A number of years ago I made the trip back to my alma mater to serve as part of a think-tank. The school administration asked a small group of former ministry students what, if anything, they could improve upon for the sake of future graduates. I remember one question well, “Based upon your ministry experience, what do you wish we had taught you that we didn’t teach you?” My answer? “I’ve already had to preside over several weddings and a few funerals. You didn’t give us much there…” Weddings and funerals! Really!?
Weddings and funerals are important, but if I was asked the same question today, I know what my answer would be. Leadership. Plain and simple! It is amazing to me that in five years of undergraduate study, I can’t remember any conversations about what it means to be a leader. Was it just assumed that once our heads were appropriately filled with Bible knowledge we would be able to navigate the complex landscape of church and people? I couldn’t be more grateful that many are finally waking up to the need for good leadership!
Think about the way God typically makes things happen. Reading through the Old Testament, it becomes quickly apparent that when God wants something done, he finds a leader. Consider the examples of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Joseph, the Judges and prophets. The same is true in the New Testament. Jesus chose twelve guys to become his apprentices in the hopes of training them to lead a world-changing movement. Later, God chose Paul to take the good news about Jesus into the Gentile world. Timothy and Titus were called to appoint leaders within local churches. Leadership is even listed among the spiritual gifts in Romans 12.
There can be no doubt that God places a high value upon good leadership. What does that mean for us? I think the answer to that question is simple. We must, through careful examination of God’s Word and the example of Jesus, seek to understand what good leadership is. We also need to allow God to teach us through the experience of our own leadership failures and successes. God’s definition matters here, not ours or anyone else’s.
I have never been invited back for another think-tank experience, although for fifteen years now, I’ve rehearsed how differently the conversation would go. For the time being I have resolved two things: One, I want to take advantage of every opportunity to become the kind of leader God is looking for, two, I want to help others to do the same. As time goes by I hope to share with you a developing list of leadership principles connected directly to scripture that have influenced me along the way. It is my prayer that God will use these short and memorable phrases and the concepts behind them, to shape you as a leader, in the same way he’s still working to shape me.