For more than 40 years, a Spanish architect named Antoni Gaudí led the design and construction of one of the world’s most elaborate cathedrals. Located in Barcelona, Spain, La Sagrada Familia will be the largest religious structure in the world when it is finally completed. Gaudí was an exceptional visionary who reimagined the original design for the cathedral. He was guided by a compelling definition of success. “To do things right,” he said, “you need love and technique.”
Congregational leaders can learn from Gaudí. In leadership meetings, you can often feel the tension between those who favor love and those who advocate for technique. When diverse personalities discern what the church needs, people will often feel drawn to go in one direction or the other based on temperament, perception and other individual characteristics. But if Gaudí is right, we do not need to choose.
People who think problems can be fixed by better technique will focus on logistical matters like communication, organizational charts, job descriptions and other operational characteristics. Technique is important, to be sure. Just think of what would happen if Gaudí had tried to build a cathedral with careless stonemasons.
At the same time, when we focus exclusively on technique, we neglect the essential dynamic of love. Gaudí understood that the task of building a cathedral could not be undertaken well without a love for the work and ultimately a love for God. Congregational leaders need intentional practices that cultivate a deep love for God and love for God’s people. For example, how often does your leadership share personal check-ins? Does your governing board spend time praying about the needs of members? Are leaders expected to cultivate a growing relationship with God?
Love is not enough. Technique alone is insufficient. To do things right, you need love and technique.
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Q&A with James K.A. Smith
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Before you go…
For Christian leaders, love and technique are not unrelated ideas. One shapes and influences the other. It takes real skill to develop an employee handbook, but developing a handbook that serves as a foundation for a caring ministry culture requires love.
As you begin to discern new leaders for next year, keep your eye out for people who demonstrate the capacity to do excellent work with deep love. I’ve known people like this, and it is always a joy to work with them. They bring the best of their professional expertise and offer their gifts with profound gratitude to God and genuine concern for other people and the mission of the church. May you lead well and always lead with love.
You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at email@example.com. Until next week, keep leading!
Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity