I could write about vision, or resilience, or creativity, or brilliant communication skills, but I won’t. At least not in this piece. Instead, here are three significant things that you might be tempted to overlook, or just take for granted.
I’m taking these from one of the three references in Hebrews 13 to the word ‘leader’. You can look them up, but two have to do with the Hebrews current (at the time the book was written) leaders and one with their previous leaders.
Here is what the writer says:
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
- Pay attention to the content of your message. The first leaders were basically defined as being the people who spoke the word of God to the Hebrews. If it it true that any leader’s message is important because of the way it shapes the values and direction of the organisation, a church leader’s message is vital. You are not simply tasked with presenting a compelling vision or articulating the top ten values of the group, you have the responsibility to communicate the mind of God to church. That is a very big responsibility.
- Pay attention to the character of your life. The Hebrews were invited to consider the outcome of their old leaders’ lives. How they had lived bore consideration. The concept of ‘authentic leadership’ has gained profile in recent decades. Writing in the aftermath of some of the business scandals from over a decade ago, Bill George appealed for ‘authentic leaders, people of the highest integrity… leaders who have a deep sense of purpose and are true to their core values.’ If this is true in the business world, how much more significant is it in the church?
- Pay attention to the quality of your faith. Do you live such a life of resilient trust in God that those who follow you could be encouraged to imitate your faith? Are you marked by a steady trust in God – like those characters in Hebrews 11 whose races have been run but who still bear eloquent testimony to the life of faith?
There is more to leadership than these three things. I’m not saying vision is unimportant (it is), or that you don’t need to learn about how to manage change (you should), or that you don’t need to worry about surviving or resolving conflict (it would be a good idea to learn how to do both of those things): but I’d venture to say that authentic church leadership cannot afford to be less than this.