He made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away. (Isaiah 49:2)
Why is Governance Important?
Bill Bojan recently led an Everyday Faith seminar on Leadership and Governance for Business as Mission. Why is this important? Because without intentional governance, businesses and organizations drift off mission. Sadly, mission drift is a common problem. Mammon has a siren-like allure that all too easily pulls organizations away from their God-given mission, so that over time they become less and less impactful for God’s purposes. The YMCA is a case in point. Originally founded in 1844 to foster spiritual growth through Bible study and prayer, it’s now just the Y and completely secular.
First, some definitions.
- Business as Mission. Business as mission is demonstrating the Kingdom of God in the context of business. It is intentional about the Great Commission and the transformational impact of the gospel on people and communities. It is especially concerned for people in dire economic, social, environmental and spiritual need.
- Governance. To govern means to steer or navigate. Godly, biblical governance entails steering an organization towards a desired future through wise and righteous decisions in obedience to Christ and for the glory of God.
An important element of governance is leadership. Leaders have authority to govern. Godly leaders acknowledge that authority comes from God, and this authority must be stewarded with surrender, obedience and integrity. Business leaders, said Bill, must answer three crucial questions:
- How do I steward God’s authority like Jesus?
- How do I make the right choices like Jesus?
- How do I navigate wisely, like a polished arrow in the Lord’s quiver?
We look to the example of Jesus to answer these questions. Jesus stewarded the Father’s authority given to Him by the Father (Mt. 11:27, 28:18). He continually sought the will of the Father (Jn. 5:30), directing all men ultimately to the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20). Stewarding authority is guided by key principles of Biblical leadership as follows:
Dependence on God. “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5).
Selfless Obedience. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24).
Trust and Rest in God. “Do not worry and say ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek.” (Matthew 6:30-32)
Servant Leadership. “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28).
Desire to honor God. “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:16).
Personal Humility. “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world…so that no human being might boast before God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
Godly priorities. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33).
Trustworthiness. If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth….Who will trust you with True Riches? (Luke 16:11).
The world’s leadership ways and Biblical leadership are radically different. The world’s way is characterized by power, control, self-reliance, autonomy, pride, and the spirit of Mammon. Further aspects of worldly leadership follow:
God’s will is ignored. Satan reigns where man chooses not to steward his commissioned authority in the manner modeled by Jesus. When this happens, leaders become disconnected from the Vine (John 15:5), and bear bad fruit. As Jesus said “every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit…by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:17-20). The results are disastrous: “I never knew you. Depart from me you evildoers.” (Matthew 7:23)
Autocratic Control. Jesus described the controlling nature of the world’s leaders this way: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt.” (Matthew 20:25)
Love of Money. The spirit of Mammon characterizes the way of the world. “It will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven…it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle….” (Matthew 19:23-24). “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)
The Polished Arrow – A Picture of Good Governance
Bill pictures godly leadership, as modeled by Jesus, like a polished arrow in the Lord’s quiver, as described in Isaiah 49:2-3: In the shadow of His hand He has concealed me; And He has also made me a polished arrow, He has hidden me in His quiver.
Bill sees the target as being God’s mission (the will of God), the Father as the archer (the ultimate authority), the Son as the Bow (the power source), the Indwelling Holy Spirit within leaders as the arrow (the vessel for God’s power and authority). In this imagery, true servant leaders have a surrendered and worshipful relationship with Christ, reflect the virtue of Christ, and earn trust through stewardship, integrity, accountability, transparency and service.
An Integrated Governance System
A governance system consists of three elements – (a) Oversight (typically a Board of Directors for most organizations), (b) Execution (typically a Management team) and (c) Verification (Monitoring elements serving as the “conscience” of the organization). The board is responsible for stewarding the mission, vision and strategic direction of the business. Management executes the mission, vision and strategy; and the Monitoring role, integrating all key stakeholder perspectives, verifies that outcomes are aligned with mission and strategy.
A key deficiency of traditional governance systems is the lack of integration between the three core governance elements. An integrative governance structure ideally reflects the Trinity, i.e. the integral relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as well as the integrated body described in 1 Cor 12:12-13 — All the members of the body, though many, are one body…
The three governance elements are woven together through four key disciplines:
- Mission (fulfilling and stewarding the mission and vision)
- Strategy (achieving strategic direction responsibly)
- Operations (driving operations and overseeing risk)
- Controls (ensuring regulatory, legal and ethical compliance)
The Governance Spectrum
A governance system can easily become corrupted. For example, a board may abdicate its responsibilities and fail to keep the CEO accountable, and the CEO may dominate the board and ignore challenges or intimidate truth-tellers (i.e. monitors and verifiers). Corrupted governance leads to disunity, division, disruption, and disorder in business. Morale declines and employees leave and go elsewhere.
On the other hand, good governance is characterized by the board wisely stewarding the vision and mission well, humble managers executing faithfully, and verification through courageous truth-tellers representing the best interest of the organization and all key stakeholders. The fruits of an integrative governing structure are clarity, alignment, unity, peace, continuity, order, creativity — and human flourishing. Bill recommends an integrative approach to governance as a foundational discipline to ensure organizations remain true to their God-given mission.
Without it, the organization can implode under the accumulating weight of its own malpractice, or drift into slow, almost imperceptible decision-by-decision decline. How is your organization doing? “You will recognize them by their fruits.”
Do you know how, practically, to steward God’s authority and make the right choices like Jesus? Do you know how to lead wisely, like a polished arrow in the Lord’s quiver?
- If you are a business owner, leader or board member: Are you confident about the effectiveness of your governance system? Bill is available to help with governance best practices assessments and self-service product solutions (Solomon365) to ensure missional integrity.
- If you lead others: Assess your leadership style and the health of your culture – You are called to be a servant leader under Christ – a polished arrow in the Lord’s quiver. Avoid overbearing leadership styles that shun transparency and accountability, and let you drift off target. Solomon365 offers a tool called the “Polished Arrow” diagnostic, that helps you self-assess whether you and your organization embody “leaders of virtue”, “cultures of trust”, and “structures of integrity”. This is a powerful tool to help you and your organization govern with wisdom, courage, stewardship, and integrity.
- Make sure you are in a meaningful discipling relationship with a courageous truth-teller as a mentor and accountability partner, and pray through God’s purifying Word each day.
Heavenly Father, our churches and businesses – all our institutions — belong to you. There is nothing on this earth that you do not own. Yet how often, in the idolatry of our hearts, do we re-purpose what you have given us to steward, and build kingdoms for our own comfort and satisfaction. Forgive me, Jesus. You’ve called us to be salt of the earth and light of the world — how easy it is for us to lose our saltiness and dim our vision and passion for you. Come Holy Spirit and renew our hearts. Bring us back to gospel sanity. Restore in us the joy of your salvation, and draw us into your redemptive plans for our communities, cities and nations. Hear our cry O Lord. We pray these things in the mighty name of Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.