Beliefnet

Reprinted with permission from Christianity Today.

Peter Drucker told Forbes magazine that "pastoral megachurches" are "surely the most important social phenomenon in American society in the last thirty years." Bob Buford, a cable-TV businessman who pioneered Leadership Network for large-church leaders, says this is "way ahead, out on the thin branches. Tell me how many people, even in the churches, believe it."

"This...is the turning point not just in churches, but perhaps in the human spirit altogether."

In 1991 Drucker told an audience of church leaders that American churches are in the midst of a remarkable renaissance. "This, to my mind, for my lifetime, is the greatest, the most important, the most momentous event, and the turning point not just in churches but perhaps in the human spirit altogether."

Peter Ferdinand Drucker is an old man now, 90 this year, yet his reputation in the world of business has not dimmed. He wrote "Beyond the Information Revolution," the October 1999 cover story for Atlantic Monthly. Last year Forbes had him on its cover, Fortune ran a long article, and Wired featured an interview asking not about the past, but the future. What other 90-year-old gets asked his thoughts on the future?

The Atlantic Monthly's Jack Beatty published a biography. Forbes proclaimed Drucker "Still the youngest mind." And this mind is increasingly preoccupied with the work of the church.

Drucker is known as a management guru. (He is said to detest the description.) Many would call him the world's preeminent management thinker. Oddly, this management expert has little management experience.

"Adventures of a Bystander" is the title Drucker gave his memoirs, and it's a revealing choice. Drucker works alone. He has no assistant, and he answers his own phone. (It's a startling thing to punch up the number of a person this famous and to hear a gravelly voice, with conspicuous Austrian accent, croak "Peter Drucker.") Nowadays he hardly travels; people have to come to him, a constant stream of visitors to his home in Claremont, California, paying fancy prices to talk to him about their concerns. He has done this for 50 years, notoriously with businesses, but equally and increasingly with nonprofits and churches, often on a pro bono basis.

Drucker presents himself as a worldly wise man who has devoted his life to studying very this-worldly realities. It comes as some surprise, therefore, that he gives so much of his time and interest to nonprofit organizations, and particularly to churches. For most business consultants, for most Americans, these are worthy but weak institutions.

Drucker preaches incessantly that leaders must find out what their own unique contribution can be. He applies the sermon to himself, taking two weeks every year to evaluate what he has done and to plan for the coming year. Drucker does not work with nonprofits simply as a goodwill gesture. He involves himself with nonprofits because he sees them as strategic--indeed, as the fastest-growing and most important sector of American life.

Drucker is a Christian, a practicing Episcopalian, but from his writings it would be hard to say much more than that about his faith. He tells us that after growing up in a nominally Christian home, he was absolutely pole-axed by the accidental discovery of Soren Kierkegaard's writings. This was so important an event that he taught himself Danish in order to read Kierkegaard's then-untranslated works. In one essay, written in 1949, he discusses the meaning of Kierkegaard. (Kierkegaard shows that "society is not enough--not even for society," and that "though Kierkegaard's faith cannot overcome the awful loneliness, the isolation and dissonance of human existence, it can make it bearable by making it meaningful.... Kierkegaard's faith...enables man to die; but it also enables him to live."

Organizations had become central and omnipresent, trumping tradition and doctrine.

The rise of Nazism is the starting place for everything Drucker writes.

The point is that Drucker is not a man of pious gestures. He is not drawn to donate his extra time to charity to show that he is a good Christian. He sticks to what he does best: offering his expertise where he thinks he can make the maximum difference.

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