How do we define a true leader? The best place to start is in God’s Word. In scripture there are dozens and dozens of great leaders. We are going to take a few examples and look at them in regards to our list of leadership qualities.
Let’s review that list of great leadership qualities again to be sure we are all on the same page. A leader is a man called by God, following God's Word, leading people, living an exemplary life, serving people, and seeking God through prayer.
One of the very first qualities of a leader, especially in the church, is that he is called by God. It seems fundamental, but most people miss this very first step. Doing things we are not called to do, means we do not have the instinctive passion. When we have a deep sense of calling, we can identify a true passion to lead. There are 10 things that are very true when we lead from our calling (Thanks Pastor Matt Fry for helping to develop this list!).....
Called: Leading from God’s purpose in your life
- When your called you won’t quit when things get tough!
- When you’re called you won’t give in during adversity….TRUE!
- When you lead from calling you won’t make excuses when ministry is slow!
- When you lead from calling, you won’t blame your team for lack of results!
- When you lead from calling, you will have passion from the inside, not outside. (NOTHNING pressures that calling!)
- When you lead from your calling, you won’t seek applause and acceptance from other men!
- When you lead from your calling, it’s about pleasing Jesus, not men. Galatians 1:10
- When you lead from your calling, you will honor and support other leaders. Hebrews 13:17
- When you lead from your calling, you will not wear a mask! You will be genuine and real. You will not shy away from being the person God created you to be. You will live in Integrity!
- When you lead from your calling, you will see the BIG PICTURE! Meaning you will see that church as a whole. It not about building your kingdom, but building His kingdom!
One of my favorite places in scripture, where God calls a man to lead, is in Jeremiah chapter 1. I love the words in verses 4-5....
Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,and before you were born I consecrated you;I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
There was no doubt that Jeremiah was called by God. He knew it, and God said it. This was key for him. Times got very rough for Jeremiah. But, even in the rough times, he was able to hold to the knowledge that he had been called by God. Sometimes, in leadership, having the knowledge that God has called you is the only thing that keeps us going. It can be our only encouragement. That is why it is imperative we as leaders recognize and know that God has called us. Otherwise we will jump ship when the going get tough.
The next greatest marker of a true leader is a man who follows God’s Word. We have some how devalued the power in God’s word. The Bible tells us that the scripture is “living and breathing”. It is useful for the transformation of our lives. When we recognize this power, then we can have reverence and respect for God’s Word.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 really lay out the importance of God’s word...
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
A true leader recognizes this truth, and honors it. He is aware of the need to make God’s Word central in his life. Paul has just told us in 2 Timothy that it is the Word of God that makes us competent and equipped. We need those very things in order to be effective leaders!
The Psalms tell us that God’s Word lights our path and keeps us from sin. Ephesians tells us that God’s Word is our sword for defense. God’s Word is powerful, and as leaders we need it.
True leaders lead! How many times do we miss this? Somehow we have become content with a title, and shirk the responsibility. Leading requires hard work, and hard work requires effort. We just seem to be lazy sometimes. People need a leader. They need someone to guide them. Without leadership, people move in chaotic patterns and accomplish nothing. Just imagine if you showed up at work each day and your boss said, “What do what you want for 8 hours?” You and I know nothing would get accomplished. Even more, as a parent, if I did not instruct my kids on how to perform simple duties, they would never acquire the necessary skills to survive in the real world.
This concept is even more true as it applies to churches. Without effective, courageous and hard working leadership, a church goes no where. Churches without leadership are consumed with petty arguments, and personal agendas. Churches without leadership have no unity. Leaders are called to build and foster unity. Leaders are called to cast a vision. When a leader recognizes his call, he can cast that vision for his people! When these things are absent, the people become discouraged and lose sight of their purpose to glorify God! Take into account the words in Proverbs 29:18....
Where there is no vision , the people perish
One of the greatest markers of a true leader is a man who leads an exemplary life. Far too often, leaders are not expected or required to lead lives worth imitating. They end up being just like everyone else. While we are all human, leaders are called to be more than just ordinary men.
Think about the people who inspire you the most, and the people you most want to imitate. These people have accomplished things, created things or written things that inspire you to follow them. Why do you read books, blogs or listen to albums? Most likely it is because you aspire to be like, learn from and achieve the same things as the people who created those works. Why is it that we have settled for less in our spiritual leaders? So what if they are eloquent, so what if they are exciting; what about their lives? Are they worth imitating?
Scripture tells us in Hebrews that we are to consider our leaders lives as something worth imitating. Do we? Or, have we settled for mediocrity? Many times we settle for mediocrity because it frees us from following a leader of higher standards. Men often chose other men to lead based on their failures, not their achievements. Why? Because it makes them fell better about themselves. This has created a laziness amongst leaders in which they do not have to uphold the higher standard. Often leaders teach one standard, and live by another. But, scripture teaches us to do differently. Paul stresses to Timothy the importance of making sure his creeds and his deeds match. In 1 Timothy 4:16 Paul says that by living this way we save ourselves and our followers!
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
One convenient aspect of true leadership we often neglect is the necessity to serve others. Leaders are not dictators! Leaders must be servants. As leaders we must be willing to do the things we ask our followers to do. This is the practical application of making sure our creeds and deeds match. When we ask people to align their lives to scripture, then we should align ours! When we ask people to act as Jesus’ hands and feet, then we should as well. The greatest leaders in history, and today, are hard workers. They are willing to do the very things they are teaching!
A great example of this was Nehemiah. When he was on task rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, he was working hard too. We see in Chapter 5 where scripture states that when his men were working, so was he!
We have to lead by example. As leaders, we do have privileges. Some of those privileges and bonuses have the potential for being great. But, if we abuse those, people lose respect for us. However, if we lead by example, people follow more freely! Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 9:19
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.
Finally, and most importantly, true leaders start with prayer. It is imperative that we recognize that God is in control. If He is the one who called us to lead, then we need to seek His guidance. We cannot accomplish the very things He has called us to without seeking what He wants us to do!
When Nehemiah was burdened and called to rebuild the wall, he immediately went to his knees! He ask God to provide for all of his needs. He asked God to prepare the world for his mission. He asked God to handle his struggles. He thanked God for calling him and using him. The real characteristic here is humility! We have to be humble and realize that God is in control, and not us! Without this humility we will surely fail. Pride comes before the fall, but humility builds a foundation.
Prayer is of utmost importance. Scripture tells us in Thessalonians we are told to “pray continually”. Philippians tells us to be anxious about nothing, but in everything offer thanksgiving to God through prayer. Ephesians tells us that we must always be praying so that we are alert and ready to persevere. We must be a praying people. Especially if we are going to lead.
Are you a leader who is called by God, following God's Word, leading people, living an exemplary life, serving people, and seeking God through prayer?