Leadership has been the buzzword in the past twenty years for shaping corporate culture. Joseph Rost compiled a major study of the use of the word leadership in publications across all disciplines in the United States in the twentieth century. In publications throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, he discovered a disproportionate acceleration of the use of the word compared to other indicators describing or prescribing corporate success.18 The number of books, journal articles, popular articles, and other publications about leadership in the last twenty years of the past century (and it doesn’t seem to have slowed in this century) were staggering. Business leaders focused intently on this subject as a panacea for improving corporate performance and profitably.
It’s been much the same in publications related to church growth, church development, and church health. Leadership has been the focus of many books, articles, seminars, and courses. Denominational and parachurch organizations have pioneered innovative ways to teach leadership principles to pastors and other ministry workers. Seminaries have created new courses, and even entire degree programs, in leadership. Consulting and coaching firms have emerged to train and resource church leaders. All this emphasis on leadership begs the question, “Why.” Why put so much emphasis on leaders? If Jesus is the head of the church, the ultimate Leader, why are we so concerned with the leadership people provide?
The answer is simple: God creates, shapes, and uses strong leaders to do His work. God’s pattern for accomplishing something significant, expressed throughout the Bible, usually tracks on the following path. First God allows a need. Then God calls a leader (more often leaders) to address the need. Third, God prepares the leader or leaders for the task at hand. Finally, God uses the leaders to meet the need and accomplish something significant. This is the pattern with Moses, Joshua, Nehemiah, many of the prophets, Peter, James, John, Paul, and even Jesus. God allows a need, calls a leader, trains the leader (or leaders), and then uses them to accomplish His purpose.
It’s also obvious, although we often overlook this point, God actually favors strong leaders. He created, prepared, called, and used strong leaders repeatedly in biblical history. While he often called men who were young (David), appeared weak (Gideon), or lacked experience (Peter), by the time they stepped into the arena, they were strong men, emboldened with God’s vision and power for the task at hand.
God often follows the same pattern today. When He is ready to do something significant through a church (or Christian organization), He first puts capable leaders in place. God creates, calls, shapes, and uses strong-minded, strong-willed, convictional leaders to get His work done. We shouldn’t resist their contribution to churches or organizations. Some Christians, for reasons we will discuss later, are averse to strong leaders. This ignores God’s pattern and prohibits us from experiencing God’s best in collective efforts, guided by God-placed leaders, to achieve more than we can accomplish on our own or in a poorly led church or organization. God likes strong leaders. We should appreciate them, train more of them, and do all we can to enhance their value to the church.
Strong leaders require willing yet discerning followers to maximize their effectiveness. Being a good follower is sometimes difficult. We must learn to walk the fine line between willing submission and mindless subservience. Good leaders help their followers understand how to work with them. Good followers help their leaders by creating structures through which their almost boundless energy, gifts, and passion can be channeled. When this symbiotic relationship is in place and working well, dynamic interaction maximizing the best traits of leaders and followers (while mitigating the weaknesses of both) produces supernatural results.
Jeff Iorg, The Case for Antioch (Nashville: B&H, 2011).
This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.