I believe in the old saying: “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” If you don’t believe it, then I would invite you to intentionally lead poorly for a season and then report to the rest of us what happens. Now, yes, for my theologically-minded friends, I know that everything really rises and falls on God’s providence, justice, and grace. Yes, I will give you that. So, with that as the foundation, we can then move on to all understand the power of leadership. And, the necessity of it.
Without leadership, what will the church look like? Not the church. Leadership is inherent to God’s intention for the church. Leadership is included in the Romans 12 list of spiritual gifts. We are told in Ephesians 4:11 of five different roles of leaders within the church: apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher. In his letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul taught about the two positions of elder and deacon for the body of Christ; one as a servant leader and one as a lead servant. (I will write about that distinction later.)
At what I see currently, we need more leaders. Or we need to better train the leaders we already have in our churches. Have no doubt about it: there are leaders in your church. They do not have titles, but they lead. They may not be on the board or a committee, but they have influence. The only issue is whether or not we train them well. Let me give you a few ideas about teaching leadership.
1. Put it in the priorities. If you do not have new leaders stepping into responsibilities, it is likely because they do not know how. You teach your way out of every problem. The lack of leaders can be solved in two ways: prioritizing the need in verbal communication and through relational discipleship. So make it a part of who you are.
2. Fight consumerism. The movement out of consumerism requires an application of the truth. We are to be leaders in the culture and not merely consumers within the religious establishment. Leadership begins as a new perspective before it is a new behavior. You must move people from consumption to production.
3. Actually teach. Just as “living like Jesus” alone is not evangelism, “living for the kingdom” alone is not discipleship. You must put together a plan to communicate the principles and work of leadership. So read the entire Bible, buy good books, talk to veteran leaders, and put together a plan to talk about it. Some of the books I would suggest include:
Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders
The Missional Leader by Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk
Basic Christian Leadership by John Stott
The Disciple Making Pastor by Bill Hull
Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon
Pastoral Care by St. Gregory the Great
Spiritual Leadership by Henry Blackaby
In teaching, leaders must speak the truth to followers in order to affect change. Be clear about the current environment, needs, and how involvement as a leader can change things.
5. Train leaders to also be theologians. In leadership, the truth precedes method. Otherwise, we thoughtlessly stumble into a way to do church. To put new leaders on a missional pathway, they must be able to contend for the truth before they know how to be counter-cultural with their lives. Don’t be afraid to tackle the hard subjects and use large words. As my friend Ed Stetzer says, “If people can learn how to order stuff at Starbucks, then they can learn theological language.”
6. Understand the relationships of major disciplines. There is a relationship of theology, missiology, and ecclesiology that must be observed and understood. Currently, you can stir up a great debate among scholars if you ask which of these comes first. Normally, theology and missiology compete for the title. It is not likely the territory that you want to wade into early on with your blossoming leaders. Instead, help them to understand the relationship between the three arenas and how they are all necessary in the life of the church.
7. Make a plan. Just remember that it does not have to be a perfect plan before you start. I am reminded of a man who once told Dwight Moody that he did not like the way he did evangelism. Moody replied, “Well, sir, I like the way I do evangelism better than the way you don’t do it.” For now, just get going. Work hard at having a great plan so get a head start on that great plan by training some leaders for the work right now.