Archives For Leadership

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of books on missions for a class I’m teaching. One insight just struck me as incredibly relevant to our Western society.

When a missionary plants a church oversees, he is often starting from scratch. As he shares the gospel, he begins to see lives transformed by the gospel. These new Christians have one spiritual advisor, counselor, and teacher in their midst: the missionary. Put yourself in his shoes. You spend years as the only one who teaches. You are a spiritual giant amongst baby Christians.

It makes sense that missionaries get accustomed to being the teacher, the one who feeds everyone else. It also makes sense that they have a hard time learning to relate to these new Christians as brothers and sisters, rather than as children. They get used to people needing them, but the concept of needing other people is foreign.

Here’s the tie in. I see this in a lot of American church leaders. Whether you’re on staff at a church, a Bible study leader, an evangelist, or you disciple people within your church, this tendency can be hard to avoid.

You fall into a teaching/leading role, and before long you’re used to being the one with the answers. You’re constantly preparing lessons, giving advice, and praying for people. You’re thankful that God is using you in people’s lives, and you’re honored that other people need you.

This is all fantastic. But be careful that you don’t get so accustomed to people needing you that you forget your need for them. Biblically, no Christian is isolated. No Christian is above the rest. No Christian is so spiritual that she has no need for other Christians. God certainly gives each of us unique gifts, and some of us will emerge as leaders. But every seasoned leader needs the body of Christ just as much as the baby Christian needs the body of Christ.

Don’t stop teaching and leading, but don’t imagine that your role as a teacher or leader exempts you from relying on the people around you. Be quick to learn from those who appear more immature. Relate to them in their weaknesses and don’t be afraid to share your own. Run your thoughts and concerns by those you disciple. Pray for them, and ask them to pray for you. Have them hold you accountable. Ask them what they’ve been learning and allow their insights to challenge and instruct you.

We should be terrified of seeming to be wise in our own eyes. As soon as we think we’ve got it all together, we can be sure that we don’t. So use every gift and every insight that God gives you to his glory. And remember that you are a part of the body of Christ, and that no part of the body—no matter how glamorous we think that particular body part is—can function apart from the rest of the body.

 

Every Christian college is familiar with the joke: “Ring by Spring or your money back!” But it’s probably more true than it is funny (the funny part is the thought that you could get your money back). Christian college students like finding their future spouses at Christian colleges.

Since I work with students at a Christian college, I have talked to a lot of guys and girls about who they want to marry. Here is what I’ve learned: Christian girls want to marry their youth pastors. Not their literal youth pastor, but someone just like him.

Christian women are taught that their ideal husband should be an extravert who has natural leadership skills, the gift of teaching, and a degree in Bible. In other words, a youth pastor. I have counseled a handful of distraught young women who felt guilty because they were attracted to (in some cases on the verge of being engaged to) awesome Christian guys who were introverts, weren’t cookie-cutter leadership types, and who had every spiritual gift except for teaching.

While there is nothing wrong with marrying a stereotypical youth pastor type of guy, there is also nothing in the Bible that says that this type of guy is automatically the best husband. Your view of husband/wife relationships probably plays into this a bit—if you’re complementarian you might be interested in more of a take-charge kind of guy, if you’re egalitarian you might not care as much. But regardless of your view on this issue, where does the Bible say that a husband has to be an extroverted teacher?

I think that this perception comes from our culture’s view of what a leader is. A leader is a C.E.O. He is decisive, charismatic, and well educated. He’s the life of the party.

Assuming you think the husband should be the leader in the relationship (I’m speaking to the complementarians because you egalitarians probably won’t need to be convinced on this point), we should ask what the biblical version of a leader is. Does a leader have a certain personality (charismatic, outgoing)? Or does a leader possess a certain character (loving, humble)? Does a leader assume command automatically, or does he lead through example and service?

Paul is clear that not every Christian has every spiritual gift. He asks rhetorically, “Are all teachers?” (1 Cor. 12:29). Of course not. So are only those gifted to be teachers—leaders in a certain sense—allowed to get married?

What I tell these distraught young women is that a godly man is not the same thing as a youth pastor. They should marry a godly man, but they don’t have to feel guilty about wanting to marry a godly man who has one personality and not another, one set of gifts and not another. We should be more concerned about our future spouse’s character than the stereotypes we’ve inherited.