1 Tim 4:11-14 Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
The important thing to remember in leadership is that leaders are heading somewhere. You may be the point person (primary leader) or one of the leaders within a team, but you are going somewhere and responsible to encourage, motivate and equip followers to participate in the journey.
One major mistake leaders make is to think that it is all about their giftedness rather than about the goal or mission. We think, “I am a leader so people should follow me”. Rather than, “I am going somewhere and those who follow will need support”.
Rather than trying to gather a following or being appointed to a position, leaders are concerned with leadership issues such as: “Where am I going? Do I have a destiny and purpose? Am I part of a visionary team?” “As I pursue that dream others will follow. Am I a person worth following?” “Followers will need help. How can I honour those who choose to follow?”
In the passage above Paul reminds Timothy that his task as a leader is to keep the main thing the main thing. That is: command and teach THESE things, the things concerning the mission and purpose. In short, do not forget where you are going. Don’t be consumed by side issues, get on with the mission and focus on those who are following. (Leaders are not politicians aiming to please everyone. They quickly pass over those who endeavour to hinder the work. )
Three essentials for leadership are noted in this passage in order of priority. Firstly, an exemplar life surrendered to the reign of Jesus Christ as evidenced in speech, life, love, faith and purity. The second in priority is a devotion to the mission of the Kingdom and finally the imparted gift recognised and released through apostolic impartation.
These three things could be understood this way: if a man or woman has a passion to be like Jesus and willingly surrenders to His reign in their life; if he or she passionately wants Jesus’ mission to be fulfilled and is sold out as a servant of the kingdom; then Jesus himself will impart specific spiritual gifting and give them as a gift to a particular house or houses; Jesus will direct that persons apostolic covering to recognise and release him or her for servant leadership.
In this paper I want to deal with the matters of character and belief. That is, the evidence of surrender to the reign of Christ through an ordered life that is confirmed through the personal leadership of self and family. And the associated matter of leading through sound biblical doctrine.
Be an example: Character
A large number of issues concerning leadership arise in any church or organisation, but what is more important than the issues is the character of leaders. Leaders are FIRSTLY examples; examples in speech; in how they live; in demonstrated biblical love (not the insipid politically correct type of western love, but a love that willingly engages others and challenges excellence); faith in God, people and possibilities; and in purity.
It is amazing to me the number of people that will follow self-proclaimed leaders who lack demonstrable character. We live in a world that thinks any character will do so long as they get the job done. What this age fails to realise is that integrity of character establishes the validity and the foundation of any work.
Character is not to be confused with a quiet personality. If a person “seems” nice that does not make him/her a person of character. No Old Testament prophet could be described as “nice”. Yet all were men of character and integrity. Leaders are people with personalities that are varied. The Myers/Briggs Personality Type identifies 16 different personality types consisting of 8 natural preferences that are dichotomous in nature. That means they are opposites and as such can produce conflict between types. Western society favours some types and discriminates against others. For example; an extravert is energised by people but an introvert’s energy levels are drained in crowds. So, on a Sunday morning an extraverted leader who happily “works the room” is seen as a “nice” person while an introverted leader who seeks solitude after a period of ministry is “aloof” or “uncaring” etc. In fact, either could lack character or be strong in character despite their personality preference. Personality is not character and the renewed mind must discern between them.
Leadership begins with a life demonstrably rooted in Christ. The leader is then called to the process of doctrine. Many feel they have something to say but their life is not an example of godliness. Despite clear biblical evidence, churches and church leaders ignore the criteria for leadership. Paul makes it very clear to Timothy that a man who is unable to lead his house is unable to lead in the church (1Tim 3:4,5). All of the stated criteria for leadership deal with character and family with one exception, the skill of teaching.
If you are a leader or a future leader your life example is the first evidence of your ability to lead in God’s house. The reason for this is that your life is the evidence of your spirituality. Leadership is being in a place of spiritual covering. If a person’s covering does not influence the home and family then it is non-existent.
The western church, strongly influenced by a non-spiritual society, regularly fails to see the link between the spiritual conflict and the natural world. Failure in the home is as much to do with spirituality as it is to do with natural skills. Good parenting with a lack of spiritual authority can still result in a spiritually disordered household.
Similarly, failure in character represents a lack of spirituality. If ones life is not in order, they have no ability to order the house of God. You may have a natural charisma to lead, but that is not the qualification in the House.
Spiritual covering in the house is essential for the protection of the flock. Leaders do not have the luxury of dealing with God’s house on a natural level. They must govern the house with spiritual insight. A house that appears orderly but has a people powerless to live Christ-like is a house of disorder.
An exemplar life is the outward expression of submission to God in Christ Jesus through the power of the Spirit. Only this life has the authority of Jesus to rule in God’s house.
If you are in a position to appoint leaders, take extreme care. Do not look for leaders according to the flesh but the spirit. I believe we take to lightly the requirements for leadership and appoint talented men and women rather than spiritual men and women to leadership.
Be Devoted to Scripture, preaching and teaching: Belief
The area of belief or doctrine is subservient to lives that evidence the indwelling Christ. This is because a life that does not evidence surrender to the Kingdom of God is still in servitude to the satanic kingdom. That kingdom is one built on lies. The foundations of the kingdom of darkness are slander (gk: diablous – questioning a leaders character as Satan slandered God in the garden), rebellion – disobedience to God, and deception or lies.
When a person serves the darkness in any area of life that darkness produces deception. For example, an associated problem that occurs when leaders fall morally is that of doctrinal error. I have experienced first hand the deceptive workings of ministers trying to justify their sin before man and God. Long term immorality has led to serious error being preached and taught in churches.
Put simply, those who walk in the light will see, those who walk in darkness – or any variations thereof – will not see clearly. A leader whose life and house is not in order is a person unable to discern spiritual things and thus has no capacity to protect the flock from spiritual attack.
Romans 12:1,2 makes this point clear,
1. Live exemplar lives that honour God:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.
2. Live in conformity (surrender) to Kingdom patterns:
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
3. Then you will have insight into the things of God’s Kingdom
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Paul says that we are not in conflict with natural things but with spiritual darkness (Eph 6:12). Leaders with areas not surrendered to God are dupes of the enemy. Their belief system becomes unsound no matter how “reasonable” it seems. A life surrendered to God’s Kingdom is a mind open to renewal.
A life surrendered to God is the first step to knowing His will and His ways. It is the only way to come to “know God”. Salvation is entry into God’s Kingdom but “knowing God” is the result of a surrendered life.
As an apostle I know that a person’s doctrine will develop as they submit to God’s entire rule in life. I can work with their doctrinal differences if I see a life that evidences surrender to God. A person’s doctrine can be adjusted and developed if their character is right. A person with good doctrine but inadequate character or personal leadership is of little value as a leader because they have little or no spiritual authority. And leaders, as the spiritual covering for the flock over which Jesus has appointed them, must contend with deeply spiritual matters.
The preaching and teaching of the Kingdom of God emphasises the rule and reign of Jesus as He brings all things into subjection to Himself (1Cor 15:25). Any gospel that fails to be rooted in the Kingdom of God is to be avoided as unhelpful. For it is only in the preaching of the Kingdom that deliverance can be encountered, darkness expelled and Jesus return ushered in (Matt 24:9-14 Note this gospel is surrounded by persecution, death, falling away, betrayal, deceit, increased wickedness, and a standing firm to the end. (Definitely a gospel that contradicts much of the ticket-on-the-bus-ride-to-heaven philosophy).
Only a surrendered life can grasp the power of this gospel and courageously proclaim it to a society whose worldview is existential and hedonistic.
The Leadership Call: Are you equal to the task?
It is not in the area of ability but spirituality that true leadership stands.
1Tim 4:15, 16 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. NIV
Surrender wholly to these matters so that your progress can be recognised by those within the house. Watch your life AND your doctrine for your salvation and that of your followers rest upon this (cf Phil 2:12).
Leaders are the spiritual covering Jesus places over his house (Act 20:28; 1Pt 5:2). They are accountable to God for the souls of those within the house (Heb 13:17). Leaders have no right to deal with people on a natural level but a spiritual one, identifying the clash within the house between God’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom. Only a surrendered life and a complimentary belief system will ensure success in this high spiritual calling.
2 Cor 2:14-16 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? NIV