Editorial: Proactive Leadership

Reactive leadership. It’s possible that you are in a local church where it’s been an issue for a long time. And if so, it becomes exponentially difficult to correct the cycle. The elders’ time is consumed with dealing with problems, whether relational, doctrinal or moral. Very little time and energy are left to think about (let alone plan for) the long-term health of the assembly. But crises don’t generally pile up under proactive leadership. And so as quickly as possible, reactive leadership needs to find a way to turn the corner and become proactive. With the Lord’s help, it is achievable.

What specifically does proactive leadership look like? For one, proactive leaders meet (Act 20:17-38), and not only when there are troubles to address and people to interview. A regularly planned and fully attended elders’ meeting (21:18 – “all the elders were present”) is a good place to start to foster proactive leadership. Prayer and Scripture reading help bring needed focus to an elders’ meeting and should be fervently practiced.

But it isn’t enough to simply meet, pray and read; proactive leaders plan. Anything we do well requires planning. When together, elders primarily discuss the spiritual needs of the flock and how best to address them, not simply how funds are to be used. Specific teaching can be organized as well as potential gospel outreach. Good planning also ensures there are opportunities for the use and development of spiritual gift in the assembly. All of this requires hard work. No wonder Paul refers to the elders’ “labor” more than once (1Th 5:12; 1Ti 5:17).

Elders can meet and plan, but then disperse and have no contact. Proactive leaders communicate.[1] And since we live in the age of instant messaging, we have no excuses for lack of communication. A quick text, email or call can quickly get everyone up to date or on the same page, making it possible to move together in leadership more effectively. Elders should not only communicate openly with one another but with the assembly, not leaving everyone in the dark about what’s being planned.

It is critical to realize that proactive leaders engage. As overseers are “given to hospitality” (1Ti 3:2), this assumes a certain level of engagement with the Lord’s people. It should go without saying that shepherds spend time with the sheep. Staying after meetings to talk and interact with assembly believers is a great opportunity to assess need and encourage. Going out for lunch or coffee just to chat may prove to be extremely valuable. The more you develop relationships with the believers under your care, the more freedom you will have to lead them.

We also learn from Paul that proactive leaders watch (Act 20:31; see also Heb 13:17). Just as shepherds are constantly alert to any danger which might threaten the sheep, so will overseers “watch over our souls.” A reactive leader acts when the harm has already arrived. The proactive leader watches to ensure such harm never comes.

Assembly leadership is likely the greatest need of our day, and so we have devoted this entire issue to the topic. May the Lord use these articles to encourage, strengthen and even raise up godly proactive assembly leaders.

[1] Note the role elders played at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 and the letter that was circulated, clearly communicating the decision.