I’m writing, teaching, and thinking a lot more about leadership lately. In the last week, I’ve received three calls from people involving job changes due to poor leadership. Some are too “spiritual” to talk about leadership principles, focusing instead on preaching, sacraments, the work of the Spirit, or whatever their tradition says they should look to instead. But throughout the Bible we see good leaders and bad ones and the impact of both. In this series, I hope to encourage you to be the kind of leader that, well, leads people to the things that matter most.
Leadership is not about you.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that leadership is not for you—leadership is something you can learn and excel at. But no matter how many theories you study or how many clubs you led in high school, if your leadership is about you, you will not be an effective leader.
Leadership Means Hard Work
Taking the lead is not easy or glamorous. It’s not something we do for our own comfort. Author and former Overseas Missionary Fellowship director Oswald Sanders summed it up this way (and it applies to men and women):
The young man of leadership caliber will work while others waste time, study while others snooze, pray while others daydream.
Are you prepared for this kind of work?
We see this in how the Bible talks about leadership. Look at Romans 12:6-8:
According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s faith; if service, use it in service; if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness. (emphasis added)
“Leading, with diligence.” This is the essential attitude that Paul assigns to leadership—it is as essential to leadership as generosity is to giving or faith is to prophecy.
Leadership Means Service
Ministry leadership is servant leadership. The Bible tells us this again and again. God demonstrates it in His own love for us—in Jesus Christ entering this messy world, washing his disciples’ feet, and dying for unrepentant sinners.
This attitude of powerful love and painful sacrifice is the attitude we are to adopt, according to Philippians 2:5. And look at the verses that set the stage of that command:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4, CSB)
What would it look like to lead like this? How should this shape how you plan, how you motivate, or how you delegate?
Unsurprisingly, secular leadership scholars are discovering that the Christian mentality of servant leadership is more effective than the traditional models of leadership that focus on the leader’s own good. Servant leaders lead better, especially in the long run.
My new web-based course, Strategic Leadership for Ministry and Mission, is geared to help you become the leader God has called you to be. Learn more about Strategic Leadership and check out Session One for free.
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.