Christian leaders have to function in a number of areas, and different leaders will perform better in some areas than others. Leaders should appraise their own strengths and weaknesses, not hesitating to get help in their weak areas when possible. At the same time, all leaders need to be ready in principle to perform in all of these areas on occasion.
Biblical leadership includes provision. David says, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." (Ps. 23:1) Leaders are responsible to see that those in their charge are able to access provision for their spiritual and personal well-being and development. Note this does not mean leaders must provide all nourishment themselves, though they will naturally provide much of it. Followers are responsible to go and take available provision for themselves provided leaders have shown them where and how to take advantage of a given resource. Here analogies like that used by Paul in 1 Thes. 2, (of a mother nursing her baby) break down. Paul was primarily pointing to his feeling of love for the Thessalonians, not how dependent they should be. Part of equipping young Christians is teaching them how to go feed themselves.
- What are the main areas of provision for which Christian leaders should prepare?
- What are the main background competencies needed by leaders in order to deliver in this area?
Biblical leadership includes protection from danger. David says "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for you are with me." (Ps. 23:4) Shepherds are useful for protecting their flocks from wolves. While we are never called to eliminate all dangers from the church, a well-led church is a generally secure place to grow, compared to the world. Leaders should strive to see that the church or ministry is relatively free of wild doctrinal aberrations, dangerous, menacing people, or disruptions that make body life impossible. Leaders must weigh how much freedom to leave and how much control to exercise. After all, young Christians need exposure to a wide range of viewpoints as well as problematic people and situations. This is real life! But if dangers within or from outside the church begin to threaten their well-being, leaders should act to protect. People sometimes even need to be protected from the damage they may do to themselves. Protection could involve practicing church discipline, personal counseling, or other kinds of oversight.
- Name some typical dangers from which leaders may seek to protect their groups.
- Name some specific situations that would suggest limitations to the idea of protection.
- What are the background competencies needed by protecting leaders?
Biblical leadership includes direction. David says, "He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters... He guides me in the paths of righteousness." (Ps. 23:2,3) The world assumes people will automatically know the best direction based on following their feelings. God rejects this idea, and instead advances the idea of leadership and authority. In his view, we often need outside direction on which way to go. Aside from what believers can learn directly from God's word, or what they hear from his inner promptings, believers may at times need the wisdom of fellow Christians. While any Christian may be used to give direction to another, godly leaders are particularly responsible for the direction of the church, and are often called on to give direction to members. Certainly, a group or ministry needs leaders to suggest, or even at times to insist, on a particular direction in the operation of that ministry. Again, directing does not suggest that followers cannot or should not develop their own ability to apply truth to their lives in a wise way. Therefore, the godly leader will at times withhold her counsel and call on members to decide for themselves. Only when people go wrong some of the time will they develop the wisdom to avoid wrong in the future. Therefore, no leader should seek to direct every aspect of a given ministry, let alone the lives of those involved.
- Give some examples of issues where strong direction may be needed from leaders.
- Name some situations where a leader might want to refrain from directing.
- What background competencies would enable a leader to be a good director?
David says, "Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me." (Ps. 23:4) The rod and staff were used to poke and swat sheep so they keep moving in the right direction, so the analogy breaks down a bit. People are far more advanced than sheep, and require more sophisticated forms of motivation. But we see repeated examples in the Bible of leaders awakening motivation in their people. Often, God sends leaders to impart vision to his people, and to bestow the gift of motivation. Note that motivating people is completely different from the idea of issuing imperatives, or instructions. While these may be appropriate at times, here we refer to leaders behaving in such a way that others feel a sense of excitement or need to act in a certain direction. Effective leaders are able to agitate and excite people who were formerly dull, listless, apathetic and bored. Leaders can develop and impart a vision of godly living and accomplishment that people adopt as their own. After people act, good leaders know how to encourage more of the same through positive words.
- How do leaders get the ability to excite others about serving God?
- Think of a leader who has excited you. What was it about him or her that made you feel motivated?
- Some leaders are able to excite, but it doesn't last. With others, their followings have continued to eagerly follow God over the years. What is the difference?