For those of us in group ministry, leadership development has got to be at or near the top our list of activities that are most vital to our success. A Google query on the topic of leadership yields over 454 million results meaning that there is so much information on the subject that it is absolutely impossible to absorb even a fraction of it. So in the midst of all this leadership expertise, it seems to me that there are two burning questions that we as ministry leaders should be asking.
First, is there such a thing as Christian leadership? Second, if there is, what is distinctive about it? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that yes, there is such a thing as Christian leadership and, in this blog, I’d like to take a crack at identifying five leadership practices that make it distinctive. I’ll describe them briefly here and then explain them more fully as well as how they work together in the future. Here are my five distinctives.
LEARNING: In the Great Commission Jesus told his disciples to go make more disciples. I always thought of that as a command to make more followers of Christ, and that’s certainly true. But Jesus’ commission was also a clear directive for the disciples, who had just spent about three years learning under his leadership, to go find disciples of their own. Jesus wanted those he had led, to become leaders of others who would in turn become leaders of others and so on. Christian leadership is the natural outcome of discipleship. Our learning as followers of Christ is actually designed to empower our leadership. So, Christian leaders are first and foremost learners who are continually growing as disciples of Jesus.
SERVING: This leadership practice is easy to see because Jesus made it so obvious. In contrasting conventional leadership with Christian leadership, Jesus said, “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” (Matthew 20:25-26, NIV). Christian leaders are servants.
CARING: Conventional leadership tends to try to use rewards to buy influence over people in order to lead them. Money, gifts, perks, recognition are just some examples. There’s nothing wrong with these things, but unfortunately they usually lose strength over time. Instead of trying to gain influence, Christian leaders simply care for people, sharing their lives with them. Ironically the byproduct of this leadership practice is influence.
DOING: All leaders have to get things done in order to maintain credibility, but Christian leaders go about it in a distinctive way. They share their God-given purpose with others and invite them to be part of it. In doing so they offer something that most people are desperate to have, significance. Significance is a powerful motivator for getting things done.
TEACHING: This final practice is closely tied the first. Christian leaders invest in those they lead by sharing their learnings with them. They instill their wisdom into the people they lead and the outcome is that their followers become leaders. Jesus modeled this process it has been repeated by generations of Christian leaders since then.