True Leadership

41rL8RjBOxLI’ve been reading a really helpful little book by Matt Garvin called ‘6 Radical Decisions: How followers of Christ change the world through Kingdom Cells‘ (available as a paper book from Fusion Canada here, and as an ebook from Amazon here). It’s one of those books that needs to be read and pondered over and over again, because it’s full of little nuggets that need unpacking and thinking through in the context of daily life. I’m not finished my first read yet, but I’m about 80% of the way through, and I know I’ll be coming back to it in a few weeks.

This afternoon I was reading a chapter about leadership. Leadership is a buzz word in the contemporary world, especially in the evangelical church. There are those who will say that if you’re a pastor you can’t be a leader, and if you’re a leader you can’t be a pastor. Pastors, we’re told, spend their time building relationships and responding to the needs of people; leaders, in contrast, tend to be less sensitive individuals who don’t mind being disliked, and that’s important because their role is to be the visionaries who discern where God wants a group of people to go, and then to lead them in that direction, ignoring the complaints and criticisms of those who don’t agree with them (I exaggerate, of course, but you get the point!).

I’m refreshed and relieved beyond words to discover that Matt Garvin doesn’t believe that. I love this little section:

The Bible does indicate that leadership is a spiritual gift, and there has been a lot written and taught about the importance of leadership. The truth is, though, that leadership is quite simple. There are two things necessary: knowing where you are going, and loving people. One of the dangers in the intense focus on leadership in our modern culture is that we raise a whole lot of people who want to be leaders but don’t know where they are going and don’t love people (emphasis mine).

I think that is exactly right. Most of the time when I have consciously tried to be a leader, I have not succeeded. The times when I have been most effective as a leader have been the times when I have not been trying to lead. I have, however, had a very clear idea in my head of what my ideal is: a community of people who love Jesus and are committed to follow him, who meet together regularly to learn and encourage each other and pray together, who put Jesus first rather than their own ambitions and comfort and wealth, who make a difference in the world around them and who are not afraid to share their faith with others and join in the work of making new disciples for Jesus.

That’s my ideal, and it hasn’t really changed very much over the years I’ve been in pastoral ministry. Just having the ideal, however, isn’t going to do very much if all I do is sit in front of a laptop and struggle to find new ways to express it. I have to embody the ideal by actually loving people. As I make time to build relationships, listen to people, walk beside them in their struggles, and do what I can to be a blessing to them, then they will see that my ideal makes sense, that it works in practice, and they may be motivated to join me in working towards this vision of what Christ could do among us.

In other words, as someone once said, ‘People don’t care what you know until they know that you care’!

And, of course, this means that being a good pastor and a good leader go hand in hand. It may be possible to be a good pastor without being a good leader, but it is very, very difficult to be a good leader without being a good pastor, because love is the centre of the Christian life.

What do you think?

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