Category Archives: leadership

Who’s a leader?

I want to go just a bit further with the discussion about what constitutes leadership and leadership training in the church. What if instead of public speaking skills, the church emphasized athleticism? To be considered a leader, you would have to be fast and strong and agile. And a whole different group of people would be frustrated at what was expected of them at church. “Anyone can develop themselves athletically” would be the mantra; yet most church members could never hope to compete with the talented among us.

I’m one of those who thrives on getting up in front of people. I love it. It comes easily for me. That doesn’t make me any more spiritual than anyone else. And it doesn’t make me more of a Christian leader, despite what our terminology often says.

Leadership is about service. Leadership is about edifying the body. Leadership is about helping others carry out their ministries.

Until we grasp that, we’ll stay building-focused, assembly-focused, and Sunday-focused.

Leadership and maturity

What is leadership? What is leadership training?

For too long in the church, we’ve focused on leadership training as learning to do “church” stuff: teach Bible class, lead singing, preach, lead public prayer. Boys growing up being told that they need to do these things to be mature Christians; if they can’t do these well, they haven’t really matured in Christ.

Our understanding of gender roles exacerbates the problem. If these things make up leadership and we teach that women aren’t to do them, then how is a woman supposed to reach maturity in Christ? As one sister said, if you aren’t good at hosting showers or baking casseroles, there doesn’t seem to be much you can do.

We need to:

  • Define ministry as something that happens primarily outside of church “business hours,” outside of the Sunday assembly and Bible classes.
  • Allow people to explore and create their own ministries, rather than forcing them cookie-cutter style into pre-established roles.
  • Emphasize that leadership is service. Really. Seriously. The world will define it as getting up in front and telling others what to do. The church needs to turn that definition on its head.
  • Measure maturity by Christlikeness not public speaking ability.

How not to impress me

If you want to try and impress me, don’t try and impress me. The person who comes to me and tells me how rich they are, how educated they are, what amazing insights they have into a given situation, or any other sort of boasting… that person will have to work hard to gain my respect.

A boss can gain my obedience; he’ll not get my loyalty. The self-proclaimed expert may get my attention; he’ll never capture my imagination. Someone who tells me how rich and powerful they are will only make me see how insecure they are.

Doesn’t that line up with things Jesus said? The first shall be last. The servant will be greatest. “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Show me that you are a learner. That you are a servant. That you are secure enough in yourself that you don’t have to tell me how wonderful you are. That you’re willing to wait for others to recognize what you have to offer.

Then I’ll be much more likely to respect and admire you.

We need leaders, not just followers

sheepThere’s been a bit of pushback in recent years to the concept of Christian leadership. Some have even gone so far as to deny that the church needs any leaders at all. That doesn’t fit with what I see in the Bible.

We do well to note that Jesus spent a lot more time talking about the characteristics of followers than he did of the characteristics of leaders. And what is said of leaders doesn’t sound much like what the world tends to think of in a leader.

But God has called certain Christians to tasks of leadership, specifically to the job of equipping the church for ministry. These people are to be respected and emulated. They are to be listened to. When they need correction, such correction should be done gently.

Christians need to learn to be good followers. And we need good leaders.

A few verses on leaders and leadership:

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

(Matthew 20:25–28)

“Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers.”

(Acts 15:22)

“If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

(Romans 12:7–8)

“You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers, to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it.”

(1 Corinthians 16:15–16)

“Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.”

(1 Thessalonians 5:12–13)

“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

(Hebrews 13:7)

“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

(Hebrews 13:17)

We need more ministers. We need fewer ministers.

moppingI think the church needs more ministers. I also think that the church needs fewer “ministers.”

That is, I’m convinced that the church needs fewer men whose goal is to lead the church, who want titles like “senior minister” or “senior pastor,” who want power and authority.

I’m equally convinced that we need men who remember that the word translated “minister” in the New Testament is the word diakonos, which means servant. We need men who are called to serve the church, to minister to her in the true sense of the word.

It’s interesting to note that the Bible teaches more about what it is to be a follower than it does what it is to be a leader. It tells us to serve and to not “lord it over.” Much of what is said about leadership is negative, what a leader shouldn’t do or be.

When we focus on service, leadership will naturally grow out of that. When we focus on leadership, service often gets left by the wayside.

To those on staff at a church, I give you this reminder: you weren’t called to lead the church, at least not primarily. You were called to serve it. Even those called to be pastors must remember that a pastor’s ability to guide the sheep grows out of his ability to serve the sheep.

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