Pick up any secular news periodical and there will likely be an article somewhere about a crisis in leadership. Everyone is looking for a leader, someone to lead the way out of the world-wide economic and social morass of the times. Each new political messiah who arises on the world-stage is hailed with breathless expectation as the one who will become the means of leading us out of the problems into which we have been led.
We may read such articles and find some inner satisfaction that prophecy is being fulfilled as men are primed to receive Satan’s final answer, a consummate political leader whom the world will hail, and then worship, as its savior. There is no question that such a man is coming; there is no question that such a man will be welcomed and worshiped.
But before we become comfortable with this paradigm, we need to ask ourselves about leadership in God’s assembly. Sobering questions must be faced. If I am in the position of leadership, am I functioning as God intended? Is it my definition of leadership, or is it the Biblical one given by God? If I am a believer in God’s assembly, is God raising up leaders? Am I praying to that end? Do I support and give vital feedback to the current leaders?
The Character of Leadership
Are leaders born or are they made? Can leadership be a learned skill, developed in the presence of God through the school of God? Does leadership in the secular realm qualify a man for leadership in God’s assembly? Is there a difference between managing and leading? Someone has said that some companies are over-managed and under-led.
Each of us knows that the essential ingredient in leadership is serving others (Luke 22:25-27). But to limit leadership, or perhaps better, to circumscribe it, to serving others misses a vital and critical point. If Biblical leaders are examined – and it is the intent of this series to look at them – there was always one additional element which controlled their service. Each leader was marked by vision. The vision they had for the people of God, or for the tasks given them, determined, in turn, how they served. To serve without vision leads to simply serving as a paramedic who responds to emergencies and need. Vision adds to the activity of the leader so that all he does, all his serving of the assembly, is done with a goal in view. This results in not only being “reactive” to situations, but “proactive” in light of the goals for the individual believer and for the assembly as a whole.
Essential, as well, to leadership is the trust of those being led (1 Thess 5:12, 13). In the wisdom of God, only men of experience who have moved before the flock and have its confidence are given this tremendous responsibility (1 Tim 3:1-7). To abuse the position of a leader is to cancel trust and render one’s usefulness virtually null. A dictator cannot effectively lead God’s people; it does not work! A dictatorship might produce conformity; but it will not produce spirituality and trust.
The Challenges of Leadership
Each generation of leaders has probably felt that no previous generation has faced the problems and issues which confront it. This generation is no different. No doubt, if we are left to carry on testimony for another generation, the problems will worsen and the future leaders will wish they were back in “the good old days” when problems were easier to solve.
A changing society, a rapidly evolving technology, increasing materialism, difficulty in gospel work, the moral climate of the day – these and a myriad of other problems have arisen to challenge the wisdom of leaders today. As ever, the ultimate resource and guide is the Word of God. How wonderful that we are given principles which transcend any given societal time; on the other hand, how horrible that it takes spiritual insight to apply them to present-day issues! Most of us would prefer a rule book. God has given us a guide book. If we find it taxing to discover and apply these principles to present-day issues, is it because we are spiritually lazy and have not had our senses exercised to discern truth which would preserve us (Heb 5:13).
Leaders in God’s assembly today are facing challenges from both within and without. An anti-authoritarian spirit which pervades society has invaded many assemblies. The knee-jerk response to this is often to default to a dictatorial position. Polarization and disaster soon follow. Questions as to the usage of Elizabethan pronouns, the King James Version only, and demands on uniformity of attire surface in many areas. These cannot be ignored or repudiated with one-line fiats without engendering distancing and disengagement. Does this mean that leaders capitulate to the will of the masses? Is every issue in the assembly negotiable? Aren’t leaders supposed to “lead?”
The intent of this series is not to answer these issues. It is rather to look at men in the Word of God whom God raised up as leaders in different times. The series will highlight one feature which marked each of them. In reality, many of them shared similar qualities; but only one will be underlined from each life. Along with the lessons learned from each leader, there are some corollary lessons which need to be stressed at the outset:
God is in the business of providing leaders to His people when they are willing to receive them. Leadership styles vary; there is no “one way” to lead.
Leadership is not a popularity contest. This does not negate the need to develop trust; it only reminds us that leaders are often criticized and vilified at first.
Leadership can be – in fact, must be – learned. Leaders are born – but that birth is spiritual. They must be taught the needed skills in the school of God.
Some of the men at whom we will look include:
• Moses and Capability
• Joshua and his Confirmation
• Joseph and Character
• Samuel and Consistency
• Gideon and Communication
• David and Consecration
• Nehemiah and Commitment
• Paul and Conviction
• Timothy and Courage
• Titus and Capability