Most of us, at one time or another, have heard this statement: “If you want to be successful just find someone who is successful and do what he or she does”. How true would you say this statement is? Several years ago (2001) Jim Collins wrote a runaway bestseller: Good To Great. It has sold millions of copies. In the book he showcased companies that share certain traits that took them from “good-to-great.” The book was the results of 5 years of researching 28 companies. The result was a set of key determinants that, if applied, could help other companies move from good-to-great. Just imitate? Well guess what?
Years later some of these “perfect” good-to-great companies have turned out not to be so great. This is a reminder that leaders must be careful relative to who and what they choose to imitate. Jesus put it in these words: Let them alone. They are blind leaders. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a ditch (Matthew 15:14). The only consistency in leadership is CHANGE. Therefore, if we are prone to imitating certain leaders and their programs, we must be very careful. Church leaders are not exempt from seeking out leaders and programs they deem successful, or someone else affirmed the success, and trying to imitate them. I am not saying this is wrong, only that it has some built in challenges and potential problems.
Following Leaders In The Bible
I am quick to affirm that the Bible is the perfect leadership manual. It contains teaching and examples of leadership; both good and some bad. Truth is truth regardless of the source or application. I am a proponent of studying and learning from Bible leaders. God has left us a record of them for a reason. They were written for our learning (cf. Romans 15:4). Yet, we realize that none of those leaders were perfect. Let’s take a moment and have a roll call of some of the leaders we read about in the Bible. Keep in mind that leadership is influence on others to reach a predetermined objective. This occurs in two basic ways; by what you SAY and what you DO. With what you DO being the more powerful of the two.
As the name of each leader is called take a moment and write down a trait he has that you would like to have or imitate. Would it be his: (1) Character? (2) Attitude? (3) Faith? (4) Behavior? (5) Sin? (6) Skills? (7) Obedience? (8) Courage? (9) Actions as a leader? (10) Truthfulness? (11) Integrity? (12) Vision? (13) None? Then write down a weakness, if there was one, in the leader that you seek to avoid:
ADAM: NOAH: ABRAHAM: JOSEPH: JOSHUA: SAUL: DAVID: SOLOMON: SAMSON: ELIJAH: AHAB: JEREMIAH: NEHEMIAH: JOHN THE BAPTIST JUDAS: PETER: PAUL: DEMAS:
Our list could go on and on but these names are sufficient to get our minds on the subject of traits in leaders. Which of the above leaders is your favorite and why? Let’s turn our attention to the Perfect Leader—our heavenly Father.
The Perfect Leader
I find it interesting, since writing Imitating My Father’s Leadership, how many men have said that they had never thought of God in the terms of leadership. I’ll admit that for years I failed to do so too. Then one day it hit me: God was, and is, the perfect leader! Therefore, since He is our heavenly Father, as we imitated our earthly fathers, we should seek to imitate Him. There are numerous passages in the New Testament that command us to imitate God. The basic word translated imitate from the Greek is memetes and means: “Follow, follower, to follow.” Here are some verses where we are admonished or commanded to imitate (follow) God and the apostle Paul:
• Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. Walk in love…(Ephesians 5:1,2).
• Therefore I urge you to imitate me (1 Corinthians 4:16).
• Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
• And you became followers (imitators, jjt) of us and of the Lord … (1 Thessalonians 1:6).
• For you brethren, became imitators of the churches of God … ( 1 Thessalonians 2:14).
• Brethren, join in following (imitating, jjt) my example, and note those who so walk, as you have them as a pattern (Philippians 3:17).
• [T]hat you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:12).
• And who is he who will harm you if you become followers (imitators, jjt) of what is good? (1 Peter 3:13).
For illustration purposes let’s look at one of God’s major, if not the major, leadership traits—LOVE—and analysis how we can imitate it (or if we are imitating it). And we have known and believed the love God has for us. GOD IS LOVE, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him (1 John 4:16; cf. John 3:16).
Let’s go to Paul’s great treatise on love in 1 Corinthians 13 and see if God practices each one; not only practices but practices them perfectly. Since God is love, I will substitute His name for love in 1 Corinthians 13 (from the CEV):
… God is kind … God is patient … God is never jealous … God is never boastful … God is never proud … God is not rude … God isn’t selfish … God is not quick tempered … God doesn’t keep a record of wrongs … God rejoices in the truth … God never rejoices in evil … God is always supportive … God is always loyal … God is hopeful … God is trusting … God never fails
Now go back beside each trait of God (love) and write a brief statement about how it relates to leadership.
Are you ready to become a serious imitator of God’s leadership? What intentional things will you do to become a closer imitator of God?
My book Imitating My Father’s Leadershipcan be ordered from the Amazon tab on this site.
I am sure you have noticed it! In today’s rapid changing world there is an authentic leadership crisis, as well as a leadership crisis in the church. It is on a scale never experienced before. Back in 2007, Lee Iacocca titled his best selling book with a question: Where Have All The Leaders Gone? Six years later (2013) the question becomes even more relevant. Where have all the church leaders gone? Where will be find authentic leaders?
The leadership crisis has created the “warm body” approach to selecting and appointing leaders. “We must be flexible” is the new theme for selecting leaders; sadly, even in some congregations. The results of the “just anybody can lead” approach is creating holes in the old ship of Zion as she tries to maneuver through the rough waters of a lost world. The crew is jumping from the battle ship to the cruise, leadership is jumping too.
Names of once thriving local congregations are being added to the list of the twenty-four churches we read about in the New Testament that no longer exist. If those first century churches which were established by the Apostles and leaders they trained ceased to exist, how do we think we can survive locally without authentic biblical leadership? We cannot! Jesus could have made the selection of leaders easier than He did. He could have selected men for His leadership team, gave them a pep talk, conducted a short course in leadership fundamentals, prepared them a manual with rules and guidelines, and sent them on their way; hoping they would succeed with their assignments. But He didn’t.
Jesus knew that spiritual servant leaders, which is what God wants, aren’t selected via the “warm body” or “who will volunteer” approach. The Master hand picked twelve men, men who from all outward appearance, didn’t possess leadership potential to become part of a world changing movement. They would be more of a hindrance than an asset, if viewed from the world’s standard. Jesus trained His leadership team for approximately three years; then the Holy Spirit came and continued their training.
What do I mean by AUTHENTIC?
The word AUTHENTIC is defined by the dictionary as: 1. Not false or copied, genuine and original, as opposed to something that is a fake or reproduction 2. Trustworthy, shown to be true and trustworthy 3. Legally valid because of necessary procedures that have been followed correctly. It is easy to see that church leadership must have certain characteristics before it qualifies as authentic biblical leadership. A reading of Matthew 23 will remind us of how the Pharisees failed to qualify as authentic biblical leaders. Jesus called them blind leaders of the blind (Matthew 15:12, 13).
Characteristics of Authentic Biblical Leaders
Jesus affirmed that a valid litmus test for determining genuiness is “fruit bearing”: By their fruit you shall know them. Since leadership functions through influence, this means that a leader’s authenticity is confirmed by what he SAYS and what HE does; with what he DOES being the most powerful part of his influence As a church leader, leading by the book, he seeks to inspire, equip, and mobilize God’s people to fulfill the mission given by Christ (cf. Mark 16:15, 16). He is an out front dreamer with God’s marching orders burning in his heart (Jeremiah 20:8,9). In support of his leadership position by the Book, the church leader will also exemplify the following characteristics (fruits) that confirm that he is an authentic biblical leader:
1. The Bible will be his first and foremost guide in determining his leadership principles and practices (cf. 2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). 2. The authentic biblical leader will develop and practice a biblical thinking agenda (Philippians 4:6-9; Jeremiah 6:19; Mark 7:21-25). 3. An authentic biblical leader will have the attitude and disposition of Christ (Philippians 2:4- 9). 4. The authentic biblical leader will be a servant of others (John 13:1-12). 5. The authentic biblical leader will always speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). 6. An authentic biblical leader will pursue the work of equipping the church for ministry (Ephesians 4;11-16). 7. An authentic biblical leader will be well trained, and a trainer of others (2 Timothy 2:1-3). 8. An authentic biblical leader will meet the qualifications prescribed in the Bible for his place in leadership (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Acts 6:1-9). 9. An authentic biblical leader walks by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 4:7). 10. An authentic biblical leader has as his primary mission in leadership the glorifying of God (Ephesians 3:21). 11. The authentic biblical leader is committed to the eternal and global vision God has for the church (cf. Isaiah 2:2-4; Matthew 28:18-20). 12. The authentic biblical leader is courageous and fearless (Acts 4:11-13; 2 Timothy 1:7). 13. The authentic biblical leader is a lover and doer of the truth (Proverbs 23:23; John 8:32; Matthew 4:1-4). 14. The authentic biblical leader is not reluctant to change (e.g. The Apostles changed from Law to grace, etc.). 15. The authentic biblical leader is sold-out to Christ and carrying a cross (Matthew 16:24). 16. The authentic biblical leader believes in the power of the Gospel to save lost mankind, as well as to keep the Christian saved (Romans 1;14-16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-6). 17. The authentic biblical leader is prepared to defend the truth (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3). 18. The authentic biblical leader works to maintain unity in the church (Ephesians 4:1-7; Psalm 133). 19. An authentic biblical leader seeks to do good unto all men (Galatians 6:10; James 1:27). 20. An authentic biblical leader is an imitator of God (Ephesians 5:1). 21. An authentic biblical leader is a teacher of others (Hebrews 5:12; James 3:1-3).
There are additional characteristics of an authentic biblical leader. These 21 should serve as door openers to dig deeper into the subject. While it is true that there are no perfect leaders, it is also true that we must not settle for mediocrity or “warm body” leadership in the church. We must accept the challenge, and to accept the US Army’s slogan to be all that we can be. We must intentionally strive to be the authentic biblical leader God desires.
A positive leadership awareness practice would be to go back over these 21 characteristics and rate yourself. Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being not at all and 5 being excellent. Authentic biblical leaders aren’t afraid to honestly rate themselves. How about you?
You can read more about this subject in my book Imitating My Father’s Leadership, by going to the Amazon.com icon on my website.
Every person or committee given the job of selecting potential leaders comes to the task with an agenda; a specific set of beliefs about leadership. There is usually a list of qualifications and a clear job description, plus other essential leadership qualities. Leadership is too serious to be left to chance.
I have seen job descriptions for selecting preachers that neither Jesus, Paul nor Timothy could qualify as candidates; neither could prophets like Jeremiah, Amos or Jonah measure up the standards dreamed up by persons or committees given the job of selecting leaders.
The church in many places has fallen into the trap of using standards for selecting leaders that aren’t Bible based or in harmony with the tenor of Scripture. And few are trying to follow the example of Christ in selecting and training leaders.
In my opinion Jesus was the greatest leader ever to walk on the earth created by His Father. We have no record of Him having completed a leadership training course; yet, He not only was a great leader but a great trainer of leaders. He and His leadership team changed the course of history for time and eternity.
A casual reading of the Gospels reveals His leadership training techniques. He was a teacher come from God (John 3:1-3), which obviously gave Him an advantage no other leader had ever had, or has had since. Here is a brief listing of some of His methods in selecting and training leaders for a global mission:
1. He obviously knew He needed a leadership team; even as the Son of God He knew He could not do the work alone. 2. He knew what a leader needed in order to be effective and trainable for a global mission. He was concerned not so much with proven skills as with potential. 3. He selected men many would have overlooked as candidates for change agents in a worldwide movement. 4. Jesus went to where the men were engaged in work. He never approached a lazy or idle man to be on His leadership team (Mark 1:16). 5. He issued potential followers a personal invitation; He didn’t work through an agency or committee recommendation list (Mark 1:17). 6. Jesus made the followers a clear promise: “I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). There was no doubt on the part of those who followed: they were going to have to change. 7. Jesus taught and trained His men chosen for leadership, not in a classroom or out of a manual; He trained them via the “discipling” process. He was continually with them and educated them out of a personal relationship. 8. Jesus’ training method included the following qualities:
a. He demonstrated His love for them in word and deed. b. He treated them as friends. c. He obviously trusted them. d. He took them into His confidence. e. He opened His heart and soul to them. f. He accepted their weaknesses. g. He let them “rebuke” Him. h. He challenged their thinking with parables. i. He demonstrated ministry to them by the way He lived and served others. j. He taught them numerous vital lessons. k. He sent them on trial runs to practice what they had been taught by word and example. l. Jesus practiced what He taught others to do. m. He taught them how to pray. n. He told them about the cross and suffering. o. He served them—He washed their feet. p. He taught them about the “secrets of the Kingdom of heaven.” q. He inspired them with heaven and warned them about hell. r. He warned them about false teachers and even called some by name: scribes and Pharisees. s. He asked them many questions on a variety of subjects. t. He promised them hard times, suffering and even death if they followed Him. u. He allowed them to fail—loved them anyway. v. He assured them of success in the Father’s eyes. w. He taught them in order to be great you had to serve one another. x. He died for them (and all people). y. He gave them a global mission. z. He promised to be with them forever.
aa. He sent them out in pairs. bb. He delegated authority to them. cc. He taught them about the importance of the church. dd. He taught them the importance of stewardship and handling money. ee. He taught them to deny self. ff. He taught them the urgency of the harvest. gg. He taught them, as He was doing, to do the Father’s will.
What do we learn from this brief review of some of the methods Jesus used to train His leadership team? How can we apply them today? What are some of the challenges presented by Jesus’ method of training leaders?
I’m a leader in God’s army Walking in the King’s way I’m a leader in God’s army Armed for the fight today. I’m a leader in God’s army Following God’s battle plan I’m marching forward by faith The victory is in my hands. I’m a leader in God’s army I didn’t volunteer to play We’re in an eternal struggle I have taken my stand today. I’m a leader in God’s army And will be ‘til I die I’ll fight the fight of faith ‘Til I’m safe in my home on high. I’m a leader in God’s army So come and follow me At the end of the battle “The best is yet to be.”
DEDICATED to the boys in the Future Leaders Training Camp, 2010 McDonough church of Christ & World Bible Institute 400 Lake Dow Road, McDonough, GA 30252