t sound like it). This hope springs from a belief that the message of holiness is still what our world desperately needs to hear.

Acknowledging those three provisos, here’s the point:

We have elected great people to be General Superintendent. Prior to their election all have been capable, wise and independent. All have a certain amount of entrepreneurial innovation. They’ve been visionary. They’ve been wonderful servants of the Lord. You don’t rise to be a Regional Director, great pastor and Sunday School ministries director or seminary president without many gifts and abilities. 

Here’s the problem: Something happens when these gifted leaders pass through the doors of the Global Ministry Center and take their place at the BGS table. They lose something. I’m not sure I can put my finger on it. I don’t think it is intentional. Maybe it’s inevitable. Whatever the reason, they lose something.

It’s hard to be innovated and creative when sitting on a committee of six people. Prior to their election, in their various positions often they had the final word in decision making. The buck stopped with them. Now there are six people with equal input. It’s hard to be a prophetic “voice crying out in the wilderness” when you need the approval of five other voices before one can speak. The necessity (either real or perceived) to be united in all things from the BGS board room reduces imagination and originality. 

Moreover, there is a certain amount of trepidation that comes with the job. No one wants to be the GS if/when the wheels come off the church and all is not well. No one wants to make a “big mistake” (whatever that might be). Leading from a worst-case scenario mindset is not freeing. Cultural, moral and denominational shifts and movements seems to be the enemy feared, not the challenge excepted.

The subtle change from innovative leader to disaster-avoidance-manager might occur from the weight of carrying the denomination on one’s shoulders. So, instead of innovation we get inertia. Instead of prophetic wisdom, too often profit and loss seem to be the concern. Instead of vision, a level of blindness (maybe that’s too harsh), a looking back to the old ways of dealing with today’s challenges seems to takes over. The desire to be globally minded (a worthy aspiration), fails to acknowledge (like it or not) the fate of the denomination rises and falls with the health (and wealth) of the USA/Canada Church (95% of WEF comes from USA/Canada). We place a lot on the shoulders of the BGS and the weight of the job changes them.

Who will get elected? Who knows? Will it even make a difference?  No doubt, a very capable set of leaders will be elected. I’m worried that no matter how innovative and creative they are in their current capacity, when elected they will walk through the sacred doors of the GMC and they will change. But maybe not… (you see, I do have hope).

Let’s pray for the two new GSs who will be elected in just four months. Let’s pray that these two individuals will have visionary and prophetic voices that the denomination and our world desperately needs.