© 2010 John Casimir O'Keefe

The Personas of a Conceptual Leader

Are you Open?  Can you Dance?  Do you Create?  Do you Listen?  Can you Play?  Do you know Story?

In my book, Boneyard; becoming a right brain/conceptual leader in the church” I explore how I believe cetrian personas fit into the life of a conceptual leader.  I explore how each of those personas can help the industrial church reach past where it is, and place it where God is leading.  One thing I hope you notice is that none of the personas deal with being “organized.”  The personas do not include, “time management,” or “structure,” or “committee meetings.”  Because none of the personas come from a Maxwellian view of the leadership, instead they grow from how God created us as humans and how humans are to treat each other.  In the conceptual age “the boss” is gone from the church, a “human boss” because Jesus is still the leader of the church.

Please keep in mind that while I am a right brained processors, I am not “anti-left brain processors,” I am just not left brain dominate.  It is not that I am against left brain processing; I am just not a left brain processor.  I am not saying that left brain processing is out, what I am saying is the over the industrial age the left brain processors defined right brain processing; in the conceptual age that relationship has flipped.  We need the left side of our brain, and it is not that if you are right brained, you do not use your left brain.  Being “right brained processor” or being a “conceptual leader” simply means “right brain dominance” – it is the side of the brain that is your default, it is your starting point for defining the world around you, and how you see God, theology and the leadership of the church.  It is the starting point of how you interact with others in community.

Being “just not” allows us to be honest in seeing what has and has not worked in the church; Barna wrote, “As we prepare to bring the church into the next century, we need to step back and assess our current situation[1].”  I am not sure we can truly “step back” if we are in the middle of it all.  Because no matter how far back we stand, we are still an insider.  No one is willing to see change within a system where they have an investment out of fear that they might lose what they have invested.

To change things we need to be “outside” the situation to truly be able to grasp the shift that has happened outside the church and place it inside the church.  There is a reality in the fact that change can never come from those vested in the current system.  We need to hear the voices of those outside the current situation.  We need to have the courage to listen to what they are saying and how they are saying it.  In other words, we need to figure out how open source will work in the church.  Denominations need to infuse their tired blood with new blood with people from outside their traditions.  We have moved to a place where Wesley could not call himself a Wesleyan, Calvin would never be seen as a Calvinist, Luther would never be a Lutheran and Jesus would never be a…well, you get the picture.

We do not have to jettison our core, but we need to readdress how we shape the core in light of the divine.  We should not fear throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  While there is no issue with holding fast to the core of our faith, Jesus is the Christ, and we should have no desire to build upon the industrial church model and simply shift the different modes we operate under because that is simply restructuring what is – I am calling for us to deconstruct.  For this to happen, there are a few things the industrial church needs to be willing to examine in order to truly deconstruct.

First, the industrial church needs to reexamine how it governs itself and how it defines the role of a church leader.  This means, everything is on the table for discussion, we have no sacred cows, unless we are having a BBQ.  Second, the industrial church needs to abandon the left brain structure, style and theology in favor of a right brain view of our faith, church and world.  If not, they will find they have more in common with the past than with the future.  They will miss the light at the end of the tunnel because they are looking into the rearview mirror.  Third, the industrial church needs to reexamine its liturgies (let’s be honest with each other, even “non-liturgical” industrial churches have a liturgy they just call it an “an order of worship”).  I am always amazed at how many churches still produce church bulletins even though they do the exact same thing every Sunday.  Why kill all those trees?  Fourth, the industrial church needs to reexamine its view of church growth, and focus on kingdom growth.  When we focus on church growth we have no issues with taking from other churches, and that is not growth.  Fifth, the industrial church needs to embrace the conceptual age with all the unknown realities that face us in the future.  Embrace the mystery that the industrial revolution removed from our lives.  Bring back color to the white-washed walls of the industrial church.

Personas Are Connected

As you read this section you will no doubt think that much of the information shared with each of the personas could be seen as information for another persona – and you would be right.

While I give six personas, they are by no means static and by no means linier.  They all center on the divine, these personas are interwoven, connected and organic.  They coexist with each other, give birth to each other and grow with and from each other.  For example the persona of being in dance is interwoven with the persona of play or the persona of create, or any of the other personas.  The idea is not to have a “list of qualities” (that would be too industrial) with some catchy titles all wrapped up in a neat little list where the first letters of each word forms some catchy little acronym.  In a conceptual age things are a bit messier than that.  In the organic, each of these personas open, dance, create, listen, play and story are relate to each other and are part of each other.  Also, as you read, keep in mind that these personas are not “one person, one persona.”  A conceptual leader should have each of these personas, in differing amounts.  Which leads to the question, why personas?

Why Personas and not Qualities?

Why personas?  Why not qualities?  Why not modes?  For me, the reason is simple.  The term qualities are too connected to the industrial church.  If I have to live through one more conference where they speak of the “qualities of a church leader” I am going to pull my hair out by the roots.  OK, given that I shave my head that would be hard, but still – no more leadership qualities, PLEASE.  Besides, qualities are too pragmatic and are often associated with production.  Cars have qualities, machines have qualities, products have qualities – humans have personalities.  The term persona speaks more to the personality of the individual, and brings about a very different feel than the ideas of leadership qualities.  Leadership qualities are too mechanical, personas are more organic.  I was toying with the idea of calling them “modes” – but that again seemed too industrial.  Modes are confining, and speak in terms of being separate, boxed in.  Because a person is based on the idea ones personality they are interwoven with each other, so mode would not work either.

So, I thought of the idea of a persona (actually, Shellen came up with the idea – she is such a cool lady).  Each individual persona could be seen as playing upon each other – the idea of an avatar.  In Sanskrit, Avatar means the incarnation of the divine.  What I am suggesting is that in each persona, there must be an element of the divine.  We are the avatar of Christ to the world.

Get ready to be Christ to the Conceptual Age.

(“Boneyard; becoming a right brain/conceptual leader in the church” will be available on Amazon.com mid-September 2010)

[1] Barna, George.  The Second Coming of the Church. page 15


  1. Posted 2010/07/10 at 9:01 am | #

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  2. Posted 2010/07/13 at 10:39 am | #

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