In recent weeks I have visited churches in the midst of major transition. One church is aiming to prepare its people for multiplying its services so that in the near future they will become two congregations meeting at different times. Another church, outgrowing its present meeting place, is beginning to face the challenge of buying a building and the certainty of the cost reaching a seven figure bill.
When predictable routine dominates the scene, leadership requires little skill, but leadership is never more tested than in a time of transition! By definition a leader should have followers or he or she is no leader at all. As John Maxwell says, ‘He who thinks he leads and has no one following him is only taking a walk.’ You may have been appointed to a leadership role but this simply means that you are now in a context where the gift of leadership can be proven and manifested. Real leadership is demonstrated when people confidently follow.
Such a view of leadership is in contrast with what many expect in the modern church; pastors are often seem merely as Bible teachers who also attend to any problems that might arise in the flock. Their main goal is to discover the consensus or majority view of the people they lead and to facilitate it. This tends to make them followers rather than leaders!” Charles Simpson once described a man being dragged down the road by a large dog. He was asked, ‘Where are you taking that dog?’ and replied, ‘Wherever he wants to go!’
The Biblical view of leadership is in stark contrast. The Bible consistently shows God’s chosen leaders having encounters with Him and being commissioned by Him. Moses, Gideon and Jeremiah were reluctant to lead but their limitations were brushed aside by the overwhelming awareness of being apprehended by God for His sovereign purpose. With the call comes a commission or vision to be fulfilled. Paul’s testimony was that throughout his life he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19). He counted his life as of little value in order that he might fulfil the ministry that he had received from the Lord (Acts 20:24). King Saul, in contrast, testified, ‘I have sinned…because I feared the people and listened to their voice’ (1 Sam. 15:24).
When authentic leaders such as David, Nehemiah and Gideon devoted themselves to their calling, others were drawn to their vision. True leadership is the ability to obtain followers and a real leader is one that others gladly and confidently follow.
Leadership inevitably leads to tension in that it takes you into the future. In fact, a leader’s heart is already there. Leaders live in the tension between the present and the future. Abraham’s heart was gripped by a vision of the city of God which was so powerful that it forced him to leave Ur. As Abraham erected his tent in the desert we can imagine Sarah asking, ‘Where is this city that you claim to have seen?’ They were living in a tent because Abraham had seen a city!
Similarly, Moses was captivated by the certainty of a land flowing with milk and honey, but meanwhile two million people had to eat manna every day! At such times leadership comes under close scrutiny. Can I really trust these guys enough to follow them? When asking such questions, what are people really looking for?
[To be continued…]