A couple of weeks ago, I was ear-wigging on a conversation about an upcoming leadership role within a big church organisation.
‘They should have this background or that experience; they must have this qualification or that competency, along with a firm grasp of X, Y and Z’ came the people’s replies….
All suggestions were carefully recorded and many of them were very good.
One of the few woman in the group chipped in….
’I think we should be looking for a person of godly character.’
‘But, that will leave us in danger of appointing someone who is just too nice.’ said one of the men and the woman’s comment was swiftly ignored.
Well, the woman had been silly to suggest it. Of course, someone nice would never work out in that role! It was a role that would require someone prepared to ruffle a few feathers from time to time; it would require someone with the courage to speak honestly and challenge where challenge is required; it would require someone willing to take the people of God right outside their comfort zones………………….and someone of godly character couldn’t do that, could they?
I mean, Jesus would never have ruffled any feathers or posed a threat to the status quo would he? He was just too nice….it was being so nice and inoffensive that led him to the cross, wasn’t it?
Godly character and being nice are not the same! How did we come to domestic our faith so much that being anything other than ‘nice’ might affect our polite sensibilities? In so doing, we have often rendered ourselves potentially incapable of leading anything more revolutionary than a jumble sale or a tea party!
When it comes to leadership, a person’s competencies determine what that person can do. Their commitment determines what they will seek to do and their character determines what they will do.
Of course we need people of character and, specifically, of godly character!
Maxwell states that ‘Leadership is not something you do, it’s something you are….being must precede doing….to achieve greater results you must be a person of great character.’ (The 21 Most Powerful Minutes In a Leaders Day, Page 99)
Amen Maxwell! I don’t always agree with you, but leadership character perhaps now matters more than ever! As society increasingly rejects authority based on position, the church needs to offer the highest form of authority…an authority that comes from the transforming power of God working in and through a person/s – a power that gives an integrity and authenticity to all a leader is and does.
Yes….of course, all leaders are flawed, but leaders must be committed to becoming more and more conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and dedicated to a much ‘higher calling’ than ‘people pleasing’ will ever be. That will be costly!
What about skills and competency? I am sure that when the Apostle Paul gave instructions to Paul and Titus to appoint of the basis of character, he was not suggesting that competence was unimportant! Indeed he almost certainly assumed that appointments would be made on the basis of a certain level of skill. So, of course skills and competency are necessary, but a commitment to Christ led character development is a far better predictor of potential spiritual leadership ability than skill level.
Whilst skilful leaders are highly desirable, competency without character will eventually be undermined. The price of appointing on the basis of skills or gifting or even experience rather than character will always be too great, particularly in Christian leadership.
Final thoughts: I could go on about the core of a leaders life being one of love and integrity….about how that foundation is the wellspring that gives rise to empathy; lack of blame; humility; emotional mastery; accountability, confidence in Christ and calling; courage to take risks and the focus on the whole picture, but I’ll save that for another time.
I could also talk more about the high cost of leadership and the fact that many leaders will need to go through periods of trial, testing, broken-ness and personal sacrifice before they really start to realise their God given potential, but again I’ll leave that for another posting.
Finally, I sincerely hope that the people upon who I was ear-wigging make the right appointment….a man or woman who will probably spend a lot of time on their knees before they even accept such an appointment and then, who if they sense themselves called, will make themselves utterly available for God to work in and through in whatever way he chooses!
Imagine the impact on the Church, society, the nations and the powers and principalities if Christian leaders and those who follow them submitted themselves to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in this way!
Ladies, gentlemen, boys and girls – we have a responsibility!
A New Year thought that I believe really matters…for me at least! Over the past year, I have heard a number of people say that they want to give their lives to achieve great and significant things for God. That’s probably very worthy. However, it could potentially smack of wanting to be promoted to a position of importance in the Kingdom of God. Surely, the greatest, most significant thing that any of us can do is to humble ourselves before the Lord, seeking to be totally available and obedient to Him. That will help to ensure that our desires are Christ centred, not ‘us centred.’
The Methodist Covenant Prayer reads:
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will,
Rank me with whom you will;
Put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you
Or laid aside for you, exalted for you
Or brought low for you;
Let me be full, let me be empty,
Let me have all things,
Let me have nothing;
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
To your pleasure and disposal.
And now glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
Certainly, we can be sure that when God is looking around for those to whom he can entrust leadership, he will be looking first and foremost for those who are both available and obedient.