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Introduction (Part 1 of 7): Leadership through Love

Updated: Jan 5, 2022

Some of you may know me and some not so much. So by way of introduction, let me give you a bit of my story. My father was a Southern Baptist minister and my maternal grandfather was a Southern Baptist minister. They were a couple of the most faith-filled men I’ve ever known. Both were bi-vocational for virtually their entire careers usually having 2-3 jobs at a time. Papa was a MARTA bus driver in Atlanta, sold cars, and pastored small country churches part-time. Dad was a union electrician and did odd jobs on the side in addition to being a part-time pastor. The largest churches I remember either of them leading was probably half the number of kids we have in a single age group at the church where I’m the Executive Pastor. I don’t say this pridefully. I simply want to give perspective. Truthfully, it is just the opposite. I often wonder if I had the faith and the fortitude to work the types of ministry they did for as long as they did. That said, for well over half my life, if you would have told me that I would end up as a pastor, I would have told you that you were crazy and probably with some, let’s say, colorful language for emphasis.

After graduating, officially with a BS in Management with a concentration in Marketing but unofficially and more accurately a concentration in goofing off and partying, I started my career with the one company that gave me an offer. My first “real” job was as a commercial carpet salesman in Chicago focusing on the hospitality industry. This was quite possibly the worst fit for a color-blind introvert who hated cold-calling. And, it ended up just as you would suspect with me quitting right before they could fire me. I went to work for one of my customers, a large hotel chain, as a construction manager managing renovation projects for them which may have been the second-worst fit for me. I left this role after a few years to pursue partnering and managing a bar which clearly is a dream job for a party-guy with a modicum of ambition. Ultimately, that venture failed as we were refused a liquor license in Chicago. I remember getting the notice and going for a run down Lake Michigan through Lincoln Park. I recall praying for maybe the first time in my adult life. I was at the end of my rope. When I got back to our apartment, I decided that the best option was to sit for the GMAT the following morning with hopes that graduate school could be a reset button for me.

Long story slightly shorter, things worked out with the GMAT and I was accepted into the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. After getting my MBA with high honors with concentrations in finance, accounting, and statistics, at the age of 30, I reset my career by starting a career at Procter & Gamble. After several positions in financial management primarily in Oral Care/Crest and on the Walmart Customer Team, I led the acquisition of Spinbrush. I was asked to transfer over to marketing and be the Brand Manager for Crest Spinbrush. That led to some very exciting couple of years of growth as Spinbrush grew from about $25 million in sales in the US to be a global brand with sales of about $400 million. It was about this time as well as an experience while sitting on an airplane on 9/11/2001 that led to my calling into ministry first as the Director of Fun for Ages 0-18 for Crossroads Church in Cincinnati and then as the Executive Pastor at Crossroads for the past 19 years. I will save the details of that transition for another time but what has become evident to me over time is that while I had no plans to become a third-generation pastor, God was preparing me for this role for a long time.

I have been sharing some things I’ve learned about team leadership over the years with some training groups for the past few years. Several people have suggested that I put this training into a book. I just haven’t felt that was right. That said, I do feel like I should share some of the things I’ve learned over the years with more people. Here’s the truth; I’m far from perfect. I have screwed up a lot over 30 years of leading people and leading teams. However, I’ve learned a lot along the way and I want to make these things I’ve learned available to you. Let’s get started.

It was almost exactly a year ago, I had an epiphany, from God I believe, that should and will change my life. I was reviewing the results of our annual staff survey for the 350-person church staff that I help lead. I noticed a graphic included by the agency conducting the survey called the Culture Cloud. It contains the most frequently used words to describe us as a church staff with larger print for the most frequently mentioned words. Note that red print indicates they were used most often from dissatisfied team members, green from satisfied team members, and grey words were neutral. Here is the result:




Do you notice anything? I did. I asked our leadership “what words would you use to describe Jesus?” Words like love, gentle-power, provider, protector, teacher, savior, rescuer were thrown out. Do you see those words above in our Culture Cloud, a church that is supposed to be representing and presenting the character of Jesus? Very few overlap. One tiny little mention of Jesus in small print and unfortunately not even in green.


Obviously, we as a Leadership Team need to make some changes in the way we lead our team. I personally need to reassess how I lead this Leadership Team. At first, I thought this message may have been for our church as a whole. I started using language like “I want us to be the most loving community of people in the world” as an aspirational, and obviously unattainable, goal to become more Christ-like. I have since discerned that the problem is not in our church community. They are well-received in the communities we serve as being a blessing to the people who live there. The problem is with me and how I lead our Leadership Team and, in turn, our staff. This has led me down a path of self-reflection and research that has pointed to one short book, actually a couple of chapters in a book, as a template for us to understand.


The greatest team leadership book in the history of the world may contain less than 700 words. That’s one heck of a college application essay. Maybe it was a short speech shorter than a Ted Talk. Think about it. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I have a dream speech contained 1,667 words and took about 16 minutes to deliver. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address used 271 words and was reported to be delivered in 2 minutes. This leadership dissertation, the greatest one ever written, would take about 9 minutes to recite. Concise and yet so powerful. The leadership lesson is from The Bible, specifically, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13:13. I’d encourage you to stop now and read it and read it as if it was written as a blueprint on how teams should operate. Spoiler alert; it was. Jesus just called his team “the church.”

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14

So which is it Paul, one or many? It is both. For one to be healthy, our bodies need a diversity of parts that each do their job in order for the whole of our being to be well. A few years back, I had some rather significant abdominal pain. I decided to get it checked out so I went to the emergency room. Unfortunately for me, my body decided to break down on the night of the local Jimmy Buffet concert. The ER professionals told me it tends to be one of their busiest days of the year as they patch up a bunch of Parrotheads with a variety of self-inflicted injuries that accompanies life in Margaritaville. So I wait. And wait. Ultimately, through a variety of tests, it is determined that my appendix is inflamed and it must be removed. Think of that, an appendage, whose name literally means “supplemental” and comes from the Latin word “appendere” meaning “hang upon”, a tube about the size of your finger that’s purpose evades even the most brilliant medical scientists in the world, that little thing was causing my body to malfunction and could even be life threatening if it is allowed to rupture. Doctors don’t even know what it does but know it must be removed for my body to return to health. That is a powerful picture that Apostle Paul, two thousand years ago, gave to illustrate how teams are reliant on each other to function optimally.

Ok, let’s bridge the context to determine what this means for us as leaders. Paul wrote these two chapters to the church of Corinth to give them a vision for what the church is supposed to be. Now the church is not simply and only a religious order. It is people who collectively aspire to follow Jesus. That certainly can include single neighborhood churches. It can include sub-teams of people within these churches. It includes people who should be reflecting Jesus to their friends and coworkers wherever they interact with them. This could be in the boardrooms and huddle spaces of major corporations, in the circle of influence of a local sole entrepreneur, or it can be in the meeting of a school board. It can be a family, a group of friends, or both as we all have our “framilies”.

We all need people with different backgrounds and different thought patterns and different perspectives to make our “teams” function at optimal levels. The key for the leader is to look for the overall well-being of the team while also recognizing that the team won’t be fully healthy unless all parts of the team are engaged and functioning as God intended. The primary mission of the team leader is to recognize what God has designed and work towards freeing that design to flourish.

For the next 7 days, I will post an article once-per-day as we go through 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. From then on, it will be at least 1-2 articles per week. Could be more but it won’t be less. If you are interested in getting these mini-lessons and challenges, click on the link and subscribe. The next post will show up in your inbox. Don’t expect anything fancy, just simple truths I believe that I’ve learned over the years in plain language.


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Joe Jones
Joe Jones
Jan 06, 2022

"The key for the leader is to look for the overall well-being of the team while also recognizing that the team won’t be fully healthy unless all parts of the team are engaged and functioning as God intended". That there is solid gold! Looking forward to receiving your wisdom and applying that which makes teams I'm on healthier. Thanks for stepping into this space.

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Lori Stansbury
Lori Stansbury
Jan 05, 2022

You are good at this writing thing. Watching for more.

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It’s about time!!! Can’t wait to read more.

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Sue Landgrebe
Sue Landgrebe
Jan 05, 2022

Great stuff Darin!! Can't wait to continue to learn from you!

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Kim Roth
Kim Roth
Jan 04, 2022

Thankful and excited to learn from your leadership Darin!

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