Peace-Mongers and Spineless Leaders

Peace-Mongers and Spineless Leaders

Mega-churches explode in overnight growth, build big, borrow big, and explode big as they collapse. Compassionate non-profit ministries, rich in compassion, often drown in red ink. Christian colleges groan and die under the weight of complexity in a competitive world.

Why is it that people who intend such good through the creation of non-profit organizations often close the doors of the same organizations in embarrassed shame?

The Americanization of Christianity has shaped a religion that is, if anything, nice. Offense is intended toward no one. Being liked is the quest. Overlooking incompetency, arrogance, or laziness is easier than confronting it. And the result is that such organizations spiritualize their problems rather than confront them. They form a culture in which sabotage works. And given the human propensity toward evil, organizations eat the fruit of the culture they nourish.

Edwin Friedman writes in A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix:

In any type of institution whatsoever, when a self-directed, imaginative, energetic, or creative member is being consistently frustrated and sabotaged rather than encouraged and supported, what will turn out to be true one hundred percent of the time, regardless of whether the disrupters are supervisors, subordinates, or peers, is that the person at the very top of that institution is a peace-monger. By that I mean a highly anxious risk-avoider, someone who is more concerned with good feelings than with progress, someone whose life revolves around the axis of consensus, a middler, someone who is so incapable of taking well-defined stands that his disability seems to be genetic, someone who functions as if she had been filleted of backbone, someone who treats conflict or anxiety like mustard gas – one whiff, on goes the emotional gas mask, and he flits. Such leaders are often nice, if not charming (pages  13-14).

Serving as president of a Christian university, I can testify to the gravitational pull of the niceness. Rather than making hard choices, leaders are asked to make people feel good. “Forgive the person; he meant well.” “Love covers a multitude of sins.” “Don’t make waves.” “If you step out on a limb, the cost could be your job.” I’ve heard them all as excuses for not doing what is right for the organization.

The Americanized gospel has shaped us to expect the blessings we desire without any suffering en route. If we’re nice, we deserve to have it. A gospel that does not confront our selfishness, our narrowness, our incompetency, and our arrogance eventually forms us to be saboteurs of any leader who dares stand on conviction that disagrees with ours.

We have grown our own terrorists. Our institutions collapse, not from evil without, but from a cult of niceness within.


  1. Randy Anderson says

    Well put, old friend.

  2. Nick Highland says

    Very timely.

  3. We are far too concerned with appearances and tolerance, both hugely valued in American culture, than with faithfulness to the Gospel. If we aren’t upsetting people, shaking up their world view, creating some controversy, and frankly making people plot our demise, then we probably have lives that look very little like Jesus’. How quick we are to claim a holiness like Jesus without showing evidence of a life that looks like Jesus.

    • I have always felt the tension between truth-telling and loving-hospitality. Jesus is the only one who got it right all the time. I pray for grace to be more like Jesus.

  4. James Riordan says

    Excellent! And so true.

  5. Dorman Dowling says

    Good stuff. One takes a gamble going out on a limb, but making a cut in the wrong direction is a sure bet.

  6. Rick Colling says

    Well said. I have encountered some of these terrorists up close and personal. They erode
    the credibility of the Christian faith because they value perception over truth.

  7. Pam McGraner says


  8. Thank you for this.

  9. Rodney Shanner says

    This blog screams out (didn’t want to make a “spineless” reply) for specifics/particulars/”for examples. Too vague. Use some backbone and share some anecdotes, Dr. Boone. 🙂

  10. Mathew Irwin says

    I find that the problem is a commitment to the actual Gospel. We so often water down the gospel to the point of a prayer. There is no commitment to anything that is bigger than us. We have to avoid getting ourselves in the way making the process of conversion nothing more than a political assent to something that does not change lives.

    Where do we get off changing the Gospel? We are not in the place of God…nor should we EVER try to speak for God. We are not Him. But yet how many times do we hear words from a “well meaning” person that says “I have a word from God for you”…that is my exit cue.

    We have watered down so much of what Jesus said in this culture and we do NOT commit to follow Jesus…we commit to follow men and religions instead. Come to Jesus – only…1 Peter 2.

    Lord Help Us to follow ONLY YOU!

  11. Rich Shockey says


  12. Karen Bryant says

    Unfortunately, treatment of employees in Christian institutions has often been the worst, most uncaring I have ever experienced. Politics also influence choices! People are not commodities, to be discarded at the will of “tough” leaders!

    • True. But neither is it Christian to allow poor work to continue as an act of mercy. Yes, politics invades every arena – families, churches, and Christian institutions. We hope for better wisdom from the families of faith but don’t always get it. I’m not at all surprised to find sin in our institutions. We find it in every church Paul wrote to.
      And leaders are often forced to remain silent regarding the reasons for the decisions they make while employees can say anything they wish. Leadership can make a person drunk on power but it can also be a very humbling thing.

  13. Dan Boone said, “We have grown our own terrorists. Our institutions collapse, not from evil without, but from a cult of niceness within.”

    To what degree are “Renovating Holiness: Church of the Nazarene” and “Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology” guilty of this? Please, will you let me know? Are they throwing out the baby with the wash? If neither of these questions are guilty then why do we have to talk about the worst in our world. Why not talk about the good in our spirituality (salvation-sanctification). Talking negative is not a God-thing. His is always positive to His Disciples and others who are certainly His Disciples (persons like you and me, and the members in our congregations, along with other denominations. Love, Roy

    • Roy, both of these books have challenged me and deepened me in my understanding of holiness. I don’t view them as ‘nice’ but rather as a new generation embracing an old faith. Blessings friend.

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