by Loren Gjesdal
Are you a born leader? Most people will answer that question with a resounding, “No!” It seems that even those we hold up as leaders in the church, don’t consider themselves to be natural leaders. “George Barna conducted a survey of senior pastors from across various denominations. When asked if they believed they had the spiritual gift of leadership, only 6 percent responded yes.”¹
God, however, says all believers are to be leaders. “Christian leadership is Christlike influence.”² Isn’t that exactly what is meant by Paul’s instruction to be ambassadors for Christ? (2 Cor 5:20) How can the majority of us, who do not see ourselves as leadership material, become the leaders God calls us to be? By following Jesus! Because following Jesus is exactly what it means to be a Christian, every believer is called to be a leader!
Leadership and Boldness
In our culture, leadership carries connotations of self-confidence, personal charisma, and ambition. Most people say “no” to leadership either because they don’t see themselves as possessing the requisite boldness or because they lack the ambition to take on the associated responsibilities that seem to come with leadership.
Scripture calls us to be both bold and ambitious, however. “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Tim 1:7).
The difference between the cultural perception of leadership and the Biblical model of leadership (spiritual leadership) is two-fold: purpose and method. Instead of relying on our personal charisma and talent, we make use of God’s power and resources. Instead of achieving personal goals for our own sake, we glorify God by accomplishing His will.
Boldness through the Power of God
Paul lays out a bold ambition to be achieved through the power of God for the glory of God in his letter to the Corinthian church: “for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:4-5).
We must boldly lead our own mind and the minds of others to the understanding of, and into obedience to, the will of God.
Maybe part of the reason we see so much opposition to the knowledge of God and shrinking obedience to His will in our culture today is a lack of leadership in the church. To be an impactful influence in our culture, the church itself will need to be purified, then united, then mobilized—all of which will require clear, strong leadership. “Either we accept God’s invitation to step out and affect our environment, or we become victims of those who are pushing their own agendas.”³
Surrendered to His Use
There is a dearth of those willing to step out because to do so invites a cultural backlash. No one debates the need for leaders, but the willing are few. “God is looking to develop men and women into his divinely empowered instruments to impact today’s culture.”4
The work of the church will always be God’s work, but He looks for and chooses to use servants who are surrendered to His use. “Authentic Christian leadership involves a glad willingness to be expended for the spiritual benefit of another.”5
To be the spiritual leader the church and world need, we simply need to say yes to God’s call and make ourselves available for His use. We do both by pursuing the character of Christ. As the spiritual leader follows Christ, others will be drawn to follow them.
The spiritual leader the church needs, lives to please an audience of one. Nothing could possibly be more satisfying in this life or in all eternity than hearing our Savior say, “Well done!” One of our greatest needs is to live a life of purpose. “The desire for a feeling of importance is one of the chief distinguishing differences between mankind and the animals.”6
In Christian leadership we can fulfill this deep need because God has promised us important kingdom roles that carry identity and purpose.
Leadership in the Church
Leadership in the church isn’t about building an organization, a large budget, or a big structure. It’s about moving people into will of God. To enjoy a life of eternal purpose, a spiritual leader must first care about people just as God does. “…If you want to help others at the same time as you help yourself, keep this principle in mind: become genuinely interested in other people.”7
“According to George Barna, “The American church is dying due to a lack of strong leadership. In this time of unprecedented opportunity and plentiful resources, the church is actually losing influence. The primary reason is the lack of leadership. Nothing is more important than leadership.”8
The Church needs men and women of Christ-like character who have a godly ambition to pursue eternal, kingdom purposes. “Clearly if the goal is to achieve fame, recognition, or wealth, then it is selfish and unbecoming. But if their purpose is to invest their one life as wisely as possible for the advancement of God’s purposes on earth, then ambition is a good and useful force…. Would that every Christian were equally ambitious to accomplish God’s purpose for their life!”9
¹ Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby. Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on to God’s Agenda. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2011), 52.
² Greg Ogden, Daniel Meyer. Leadership Essentials: Shaping Vision, Multiplying Influence, Defining Character. (Downers Grove IL: Intervarsity Press, 2007), 9.
³ Blackaby, 372.
4 Ibid, 372.
5 Robert Peterson, Alexander Strauch. Agape Leadership: Lessons in Spiritual Leadership from the Life of R.C. Chapman. (Colorado Spring CO: Lewis & Roth Publishers, 1991), 10.
6 Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends & Influence People: The Only Book You Need to Lead You to Success. (New York: Gallery Books, 1998), 18.
7 Carnegie, 62.
8 Blackaby, 15.
9 Blackaby, 26.