No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.
Becoming a leader was a great challenge for me. My first responsibility as a leader was as class president. My second was fatherhood, my third was team leader on several campaigns abroad while serving my country. I was blessed to have been raised by a leader in my home. LT. Cornell Johnny Pratt United States Army. Under his grooming I found excuses to rebel. It was uncomfortable learning how to follow not knowing in doing so I was being prepared for great responsibility.
“There’s an ego looking for a place to inflate,” my mom would whisper to me as my siblings entered the room, a prophecy that unfortunately soon proved itself to be true. “The long, dark corridor of life narrows at the end./ And those whose ego grow too tall will have to learn to bend.” I miss my mom who ultimately was the stronger vessel in our home due to all the humility she showed while ministering her faith in Christ to a Islamic domineered home.
I. A place of leadership is a place of honor
Imagine the honor of it. From what may have been two million people 12 men were chosen. One dozen, from two million. Surely, the crowd roared for each name called, the way sports fans cheer for their heroes, the way political rallies yell the name of their candidate. They had a cheering base of more than 150,000 to a man, and the sound must have thundered across the valley.
Moses called them, one by one. Shammua, Shaphat, Caleb, Igal, Hoshea (or Joshua), Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, Geuel!
Their heads held high, these 12 men chosen as leaders for God’s people, were honored for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of integrity, and a lifetime of courage. The applause must have been sweet to many of them, if not every one of them.
We already know the rest of the story, how 10 out of the 12 would fail miserably in their leadership role. Only Caleb and Joshua would lead with courage and God-led conviction. Before we get to the failures of the 10, however, focus on the truth of the honor. It is a great honor to be chosen as a leader among God’s people.
When Paul briefed Timothy about the qualifications of deacons, he said – If a man serves well as a deacon, he earns an “excellent standing.” (1Timothy 3:13) The phrase for “excellent standing” means, “A step above.” The leader, who would be a deacon or a pastor in a church, is not exalted over the Christians he serves. Instead, he is simply pulled out of the group, like these 12 leaders in the wilderness, and placed in the spotlight. He is given a small step stool so all who are near can see his example. It is as if God says of this leader: “Here’s the example of what it means to be a Christian. Here’s one we will use as a model.”
There is great honor in being selected as a model for God’s people. The danger arrives when a leader wants all of the honor, without taking all of the responsibility.
II. A place of leadership is a place of great responsibility
This is the cost of leadership. This is where the great leaders earn their place in history.
For the generation of God’s people on the edge of the Promised Land, there was never a bigger crisis of leadership than when their 12 leaders were given the responsibility of spying out the land. They were to seek out the land, come back with the reports, and then issue the challenge of faith to all the people. Two would be up to the challenge, but 10 would wilt under the heavy load of responsibility.
Be careful to note this: All 12 of these leaders were courageous, and all 12 took courageous action in the beginning. They slipped into the land of the enemy, managed to live for some time in a dangerous place, and they even stole some prime produce from land owners who were surely protecting their crops. All 12 came home safely, and the entire dozen completed the first portion of the task given them. They had been good spies and had full reports of what they had seen.
However, the responsibility of this group was not simply to spy out the land. They were not chosen to be geologists, real estate agents, or agricultural surveyors. They were chosen to be leaders of God’s people, charged with giving God’s people God’s message. Whatever godly leaders are charged to do, eventually their responsibility is to be faith-driven leaders.
That’s where this group failed. Instead of reporting faith, ten of these leaders would eventually report of the fear they felt. Only two gave the challenge of moving forward in faith. When the people sided with fear instead of faith, their opportunity to live inside the Promised Land vanished.
A place of leadership is a place of tremendous responsibility, for a leader’s faith is on public display. The responsibility of a leader to live in that faith is a great weight.
III. An effective leader does not let problems stop the promise
When the people listened to the ten frightened spies who made a case for fear, instead of the two leaders calling them toward faith, God wanted to destroy them all. Had God done so, the entire exodus from Egypt would have been wasted. The promise of the Promised Land would be delayed by centuries. The nation of God’s people would be destroyed, and God’s reputation, therefore, would be greatly damaged. This was no small problem.
Moses made his best case before God, desperately trying to ward off a deadly, righteous anger.
Amazingly, God relented. Instead of destroying the nation, God only destroyed a generation. Forty years later, Joshua and Caleb would lead the children and grandchildren of this experience into the Promised Land. They would do so only because Moses did his best to not let a problem stop the promise.
If you’re going to lead, you’d better comprehend the truth. There will always be problems along the way. The problems come, and the problems go. Moses might put it this way: Today they complain about manna, tomorrow they’ll complain about quail. One day it’s a problem of thirst, the next it’s a problem of idolatry.
Leaders learn that problems look very large in the present, and very small from the distance. Effective leaders simply refuse to let something that looks so large block out the big picture. If Moses had forgotten the priceless value of God’s promise, his people would have died in the dessert. An effective leader simply cannot let a temporary problem – no matter how large – block the promise of the goal.
Colonel George Washington Goethals, the man responsible for the completion of the Panama Canal, had stifling problems with the climate and the geography of Central America. Driving rains, incredible heat, and deadly disease were problems that never left his task. But his biggest challenge was the growing criticism back home from those who predicted he’d never finish the project. The voices of the critics appeared to be the biggest problem of all.
Finally, a colleague asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer these critics?”
“In time,” answered Geothals.
“When?” his partner asked.
“When the canal is finished.”
IV. The most important quality a leader must have is faith
Moses was humble, he was compassionate, he was consistent. But most of all, he was a man of great faith. The writer of Hebrews said the greatest mark of Moses was that he believed God, and that he led God’s people by faith. History’s summary of this great leader’s life was that he was a man of faith. (see Hebrews 11:23-29)
Moses had been a consistent man of faith among a people who had been consistently faithless. When God listed his complaints about the people, He said they had tested him ten times (see Numbers 14:22). How could people who had escaped Egypt, walked safely across the dry floor of the Red Sea, and eaten miraculous food doubt that God was with them? Had they not seen the Tabernacle, and the fire that glowed over it at night? Could they not remember the plagues that struck Egypt at Moses’ command?
Don’t be too hard on the people surrounding Moses. The disciples of Jesus had trouble walking across the bridge of faith, even after the Resurrection!
The followers around Jesus who were about to see the Lord ascend into heaven had seen the healing of countless sick people, the restoring of sight to the blind, and the raising of the dead. They had seen the crucifixion and the resurrection, and had reflected on the prophecy concerning the Messiah for more than a month. They had been with their resurrected Lord on multiple occasions, and could see him at that very moment. But just before Jesus gave his last instructions, Matthew records these words:
“The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted.” Matt 28:16-17 (HCSB) It seems unbelievable. How could they see all that they had seen, and still doubt the power of God?
The end truth is that faith is a tough quality to have, and that if a person is going to lead God’s people, he or she simply cannot lead without faith. You must believe, without doubting. You must be able to believe, and then act confidently upon those beliefs. Perhaps that is why Jesus looked at those struggling, doubting disciples, and then simply said … “Now, go into all the world …” Jesus called his leaders to a faith-based action, just as he does today. You may still have some doubts, but the instruction still comes, loud and clear: “Go!”
What a gift God has given us in the stories of the Bible. While we might be squarely in the middle of a crisis, a problem, or a great challenge, the record of God’s people before us reminds us of the course of action we must take, and of the great reward for the leader who holds fast to the challenge of faith.
When God issued his judgment against the people, he also issued his rewards:
Joshua had the privilege of leading a new generation across the Jordan River, through the crumbling walls of Jericho, and into the Promised Land. Caleb lived a long, vibrant life, and saw the passion of his faith greatly rewarded. Both men outlived every grumbler, complainer, and naysayer around them. They became the only two names we remember from the original 12 leaders who spied out the land. The rewards of leadership are priceless.
SERMONS should have real teaching in them, and their doctrine should be solid, substantial, and abundant. We do not enter the pulpit to talk for talk’s sake; we have instructions to convey important to the last degree, and we cannot afford to utter pretty nothings. Our range of subjects is all but boundless, and we cannot, therefore, be excused if our discourses are threadbare and devoid of substance. If we speak as ambassadors for God, we need never complain of want of matter, for our message is full to overflowing. The entire gospel must be presented from the pulpit; the whole faith once delivered to the saints must be proclaimed by us. The truth as it is in Jesus must be instructively declared, so that the people may not merely hear, but know, the joyful sound. We serve not at the altar of “the unknown God,” but we speak to the worshippers of him of whom it is written, “they that know thy name will put their trust in thee.” To divide a sermon well may be a very useful art, but how if there is nothing to divide? A mere division maker is like an excellent carver with an empty dish before him. To be able to deliver an exordium which shall be appropriate and attractive, to be at ease in speaking with propriety during the time allotted for the discourse, and to wind up with a respectable peroration, may appear to mere religious performers to be all that is requisite; but the true minister of Christ knows that the true value of a sermon must lie, not in its fashion and manner, but in the truth which it contains. Nothing can compensate for the absence of teaching; all the rhetoric in the world is but as chaff to the wheat in contrast to the gospel of our salvation. However beautiful the sower’s basket it is a miserable mockery if it be without seed. The grandest discourse ever delivered is an ostentatious failure if the doctrine of the grace of God be absent from it; it sweeps over men’s heads like a cloud, but it distributes no rain upon the thirsty earth; and therefore the remembrance of it to souls taught wisdom by an experience of pressing need is one of disappointment, or worse. A man’s style may be as fascinating as that of the authoress of whom one said, “that she should write with a crystal pen dipped in dew upon silver paper, and use for pounce the dust of a butterfly’s wing”; but to an audience whose souls are in instant jeopardy, what will mere elegance be but “altogether lighter than vanity”?
Is there any harm in Christian charismatic leadership? Most everyone will agree that having some charisma in one’s personality is desirable. This same thought tends to prevail among many Christian leaders and their followers in matters of the gospel which are often pushed back in favor of charismatic leadership.
Christian preachers, teachers, and ministers, famous and unknown, often seek to entertain their audience as they deliver their sermons and Bible lessons. Jokes are told, statements are made to incite laughter and tantalizing, attention-getting keywords are employed to shock listeners in order to have their full attention. Facial expressions, body posture, and movements along with the often unnecessary raising of the voice all play a part in the performances of many who are considered Christian leaders. Such people include pastors, Sunday school teachers, television evangelists, and many others with positions of leadership within the church. Sensationalism is also seen among Christian writers.
Is there any harm in one’s sermon, Bible lesson or Christian article containing sensationalism? Is there anything wrong with a Christian preacher, teacher, or author taking a charismatic approach in the delivery of the gospel message to others? According to biblical scripture, there’s plenty of harm that can be done in the life of not only the Christian leader but also of his audience.
Each side would do well to ask himself a few questions to evaluate his real intentions. This is biblical instruction from the scripture of 1 Corinthians 11:28 which reads, “…let a man examine himself….”
The apostle Paul said that he was given a messenger of Satan, known as his “thorn in the flesh”, to buffet him so that he wouldn’t be lifted up in pride (2 Corinthians 12:7). Paul received many revelations directly from God. It is his writings that teach the Christian more about the meaning of the work of Jesus than those of the other apostles. God knew the danger of self-pride taking root in Paul which would have surely been his downfall.
There’s a joke that speaks of the irony of the fact that there are many Christian leaders who are very proud of how humble they are. In the examination of oneself, the Christian leader may ask himself if his true intent is to give glory to God in the delivery of his sermon or lesson, or glory to himself. Each member of the audience of that same charismatic and sensational leader may ask himself if his true intent is to learn the word of God or to be entertained.
There’s always spiritual harm to be done when one is in opposition to the will of God. To use the gospel to entertain or to be entertained is not in agreement with the scriptures. Every true preacher of the gospel should be able to declare in sincerity the same that the apostle Paul and those who accompanied him declared. In 1 Thessalonians 2:4-6, Paul wrote, “but as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness. God is our witness. Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others….”
This blessed Sabbath weekend was a very powerful enlightening one. I had to change my sermon to address some foolishness taking place amongst the ranks of teachers and preachers and for the most part I was fine, but when God took over it felt like I was getting a whipping also.
Thanks Lord for the opportunity to stretch our legs and enjoy your creation this weekend. We appreciate home, but what a time it was to gaze upon Your beauty while worshiping You O’Lord and You alone. May the word spoken today at Bishop Rally’s render a breakthrough to leaders and alike….#Third Baptist Church San Francisco- His best for our life weekend-Please click to view the beginning….
The strength of our relationships is measured by how much people can count on us.
When we think of someone with integrity, we think of someone we can count on to come through on what they promise. Unfortunately, that’s not always a safe bet today.
Over the last several years I’ve noticed a change in the way we use the word integrity. The word used to mean staying true to your word—even if it’s difficult, inconvenient, or expensive. But today I hear more and more people using the word as if it means being true to themselves—even if that means leaving someone else to clean up the mess.
This might look like a win if we’re trying to save ourselves from difficulty and discomfort, but it will come back to bite us in the end. Nothing destroys our credibility faster than bailing on a commitment.
The phrase “To thine own self be true” comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but it became popular through self-help books and programs. There’s nothing wrong with these words by themselves, but they’re usually taken out of context.
If you’ve ever read or seen the play you know the full story. The phrase comes after advice about being prudent and preserving friendships. The idea is that we are true to ourselves so that others can count on what we say. That was having integrity.
But if you listen to the way people use it today, they usually mean something else. “To thine own self be true” is often used as an excuse to do whatever a person wants instead of what’s expected—or even what they’ve already committed to. This is suicide in business—and the rest of life.
Not only is integrity essential for strong friendships, it’s crucial for all of our relationships. “Honesty,” says Stephen Covey, “is making your words conform to reality. Integrity is making reality conform to your words.” We won’t get far in life without it.
Just think about your work. Without the kind of integrity Covey describes, you cannot be an effective leader. Why?
- Trust depends on integrity. If people can’t rely on your word, they won’t trust you. They may extend some grace, but eventually people will doubt and disbelieve.
- Influence depends on trust. People will refuse the influence of leaders they distrust. Just look at how this plays out in politics or the media. We follow people we trust.
- Impact depends on influence. You can’t make the impact you want unless you can influence others and shift their behavior.
Now think of other relationships: marriage, parenting, church, whatever. The strength of our relationships is measured by how much people can count on us. If we’re not true to our words, that means our relationships will be as unreliable as we are.
One church is dealing with a major conflict between the pastor and the elders. Another is struggling to keep together factions that have polarized over changes in worship. A third is reeling from the sudden suspension of its pastor. A fourth is grieving over the tragic death of a child. A fifth is facing the loss of a large portion of its membership; yet another is adjusting to the consolidation of a smaller congregation into its midst. These are all for instances May & I are comfronted with while attempting to partner with leadership to kingdom building.
These are just a few of the difficult times congregations can face—circumstances that affect all of a congregation’s life, especially its worship life. Such situations raise questions like these:
- How do congregations worship in a difficult time of crisis, transition, or conflict?
- How can congregations plan worship thoughtfully and meaningfully through a difficult time?
- How can worship help the congregation in the process of healing from a difficult time?
For most congregations, worship is the main event of the week. Even though Christians worship individually and often do so outside of the sanctuary, the weekly worship service is the occasion when, more than any other time, the congregation gathers and expresses its identity. So when a congregation experiences a difficult situation, symptoms are bound to appear in worship. The leaders of the congregation must carefully discern how to plan worship appropriately during these times. Ultimately, worship may be the element of congregational life that has the most potential to help the congregation through the process of healing.
Difficult Times: Crisis, Transition, Conflict
Worship services can become a calm island in the storm of conflict or a guiding force through a turbulent period, but different situations will require varying approaches to worship planning. Situations of crisis, transition, or conflict each raise a different set of issues to deal with.
A crisis is a sudden change that creates a great amount of tension and upheaval for those affected by it. Examples of congregational crises include the sudden death of a leader or church member, the unexpected resignation of a pastor or staff member, a natural disaster that damages the church facilities, or a regional or national calamity. In a crisis, announcements and methods of communication are of urgent importance. In these situations, leaders will need to ask questions like the following:
- What will we say to the people on Sunday morning, and who will say it?
- How will we tell the news and still be able to worship?
- Who will lead our service and preach the sermon (if the crisis involves the pastor’s absence)?
- Should we scrap the planned liturgy completely and simply start over?
- What songs will we sing instead of the ones previously chosen?
- Who will make these decisions?
A crisis requires thoughtful planning and decision-making without much time for processing. It calls for wisdom from church leaders—wisdom that can be developed by setting good patterns long before any crisis occurs.
Though a crisis is a sudden change, it often is followed by an extended period of grieving—for a person, a group, a building, or even a congregational identity. The situation then leads to a time of transition, or, in some cases, a time of conflict. The issues caused by a crisis do not go away quickly when the immediate crisis is over. Careful responses from leaders will have long-term results for the health and well-being of the congregation.
A transition is the process of changing from one form, state, activity, or place to another. Unlike a crisis situation, transitions allow more time for careful planning. The most common transitions for congregations are changes in pastoral or staff leadership. Other examples of transitions include building additions and relocations, development of a new vision or new programs, mergers of two or more congregations, and consolidations of one congregation into another.
As in a time of crisis, leaders need to ask important questions. For example, in the case of a consolidation, church leaders will want to ask questions like these:
- How will we publicly welcome these people into our family?
- How will we acknowledge that together we become a new worshiping community?
- How will we acknowledge the grief that some will feel in losing their identity (and even their building and many of their ways)?
- How can we ritualize the transition?
A conflict is a prolonged controversy or disagreement between opposing forces. Church conflicts can arise from a variety of issues—from worship style to leadership style to interior decorating style. They may develop out of an unresolved or poorly handled crisis. They may begin with a sharp disagreement or with a quiet dispute that grows into a heated discussion. Leaders have to think carefully about whether their actions will fan or douse embers of conflict.
Conflicts often serve as evidence of deeper disagreements or hurts within the congregation. Sometimes healing has been needed for a long time, but no one has facilitated that process. Leaders need wisdom to discern how best to acknowledge the conflict and how to work toward resolution. They will have to address questions like the following:
- Should we “name” the conflict in worship?
- Should we speak words of confession to one another?
- Can we do this without making hypocrites out of people by attempting to force contrition?
- How (and how often) should we address themes of unity and reconciliation?
- Should we take care to involve members who are on different “sides” of the conflict?
- How can we use worship and Scripture to build hope in the congregation, knowing that our Lord will carry us through this difficult time?
Congregations need to recognize that things don’t always go well, and difficult times are a normal part of congregational life.
Planning Worship in Difficult Times
Worship services can help a congregation through a difficult time by reminding members of the major themes of Scripture and the promises God has made. In worship, congregations gather as God’s chosen people, recalling who they are by baptism and finding themselves again in the gospel narrative. During difficult times, careful worship planning becomes more crucial than ever. Services must be designed carefully, with thoughtful awareness of the difficult situation and the many opinions and questions swirling around.
Church leaders who are dealing with the conflict, crisis, or transitional situation should be in close contact with those who plan worship. They should not naively assume that they can simply take care of the difficulty behind the scenes so that the problem won’t affect the worship services. It will affect them—one way or another. The challenge is to manage that effect and guide the process with discernment.
Public acknowledgement of the difficult time may be helpful for a congregation, but it requires sensitivity and careful planning by the leaders. They must be sure to preserve the dignity and purpose of worship, as well as be sensitive to the presence of visitors in the worship service. One church-shopping couple visited a church on the very day the suspension of its pastor was announced. They kept coming to see how the church would handle the crisis, and are still members ten years later.
Church leaders may find that simply naming the difficulty facing the congregation will go a long way toward reducing the anxiety that members are feeling. Instead of avoiding the obvious, leaders can help the congregation admit that things are not quite the way they’re supposed to be. This may also give the congregation permission to admit failure and begin moving toward health. In the midst of pressure to be the best church, draw the most people, and have the most inspiring worship services, congregations need to recognize that things don’t always go well, and difficult times are a normal part of congregational life. This attitude, when modeled by church leaders, may help members work through the difficulty. In fact, the congregation may learn that difficult times can be times of great spiritual growth.
Leaders can facilitate that growth through careful collaboration with worship planners. Congregations experiencing challenges are often characterized by a variety of intense emotions, including an increase in anxiety and a concurrent decrease in the creative energy needed for planning and implementing corporate worship. Sometimes the crisis or conflict results in a loss of leadership—even a loss of the pastor or other central worship planner or leader. Congregations in these situations need guidance in knowing what questions to ask and what matters to consider regarding worship. (See Q&A, p. 30, for some examples of such questions.)
I like to distinguish between a “goal mindset” and a “growth mindset.” A church leader with a “goal mindset” has very tangible, numerical goals to achieve over a specific period of time. Nothing is wrong with clearly defined goals, but there’s a better way of thinking that I call a “growth mindset.” A growth mindset recognizes goals on the journey, but only as part of a process—not as the end results.
Leaders of successful churches are tempted to stop working on themselves, but when the pastor doesn’t grow, the people don’t grow. It’s the Law of the Lid: a stagnant church leader stunts the growth of the church. I hope these thoughts on leadership will inspire you to maintain this “growth mindset,” for your personal benefit and for the benefit of those you lead.
A Function, Not a Title
Elders, deacons, pastors and even evangelists, prophets and apostles were all meant to be functions within the church, whether they are performed in an official capacity or not. They were never intended to be titles. Yes, some of the early apostles did travel between the early churches and ordained elders (Tit 1:5), yet the function of those who lead or govern within the church is listed as a gift in the Bible:
And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. (1 Cor 12:28-emphasis added). This means that leadership is just as much a gift of the Spirit as healing. Conversely in the modern day church however, most people become leaders after completing some Bible College course or after they have jumped through their institution’s hoops long enough.
Information Transfer versus Relational leadership development
Jesus took risks on leaders the church wouldn’t invite into leadership
- It’s true that charisma can make a person stand out for a moment, but character sets a person apart for a lifetime.
- You build trust with others each time you choose integrity over image, truth over convenience, or honor over personal gain.
- Character makes trust possible, and trust is the foundation of leadership.
- Character creates consistency, and if your people know what they can expect from you, they will continue to look to you for leadership.
- Over time, is it easier or harder to sustain your influence within your organization? With charisma alone, influence becomes increasingly more difficult to sustain. With character, as time passes, influence builds and requires less work to sustain.
- Great communication depends on two simple skills—context, which attunes a leader to the same frequency as his or her audience, and delivery, which allows a leader to phrase messages in a language the audience can understand.
- Earn the right to be heard by listening to others. Seek to understand a situation before making judgments about it.
- Take the emotional temperature of those listening to you. Facial expressions, voice inflection and posture give clues to a person’s mood and attitude.
- Persuasive communication involves enthusiasm, animation, audience participation, authenticity and spontaneity.
- Credibility is a leader’s currency. With it, he or she is solvent; without it, he or she is bankrupt.
- Speak the truth. Transparency breeds legitimacy.
- Don’t hide bad news. With multiple information channels available, bad news always becomes known. Be candid right from the start.
- A highly credible leader under-promises and over-delivers.
- Diligent follow-up and follow-through will set you apart from the crowd and communicate excellence.
- A trustworthy leader goes the extra mile to remedy strained relationships, even when it doesn’t appear to be required.Failure
- “Failing forward” is the ability to get back up after you’ve been knocked down, learn from your mistake, and move forward in a better direction.
- Don’t buy into the notion that mistakes can somehow be avoided. They can’t be.
- Failure is not a one-time event; it’s how you deal with life along the way. Until you breathe your last breath, you’re still in the process, and there is still time to turn things around for the better.
- You are the only person who can label what you do a failure. Failure is subjective.
- Don’t allow the fire of adversity to make you a skeptic. Allow it to purify you.
- Generally speaking, there are two kinds of learning: experience, which is gained from your own mistakes, and wisdom, which is learned from the mistakes of others.
- Seek advice, but make sure it’s from someone who has successfully handled mistakes or adversities.
- When to quit: (1) Quit something you don’t do well to start something you do well. (2) Quit something you’re not passionate about to do something that fills you with passion. (3) Quit something that doesn’t make a difference to do something that does.
- People change when they hurt enough that they have to, learn enough that they want to, or receive enough that they are able to.
- More than anything else, followers want to believe that their leaders are ethical and honest.
- When your people see that you are not only competent to lead but also have a track record of successes, they will have confidence in following you, even when they don’t understand all the details.
- As a leader, it’s your job to get your people excited about what their work will accomplish; it’s a natural motivator.
Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.
Author: Jim Elliot
Being connected to Christ and His spirit feels so liberating. I thank God that today he has unleashed some quality understanding to me about exuding leadership. I thank you heavenly Father for the time to study and apply what “You” have given. Make me ready for “Your” return in Jesus name Amen!
Introduction: ‘We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ (Ephesians 2: 10)
God can use people with or without the natural ability and proper background. God can, and often chooses to, work with raw material. God prepares and empowers those He chooses to do His work so He does not need to call people into leadership who have the natural drive, training, or good models of leadership in their background. He does not need to use people who took the part or who are already popular. “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1: 26 – 27) The disciples, who went on to be founding leaders of the church, were fishermen and tax-collectors by trade. They were not highly educated or from influential families. Some had strong, driven personalities but others did not.
* Be careful not to limit God. Take Him at His word when He says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12: 9).
God prepares those He calls. The disciples spent three years with Jesus to prepare them to be the early leaders of the church but even still, before they were to go out on their own, they had to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them in power. God uses life experiences to mold and shape leaders. God uses life experiences to develop perspectives and passions essential to the capacity of leadership to which He calls.
* Be careful not to short-circuit this preparation time due to impatience. God’s ways and timing are best.
God equips those He calls. God will use the way He designed people and their spiritual gifting to steer them into what type of leader they should be.
What is leadership?
Leadership is exercising true authority (in Christ)
• Expertise, facility, capacity – insight in to the things of God
• A consequence of obedience and integrity
• Used to build people up, to mend them, to serve them
• Evidenced by the conditions of the disciples
What are the characteristics of Christian leadership?
1. Intimacy with Christ
The first and most important thing Christian leaders need to do is develop a strong and intimate relationship with God. In an article by Gordon MacDonald he says, “the forming of the soul that it might be a dwelling place for God is the primary work of the Christian leader”. Developing this intimate relationship with God through daily prayer and reflective Bible study is vital if Christian leaders are going to be all they can be in God.
We see that Jesus modeled this drawing away to a solitary place to connect with His heavenly Father in prayer. In Mark 1:35 we see that He did this alone and in Mark 6:35 he called the disciples to draw away from the pressing crowds. As Christian leaders we need to follow Jesus example to make sure we come aside from the business of life and ministry to make our connection with the Father. As we do, we find that our relationship with God grows and we allow Him to speak to us. We can also learn from Scripture and receive guidance on how He wants us to lead the people we are overseeing. I believe this time alone with God is vital for our growth, seeking direction and for our long term survival of the pressures of ministry brings.
2. Spirit-Driven and Passionate
Jesus lived his life and did everything he did with a clear sense of purpose and thus was Spirit-driven (Mark 1: 35-39; Luke 4: 43; 5: 32). He was preoccupied with the purpose with which his Father had sent him into the world – that was his passion or top priority (John 4: 31-34). His vision was sharp (not blurred), goal was clear and he never allowed anything to distract him from the goal (Luke 12: 13-14; 13: 31-32). He was very clear in communicating the purpose with which he chose his disciples (Matt. 4: 18-19; Mark 1: 16-17; 3: 13-14). He reiterated his purpose even before he ascended into heaven after his resurrection (Matt. 28: 16-20; Acts 1: 7-8). When they received the Holy Spirit and began their ministry, we notice that they followed the example of their master and lived a focused and Spirit-driven life. They did not allow anything, including the good things in the ministry to distract them from the main thing, which was their top priority (see Acts 2: 32-41, 47b; 3: 11-16 and 19-20; 4: 1-12; 5: 41-6: 7). The apostles did not deviate from their priorities – they learnt from their master the principle of keeping the main thing(s), the main thing(s). Paul also demonstrates for us that this is a key ingredient in successful Christian leadership. He was very sharply focused, was driven by a clear sense of purpose, both in life and ministry, pursued his goal with perseverance, and finished his race (see 1 Cor. 9: 15-27; Gal. 2: 1-10; Phil. 3: 7-14; 2 Tim. 3: 10-11; 4: 1-8). This is the pattern we should follow and inspire others to emulate us.
To learn of what truly is servant leadership, it is important that we follow Christ’s command and example. In Matthew 20 and 23, Christ tells us that we need, first of all, to lead in an attitude of servant hood.
Matt 20:26-28 Yet it shall be not so among you but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desire t be first among you, let him be your servant, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
Matt 23:11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.
In the gospels, we notice that Jesus’ disciples were involved in dispute over who would be the greatest among them (Luke 9: 46-50; 22: 24-30; Mark 9: 33-37; 10: 35-45; Matt. 20: 20-28). They were preoccupied with themselves and their positions of power and authority. They were measuring greatness in positional terms and that led to a sort of ‘power struggle’. However, Jesus teaches them that they should not be like the leaders of the Gentiles who lord it over them, but be like Himself and learn to lead by serving (1 Peter 5: 1-4). This is what is called ‘servant leadership’. Jesus offers Himself as a paradigm or model for them to follow. It is in this context that we should consider the example of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet (John 13: 1-17). In a Jewish household, this was the job of the lowest servant and so none of Jesus’ disciples wanted to do that. Thus, they came in with dusty and dirty feet. It was then that Jesus, who knew who he was under God, got up and began to wash their feet, giving them a practical demonstration of ‘servant leadership’.
It has, of late, become fashionable to talk or teach about this. However, what we need now is not just more teaching, but more leaders that practice this style of leadership.
True servant leaders know their strengths and weaknesses and surround themselves with those who have complementary abilities and can offset their weaknesses. Servant leaders invest themselves in enabling others to do their best, allowing teamwork to move their ministry. A true servant leader allows those alongside to grow into a great servant leader as well. True servant leaders invest in their team, empowering them to serve others in the same humility they display to others. They are committed to serving with humility and concern, having a forgiving and giving heart. They are willing to sacrifice personally for the well being of others. They are willing to do humble tasks, but as their leader, they always have in mind a larger vision.
A serving attitude does not imply willingness to be abused by others or the toleration of exploitation. Servant leaders are not enablers to those who should be helping themselves. A true servant leader is disciplined in all areas of life, knowing their first responsibility is to serve God and then to others. Servant leaders must first of all please God; they are not moved solely by the need to please others.
4. Character and Integrity
One of the keys to successful long Christian leadership is the desire to live with character and integrity. In 1 Timothy 3:8-12 and Titus 1:5-9 it lists 24 characteristics that should be seen in Christian leadership. Some of these include being of good behavior, not greedy for money, not given to excessive drinking, not quick tempered, but being self controlled, a responsible steward, one that holds fast to the Word of God and has a good reputation outside the church. It tells us that these qualities should be evident in the lives of those who are called to Christian leadership. In saying this though, it does not say that one has to be perfect to be in Christian leadership. That is not possible as we are all human and fall short at times. However, it is saying that these things must be evident most of the time.
Integrity is “the quality or state of being of sound moral principle, uprightness, honesty, and sincerity.” In the world today, ‘integrity’ is not valued as the most important thing in life and business. Paul says that saying, “Yes, yes” and “No, no” in the same breath is the world’s way (2 Cor. 1: 17). In saying this, Paul is following the teaching of Jesus Himself, who says, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matt. 5: 37). We have to be like this, because our God is like this. We all know this theoretically. However, in practice it appears that Christians and Christian leaders are no different from others. It is very painfully true of many top leaders even in the Church and Para-Church organizations today. We cannot be sure if what a Christian leader is saying is true or not and so we cannot trust them. They are not proving to be people of their word who can be taken at their word. What they say and what they have inside and what they say and what they do, do not match often. This lack of integrity in a leader breeds mistrust, pretense or even hypocrisy among the people and such a leader does not enjoy respect and ceases to lead in a Christian manner. Jesus spoke very harshly against ‘the Pharisaical piety,’ which lacked integrity and warned his disciples to be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy (see Luke 11: 37-43; 12: 1-3). Jesus highlighted the lack of integrity between their teaching or preaching and practice, when he said, “So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach” (Matt. 23: 1-3). Even Paul exhorts Titus, a young leader saying, “In your teaching show integrity . . .” (Titus 2: 6-8). When a leader’s character is marked by integrity, then respect and cooperation follow and he or she has a positive godly influence on others and this is real leadership.
I firmly believe that as Christian leaders we need to have this same commitment to living with character and integrity the Bible talks about. We need to have a good testimony both in and outside the church and before God and man. Billy Graham put it perfectly when he said “If I were ever to do anything dishonoring to Christ, I would rather He take me home to heaven before I did it”.
The concept of risk is a challenging one for many Christian leaders. On the one hand, many churches and Christian organizations are conservative in their target setting. Leaders may feel that if their church or organization doesn’t hit the targets of vision that it has set itself, then the church has not only failed, but that God is not blessing them. This is a dangerous paradigm to take.
On the other hand, God is a God who understands and uses weakness to achieve His purpose. Achieving the salvation of the world through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was the ultimate in using weakness. It was also risky. The very heart of the sacrifice of the cross was that Jesus chose to go through with it. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36). It had to be a real choice, with the inherent risk that Jesus could not go through with it. If there was no choice, there was no sacrifice. The Father chose to make Christ fully human, with the risk that he could be fall to the temptation of Satan, that he could succumb to the corrupting influence of power, or that he could sidestep the ultimate sacrifice. The fact that Jesus resisted all temptation, maintained his integrity with the spiritual power with which he was entrusted, and surrendered himself to the cross does not take away any of that risk.
In the selection of His twelve disciples, Jesus also took significant risk. Those who have hired people to fulfill roles where the job will expand significantly know the difficulty of selecting people who will make the transition successfully. Jesus took the risk of calling a group that would probably not make the short list of most current-day executive search teams!
Setting too simple a goal can severely limit the organization’s ability to achieve great things for the Kingdom of God. Michelangelo said “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” If we set small-step, incremental goals, there is a tendency that we do what we used to, only better. If we challenge ourselves with large goals, then we need to take risks in redefining our strategy.
6. Team-Worker Jesus could have for sure done a lot more and better, if he had not had his disciples with him. However, he chose to work together with them and to build the team of his disciples, the first leaders of the Church. He taught them, gave them OJT (On the Job Training), heard their reports, prayed with them, corrected them, gave them opportunities to see him in action, and ended up investing most of his time and effort on them. This is what we find in the Gospels and Acts 1: 1-8). From Jesus’ teaching and model, we learn that there is no place for ‘lone rangers’ in the Kingdom of God. Therefore, I believe, all Christian leaders would be team players, team builders that are committed to the discipline of working with and for a team and make themselves accountable to others in the team. Without neglecting their personal tasks and goals, they give adequate attention and priority to the collective tasks and goals and invest in empowering others. Otherwise, Christian leaders become carnal, worldly, and selfish and cease to be Christian leaders.
7. Committed to Making Disciples
The last words of Christ before returning to heaven are recorded in Matthew chapter 28:19-20. It says, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you”. This verse is a clear command to reach people with the love and saving message of Jesus and to teach them how to follow Jesus and His teachings.
As Christian leaders I believe the core of what we do is to love God, love people and to make disciples. We need to focus our energies on loving and bringing people into the Kingdom and teaching them how to continue to grow in their faith and service of God. The early church understood this and as a result many thousands of people came to faith in a short time. In Acts chapter 2:42 we see that, “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer”. In committing themselves to these things, the early church members were able to grow to maturity and be sent out in their community to reach others for Christ.
Conclusion: Christian leadership begins with God’s calling, and that call comes in two parts. First, he gives you a desire to serve him, and second, the church recognizes in you those elements of character and those gifts which qualify you to serve in leadership. In those qualifications, character is much more prominent than gifts. The first qualification for Christian leadership is Christ-like character. If we are to lead Christ’s people in Christ’s way, we must ourselves be men who have walked with Christ—on the Calvary road. May God help us to be such men as we lead his church. Amen!