My wife in the kitchen coordinating her other priorities strikes me as leadership. President Volodymyr Zelensky driving his courageous historical stance against the nationalistic tyranny of Putinism (Washington Times, 2007) struck the globe as leadership!
Characteristics that strike as most important for ministry
Doubtless, there are more interpretations and characteristics of leadership than there are shades of grey. Matt Barney’s definition, “Leadership is the behaviour that brings the future to the present, by envisioning the possible and persuading others to help you make it a reality” – now this strikes me! (Newman, 2007). As a pretext, may I include a concise observation as a precedent, to why Barney’s definition intrigues me?
In the modern church, sure enough, the rapid numerical growth has by far superseded her spiritual maturity. David Cousins (2008), stated that “many church leaders today do not focus on the equipping of all church members for service but focus on those who can help them in building their own ministry agendas.” Massive auditoriums, larger following snapping up everywhere… but how does this “growth” measure up against indexes of societal transformation? Here are a few social indexes by which the Church has limited the Great Commission in, the political and economic transformation indicators, the remedy for the polarization between denominations, the healing from the corrosion of the family structure, the reversal of the doctrinal illiteracy of the Church, the building of an apologetical defence against the infiltration of postmodernism within our ranks, the growth of spiritual immaturity and worldliness that exist in the church, etc. It is possible to have some of the largest churches in a city, yet still, have the least transformed city? I think an honest introspective analysis is required. The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the Church’s strength and relevance. The President deemed the Church as a “nonessential,” shouldn’t all this beg the question: what is the church missing? We observe the lessons from the European Church. Large empty cathedrals, together with the practical non-existence of Christianity in Europe, strongly should suggest that the Gospel mission is not locked in building beautiful edifices. Exegetically, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (2010) highlights that the keys to effective evangelism and nation impact is not in numbers, but in “growing people” or developing Christ-centered leadership both within the clergy and laymen. I believe urgent dialogue is required, pointing out “growing people” means what exactly, “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry” means what exactly?
On a personal level, as a visionary leader of a local church, with a heart for apostolic transformation, Barney’s definition intrigues me the most. His definition highlights the leadership of the “tension” that exists between what the leader “sees” (future) and the reality of what is happening (present) and the tension to align the people and resources to God’s agenda, to accommodate the needed transformation, to facilitate greater kingdom impact.
What kind of leadership is evident in most churches and ministry today?
The late American political-historian and leadership expert, James MacGregor Burns, outstandingly contrasted the theory of leadership across the ages, from ancient times to modern-day context. Burns stated on leadership, saying, “Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth” (Barns 2012, 2). Burns, speaking from a secular perspective, mentioned that there is a reservoir of data and analysis and theories that have developed but there is no central leadership concept that has emerged (Barns 2012, 3). Willis Newman’s definition (2007) noted, “The uniqueness of Christian leadership is that the entire process happens within the will, plan, priorities and purpose of Almighty God as revealed in the Bible and is grounded and operates under the lordship of Jesus Christ.” In observing the biblical interpretation of the theory of leadership clearly, the Christian perspective is clear!
As one clarifies and defines Newman’s definition, as a consideration on how the church could align herself more to the biblical mandate, one could include the following observations;
First, biblical leaders do not seek to further their own purposes. Nor do they seek to move people toward the fulfilment of their own vision. By contrast, how of what we observe in the vision of the modern church, is the Great Commission and how much is just growing your “customer base”? How much of the strategy is to reach the world and produce organic growth through the power of the Spirit, compared to just merely recruiting Christians from other denominations in the name of revival or church growth?
Second, biblical leaders are submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ and seek to glorify God in all that they do. By contrast, has the rise of the gusty modern Church culture, who seems totally fine with soaking up the spotlight and getting the lion’s share of the glory, while leaving Jesus as only a runner-up, miss the plot?
Third, biblical leaders embrace God-given goals as described in scripture and seek to be led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. By contrast, how much of the Acts 1:8-Holy Spirit-lead-ability has been replaced with entertainment and theatrics as a means to cure the unregenerate nature of man, as opposed to “preaching the word” and relying on the Spirit’s power to save, heal and set people free, both within the wall and without? Consider the scriptural mandate to feed both “my sheep and lamb”, to preach both “the meat and the milk of the Word” as a goal to confront and challenge, intending to mature God’s people. Yet, when the Word is watered down, often to prevent offence and accommodate church growth and appease an anti-Christian culture. Has the modern church moved away from its biblical goals?
Fourth, biblical leaders respect the wisdom of heavenly strategies and methods and also recognise the importance of context and culture. On the contrary, the respect for the Word and Spirit-empowered ministry has been lost, as mentioned in the previous point. How often does one hear the pulpit address cultural and racial nepotism within its ranks, including other external issues such as LGBT, abortion, political corruption, religious pluralism, etc…? Perhaps the church is culturally irrelevant? This is clear in the massive exodus of our young people from Christianity to atheism.
Biblical verses secular leaders
The difference between biblical and secular leadership is poles apart. One is driven by kingdom ambition, the other by selfish ambition. Yet, it seems that most people, Christians alike, don’t seem to understand the differences.
Bill Lawrence’s grid specifies six traits that distinguish spiritual and secular leadership.
One, Lawrence outlines the most fundamental trait of leadership MOTIVATION. Why do you want to be a leader? Lawrence’s point out a stumbling block for the Christian who adopts a secular motive for leading. Represented by terms such as self-promotion, striving for first place and so forth (Mark 10:35-45). The problem with this approach, there is already a Number One! Jesus Christ has already taken First place (Philippians 2:9). Today, many leaders define their prominence by how many followers they have under them. I often wonder how many of them would surrender their “busy schedules” to reach out and serve the least among them? Jesus often dislodged from the company of the great, such as Zaccheus, to serve Lazarus, who was the least, without great publicity.
Two, Lawrence states that spiritual leadership differs from secular leadership in PURPOSE! It is not merely sufficient to define a leader as “someone who knows where he’s going and can get others to follow him.” Even the Devil knows where he is going! Biblical leadership is distinguished in its purpose, and here’s why it requires the leader to know where the Lord is going and relentlessly works to get others to follow him as he follows the Lord (1987).
Howard G. Hendricks, helps us to understand that such a leader knows what to do because the Bible tells him so and can do it because the Holy Spirit enables him to do so (1982).
Three, Lawrence helps us to undertand another variant between spiritual and secular leadership, PERSPECTIVE. Or perspective on people. Titles and positions are not a privilege but sacrifice. At least Jesus concludes leadership as a sacrifice (Mark 9:35). In today’s Church, it is difficult to find a leader who is willing to make an investment in anything without it first advancing his agenda. I wonder what Mother Teresa would say about this?
Four, biblical leaders are PRACTITIONERS. They practice both the office and work of the ministry through servanthood. When I think of a worldly practitioner, such a doctor. Even though he serves the people, he does it at a fee. A biblical practitioner is not driven by any earthly incentive. He is a servant of the Lord. This means sacrificial service marks his leadership, under the same authority as the Lord Jesus Christ. The concept of servant leadership may gain more traction in the world, but it is first a biblical concept.
Five, biblical leaders are driven by SIGNIFICANCE. Although Newman uses the word success, I feel more comfortable with the word significance. Almost anyone can be successful, but not everyone attains significance. Success affects your life, but significantly affects the lives of others. Success is all about you. Significance is about others. You cannot live a life of significance without serving or helping others. Secular leadership is obsessed with success. Spiritual leaders are obsessed with serving others.
Six, biblical leaders are driven by two the R’s. Recognition of heaven and by rewards both natural and eternal. Secular leadership loves the honour of man and is content only with earthly rewards. Paul says we do it for a crown that perishes not!
- Bennett, David W., ed. 2004. “A Call to Develop Christ-like Leaders.” Lausanne Occasional Paper, no. 41. Lausanne Committee for World.
- Cousins D, 2008, Experiencing Leadershift, Colorado Springs USA, David C. Cook Publishers.
- Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, 2010. “
- James Macgregor Burns, 2003. Transformational Leadership. USA: Library of Congress in Cataloging in. Publication Data.
- Howard G Hendricks, Private conversation with Howard G Hendrick.
- Washington times, 2007. “Putanism” The Washington times, 20 September 2007. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2007/sep/20/putinism/ (L