Perhaps here we should paraphrase John, suggesting that if every leadership principle available in the Gospels or in Acts were written down, the whole world might not have room for the books that would be written (John 21:25). But several principles stand out with piercing impact for today's church:

  • Leadership is servanthood. A servant is a person who submits her own will in order to please her master—and others—without any assurance of reward. Someone once asked Lorne Sanny how it is possible to know whether one functions as a servant. Sanny replied, "By the way you react when people treat you like one."
  • Leadership is stewardship. We need not do a detailed study of oikonomos to emphasize the concept of stewardship. In the dynamic parable of the faithful and wise manager, we can see that the manager is placed in charge of other servants not to give them their orders but to give them their food allowance. He holds an absolute responsibility for awareness of the master's will and carries out his tasks within the light of the master's return.
  • Leadership is shared power. Though current secular leadership literature talks a good bit about empowering others, traditionally worldly leadership centers on grasping, retaining, and using power. Such concepts run counter to the New Testament.

John Stott reminds us that, "Christian leaders serve not their own interests but rather the interests of others" (Phil. 2:4). This simple principle should deliver the leader from excessive individualism, extreme isolation, and self-centered empire building. Leadership teams, therefore, are healthier than solo leadership for several reasons (Stott 1985, 27).

The proper climate for leadership development emphasizes a decentralized institutional philosophy. Our goal is to push decision-making and authority as far down the ranks as possible, so that the people who live with actual implementation have a major voice in the decision.

  • Leadership is ministry. The emphasis on diakonia and the thrust of the gift of leadership in Romans 12:8 show us that if New Testament leadership means anything, it means serving other people. With meekness, the church leader involves himself or herself in concert with other believers to engage in ministry. The smog of selfishness and egoism lifts to make mutual ministry a biblical reality.
  • Leadership is modeling behavior. We've seen it clearly in the relationship between Paul and Timothy (1 Tim. 4:11-16; 2 Tim. 3:10-15). Lawrence Richards and Clyde Hoeldtke (1980, 115) sum it up well: "The spiritual leader who is a servant does not demand. He serves. In his service the spiritual leader sets an example for the body—an example that has compelling power to motivate heart change."
  • Leadership is membership in the Body. The leader must identify with all other members of the congregation. In Romans 12:4-5 Paul writes, "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." Belonging to the others, the Christian leader serves them in meekness.

Kenneth O. Gangel; Leadership Handbooks of Practical Theology, Volume 3, Leadership and Administration; "The Meaning of Leadership"; pp. 154-155. Used by permission of Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, copyright © 1994.

Building Church Leaders
This article is brought to you by Building Church Leaders, Leadership Journal's store for leadership training. Find training on topics such as Leaders & Staff, Congregation & Visitors, Vision & Goals, Children's Ministry, Women Leaders, and more.

Related Training Tools:

This month's Special Offers:

Read These Next
See All Leadership Training Articles
Featured Training Tool