Wrestling with Leadership

I am reading Barna’s newest book, Master Leaders because I wrestle with being a leader.  What I mean is that I really struggle with what it means to be a leader, a good leader who serves the Lord well.  I struggle with my own belief that leadership necessitates charisma, being a great motivational speaker and somehow magically being able to get others to go where you want them to go – all of which I know I am lacking or unable to do.  I struggle with believing that leadership is militaristic – top down and positional, and since I am a pastor of a church, people should follow me by default.  In short, I am a mess in terms of leadership.  I know it and I pray for God to guide me and lead me, change me and conform me, even that he would give me the spiritual gift of leadership.  I am reading about leadership because I am truly in need of help, and while I understand Jesus’ ideas of servant leadership, I don’t know what that practically looks like since I have never served under a servant leader.


After reading the first chapter, hear is what I have gleaned:

Leaders are champions of values who model those values thereby motivating, mobilizing, resourcing and directing people towards a shared vision which everyone pursues with great passion.  Leaders are able to get different personalities and values to agree on what is truly important, in order to move forward.  Leaders help people realize what they have been longing for in life and amplify that longing back to the crowd so that individuals can achieve what they didn’t think possible.  Leaders constantly share vision and mission and they might not be liked.

There is alot in this composite definition from the 30 interviews Barna conducted.  On the surface this is a great and wonderful definition for it helps me to recognize some of my struggles.  The first one jumps right off the page at me.  It is the ability to get different personalities to agree on what is truly important.  I don’t know how to do this; I am unsure how to create consensus, and that hinders the second half – getting everyone to move forward.

Furthermore, I struggle with some of the terminology – motivating, mobilizing, resourcing.  While according to my condensed definition above, motivation comes out of living the life of integrity, I don’t know how to communicate that into words. It is one thing to live a life of integrity and quite another to speak words that encourage and motivate others to do the same.

The one hope I have from the above definition is that leaders share vision and might not be liked.  I have been able to do these two, even if I am not doing the others, or even understanding them. I know what it is to share a vision and not to be liked (I say that tongue in cheek.)  I believe that my main struggle is learning to listen to everyone and not to dismiss but to actually hear their underlying concerns and values so that I can understand their position.  For then I might be able to learn how to build consensus.  This is one area I could truly use your prayers.

The first chapter also deals with defining “success.”,There are a variety definitions proposed.  I love how Erwin McManus defines success as being able to

“go to bed at night and know that based on who you are and who God has made you to be, you’ve contributed the greatest good that you can for the good of others.” (pg. 17)  

In short this means being faithful to God, allowing him to be glorified through you and thereby pleasing God in everything you do.  This takes success out of the realm of worldly accomplishment and measurable standards, most of which we can’t achieve, or even when we do achieve we find to be fleeting and passing.

Rather, success is the ability to have a clean conscience before God at the end of each day and ultimately at the end of one’s life.  This is freeing.  Given this statement, although I have made many mistakes during my first years in ministry, each night I have gone to bed with a clear conscience and so I am a success in the eyes of God.  Have I reached the pinnacle of the mount? Absolutely not. Do I have a long way to go? Certainly.  Might I have even been climbing the wrong mountains at times during this past few years? Probably, but I have done it with a clear conscience and it is only now in retrospect that I see.  And this new insight is part of success too, for tonight I will sleep knowing that I am on a new path, seeking to rely ever more on the guidance of the Lord.  Our ministry is not a failure.  It is a success.

Finally, here were two other great quotes from the book,
“con men talk people into pursuing goals at a greater level of commitment than they themselves have.”  – John Ashcroft
“Anyone can withstand adversity, but to test a man’s character give him power.”- Abraham Lincoln

All this reflection leads me to two questions:
1. What is your mission, passion and overriding value for life?  What are you championing?
2. How does your mission fit with the mission or your church?

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About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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