Spiritual Leadership: Leaping Tall Building or Christ’s Sufficiency

We want our spiritual leaders to exhibit competence, because we do not want to follow an incompetent leader. We want our pastors and elders to be spiritual giants able to leap tall buildings in a single bound or at least to walk on water or stand tall in the pulpit.  Frequently, however, when competence comes to mind, the areas of greatest importance are primarily administration, charisma, public speaking, and the display of confidence. These attract and give a sense of importance and a feeling of security.  A pastor once informed me that he spoke on a series regarding competence in the church.  It mostly concerned how well staff and leaders performed in their ministry jobs 

When performance in church leadership has prime importance, do we tend to leave God at the door and neglect many of the gifts He gives to us to lead the church? Do we emphasize performance to the extent that the power of Christ fails to shine through?  Do we want people to get with the program or leave?  Do we try to plug people into a ministry or do we mentor them toward using their God given gifts in helping others grow to maturity in Christ?  Is performance greater than the person?  From these perspectives, weakness seems to many to have little value as a contributing factor in church ministry.  This is a huge drawback in two ways. First, it focuses on the flesh and what can be seen rather than on the Spirit and the unseen. Second, it neglects what God does inwardly and places little emphasis on spiritual transformation—the way of God rather than the way of man.

Years ago when I was associated with a Christian organization on a university campus, dozens of us would gather in a home to sing praise songs, listen to a speaker, and fellowship with fellow believers. The main leader of the organization and host introduced one of his disciples to the group. He said, “This gentleman knows passages from memory from each of the books of the Bible.” The leader commenced to give a Bible verse, and the man quoted it from memory. Smiles rose from those gathered, and many beamed with pride and awe. To them this man was a spiritual giant, because he knew the Scriptures. This was a seen spirituality and an outward display of self-confidence.

The message was obvious. What you see is spiritual. Righteousness depends on outward display rather than inward transformation. Leadership can make or break true spirituality by focusing on the wrong things. True competence comes with the price of losing oneself in the sufficiency of the Spirit. Paul wrote,

“We are not sufficient in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves. Our sufficiency is from God, who made us sufficient as ministers of the New Covenant…”

(2 Corinthians 3:5-6).

The ‘letter’ or outward confidence works out of the framework of self. The ‘Spirit’ works out of the framework of the Trinity, the all-sufficient God who called light out of darkness and gives light that leads to spiritual transformation.

Copyright (c) 2014 Action Faith Books Press.  Use prohibited without expressed written permission or proper citation.

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“In Christ” and Spirit Led Christian Leadership

The previous post “Leadership, What?” referred to Brian Dodd’s remarks about what the Apostle Paul writes about spiritual leadership in the church community.  Dodd also cites probably the most common phrase Paul uses in his letters to demonstrate the mark of genuine Christian leadership: “in Christ.”[1] This is the crux of Pauline theology and marks the whole of the Christian life and not simply leadership.  This phrase characterizes the beginning, ongoing, and end of true Christian redemption and maturity.  Unless the believer recognizes this mark and becomes ensconced in and enraptured with it, he or she will exhibit fleshly leadership.  Dodd writes, “What was striking about Paul’s leadership…was the uniquely Christ-centered and cross-reflecting style of leadership that he exhibited.” [2] These two traits reflect the true meaning of in Christ.  In his commentary on the calling and character of the Christian leader, William Willimon expands on the meaning of in Christ,

We being ‘in Christ’ and being a’ new creation,’ are those who don’t just know about the righteousness of God, or believe in the righteousness of God; we are to be God’s righteousness. If you want a Scriptural basis for Christian ethics, make it this one. [3]

Biblically stated, being God’s righteousness begins with core expression of the gospel: justification by faith through which God imputes Christ’s righteousness to the sinner so that one stands in the right before Him.  The phrase “in Christ” reflects an identity and a moral stance for the believer and serves as the basis for Christian leadership. In a sense, this is a new way to equip saints and release leaders in two ways. First, the modern era of people alienated from Christ knows little of it, and it has no place in a secular society. Second, it is new in that the abiding life of Christ has its roots in the new commandment. Spiritual leadership is about caring for people and loving them in and toward the kingdom of God. It is for this reason Dodd made this phrase and the Holy Spirit the foundation of all he wrote throughout the book. [4]

According to Dodd, the Apostle Paul would have failed every human litmus test for leadership.  He suggests Paul’s failures as one of the reasons God chose Him to lead.  The key to Paul’s leadership, according to Dodd, is Spirit-empowerment.  1 Corinthians 12:4-13 repeats this truth.  There Paul emphasizes that the Holy Spirit sovereignly leads the Church and provides its leaders with all the resources needed to guide and mature God’s chosen people.  A. W. Tozer wrote, “There was hardly a great leader from Paul to the present but was drafted by the Holy Spirit for the task.” [5] Developing spiritual leadership requires a spiritual source and mandate or it will scatter the sheep.  However, even in leadership failures, we must remember God remains faithful and will accomplish His redemptive purpose among those He saves.  He also redeems fallen leaders so that He is glorified not only in the Church but also in all the world.

[1] Dodd, Brian J., Empowered Church Leadership: Ministry in the Spirit According to Paul (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 14.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Willimon, William H., Character and Calling: Virtues of the Ordained Life (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000), 129.

[4] Dodd, 15.

[5] Sanders, J. Oswald, Spiritual Leadership (Chicago, Moody Press, 1994), 29.

Copyright (c) 2014, Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  Not to be used without expressed written permission.

Marks of Christian Leadership – Part One: Leadership, What?

All that can be said about leadership in many respects has already been written. Brian Dodd also came to a similar conclusion. [1] A Christian leader is one who serves. One must possess spiritual maturity and faith. [2] A leader has followers. A leader has character. A leader is a team builder and leads with courage. A good leader is strategic in thinking. Therefore, is there anything new that can be said or can it be restated in a new way for future leaders? Dodd brings the reader back to the letters of the Apostle Paul for a rediscovery of spiritual leadership that needs to be unleashed today in the church.

Why Paul? Was he not ancient? We have so much information on leadership today and so many proven models that Paul never had. We have defined and refined what others before us wrote and applied concerning effective leadership. Is there anything new? Dodd identifies several key and proven ingredients that stand the test of time and outlast every leadership model implemented in the Church, business, or government. He emphasizes that whatever leadership model may exist, these ingredients must always be there for effective Church ministry leadership. These leaders must live and teach them to gain lasting results. Equipping the saints needs these ingredients for the church to grow in grace and for that grace to permeate the body of Christ for its edification of its members in love.

In the proclamation of the gospel, spiritual leadership is critical.  With some in the business world, leadership comes naturally.  However, spiritual leadership arises from the spirit dependent on God.  God equips those whom He sends with His message.

Part two expands on these ingredients.

[1] Dodd, Brian J., Empowered Church Leadership: Ministry in the Spirit According to Paul (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003). 13-14.

[2] Sanders, Oswald, Spiritual Leadership (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 27-32.

Copyright (c) 2014, Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  Not to be used without expressed written permission.