Regardless of what might pass a leadership among society, the church is different or should be different. Leadership within the kingdom of God is not about positional authority or ruling over others but about serving. As Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 22:25-26, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves” (NRSV).
Notice the contrast Jesus makes between ruling over people and serving people. When church leaders, such as ministers/pastors and elders/shepherds, act as though their role is a position that entitles them to make decisions, they are ruling over rather than serving the church. Regardless of the intentions, acting with positional authority will create problems that usually brings about decline. At the same time, for there to be leadership then those called to lead must do so with vision and courage just as Jesus himself did. Timid leadership can just as easily result in problems that brings about decline.
At the surface, it sometimes seems like there is a paradox between serving and leading. Perhaps so and if there is indeed a paradox, then we should let it stand and wrestle with it rather than trying to eliminate whatever tension it creates.
With that being said, here are three simple suggestions for church leaders:
- Lead by example. In the economy of God’s kingdom, leaders are followers of Jesus first. Leadership is thus characterized by having a humble and self-sacrificial posture that is willing to care for others. Setting an example also means going first where one desires to lead others. Leaders must themselves cultivate a life of discipleship if they seek to be a church making and maturing disciples.
- Lead by listening. Spend time with people and get to know them, learn who they are and what they’re passionate about or what sort of struggles they have as well as questions and concerns they have. Doing so validates their existence and feelings as well as opening space to ask questions that will allow everyone to further discern where God is leading and then begin to go there together.
- Lead by Conviction. At the end of the day, leaders must be decisive. However, good leadership makes decisions based upon beliefs, principles and values rather than popularity. This doesn’t negate listening to others but no matter what decisions are made, someone will always disagree. So at the end of the day it is better to lead from convictions rather than the approval of others as right is always right regardless of it’s popularity.
So now, what says you?