Al Mohler on Believing + Leading
Right beliefs must be wed to effective leadership.

The evangelical Christian world is increasingly divided between two groups: the Believers and the Leaders.

The Believers are driven by deep and passionate beliefs. They are heavily invested in knowledge, and they are passionate about truth. They devote themselves to learning truth, teaching truth, and defending truth. They define themselves in terms of what they believe, and they are ready to give their lives for these beliefs.

The problem is, many of them are not ready to lead. They have never thought much about leadership and are afraid that thinking too much about it will turn them into mere pragmatists, which they know they shouldn't be. They know a great deal and believe a great deal, but they lack the basic equipment for leadership. As one proverbial deacon said of his pastor, "Oh, he knows a lot, but he can't lead a decent two-car funeral procession."

The Leaders, on the other hand, are passionate about leadership. They are tired of seeing organizations and movements die or decline, and they want to change things for the better. They look around and see dead and declining churches and lukewarm organizations. They are thrilled by the experience of leading and ardently study leadership wherever they can find it. They talk leadership wherever they go and are masters of motivation, vision, strategy, and execution.

Unfortunately, many of them are not sure what they believe or why it matters.

They are masters of change and organizational transformation, but they lack a center of gravity in truth. They often ride one program after another until they run out of steam. Then they wonder, What now?

I want to see the Believers turn into Leaders and the Leaders turn into Believers. The current models of leadership must make way for a new paradigm. I stake my life on the priority of right beliefs and convictions, and at the same time I want to lead so that those very beliefs are perpetuated in others. If our leaders are not passionately driven by the right beliefs, we are headed for disaster. At the same time, if believers cannot lead, we are headed nowhere.

We need to redefine Christian leadership so that it is inseparable from passionately held beliefs. We must motivate those who are deeply committed to truth to be ready for leadership.

I want to see a generation arise that is simultaneously leading with conviction and driven by the conviction to lead. The generation that accomplishes this will set the world on fire.

Albert Mohler is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. This excerpt is from his book, The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters (Bethany House, 2012).

November 02, 2012

Displaying 1–10 of 12 comments


November 12, 2012  12:02pm

Karen- Thanks for sharing your biblical insights here...very helpful! Glory to God! :)

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November 07, 2012  3:53pm

Spiritual gifts are not to peg you into one function. The leader gift is not merely to be the focal point of leading. This makes no sense. Then only the gifted giver does the giving and only the gifted encourager does the encouraging, etc. No, the gifted leader equips the rest to grow in leadership. The gifted giver equips the rest to grow in giving - and so on with all the other gifts. We are commanded to all function in all the areas of gifting, whether or not we are gifted in it at all. Is there a warning somewhere I have missed that says Make sure only the leaders lead and only the teachers teach? This warning is in seminary curriculum, not the Bible. Am I wrong in assuming that Al is speaking as a position/title driven, decision-making hogging, platform dominating oriented leader? If so, his concept of leadership is warped from the start. This is all so Biblically corrupt. It is saturated with traditions of men that nullify the commands of God. The household of faith needs to be purged of this sin if it is to move forward with God.

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November 06, 2012  1:14pm

Wayne, of course Scripture teaches that the members of the Body are differently gifted to enable them to serve it in various ways (all to the same end–the building up of the members of Christ's Body to maturity in Christ), but "leadership" in the sense of biblical eldership is a function of the person's whole life and character as it is rooted more and more deeply experientially in Christ in an exemplary way. Also in Scripture we see that it is not optional, but rather a requirement of the Presbyter/Bishop, that he be "able to teach," but the gift of "administration" (except in the sense of the responsible stewardship of his own household) is conspicuous by its absence from lists of qualifications for the Bishop/Presbyter. Similarly, the ability to teach is not required of those who "lead" in terms of administration and facilitation of others' gifts, or who steward the finances of a local congregation, for example. It seems to me many modern Christians (even in the Orthodox fold of which I am currently a member) keep trying to merge worldly understandings of pastoral leadership with that of the biblical (and I might add, and traditional Orthodox). I believe that this dilution of the biblical vision and focus will always frustrate real spiritual progress in a congregation or wider communion of Christians, though it may temporarily create the illusion of "success" from a worldly perspective.

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November 06, 2012  12:45pm

"perhaps the leaders should listen to the teachers more as advisers and correctors and the teachers should let the leaders lead, even when they don't take the teachers' advice." You do know that is what it's been like for the past 22 years, right? Leaders leading while ignoring advice...lots of empty buildings because of that...lots of split congregations because of that...lots of disunity because of else is there to do?

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Wayne Shockley

November 06, 2012  12:28pm

Scripture says that different people have different gifts. Leaders aren't necessarily gifted to be teachers and teachers aren't necessarily gifted to be leaders (personal experience here). Rather than trying to push people to do what they aren't good at, perhaps the leaders should listen to the teachers more as advisers and correctors and the teachers should let the leaders lead, even when they don't take the teachers' advice.

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November 05, 2012  9:06am

"The increasing polemics of the culture has infiltrated the church, so that love is no longer the identifying mark of those who follow Jesus." In the sense of a true spiritual "leader" in the full biblical sense, the bishop/presbyter as a "believer" who "rightly divides" the word of truth in the Scriptures is inseparably wedded in the same person with a leader/shepherd, who leads primarily by example and by a life lived deeply anchored experientially in Christ, and which is, consequently, characterized by deep humility and holy love. I'm afraid I agree with much of Sheer and Gary's observations here. We are continuing to buy into modern paradigms of thought ("believer" VS. "leader") that have no place in the NT. Doing the same old thing will get us the same old result.

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nate s.

November 05, 2012  6:54am

I think this view and definition of "Leadership" lends itself to what we've seen for far too long: worship of the church. If the church, The church, or The Church is our god, then our believers and our leaders will seek to serve, grow, please, and find purpose and meaning in it, and it alone. So, my question for Al is, how is leadership defined if there isn't a lukewarm organization or dying church? What if the organization model we use was never the point? What does it start to look like when we knock our 501(c)3 incorporations out of the top spot of honor and worship, and lead for and represent the King? I think the landscape would still include some organizations, but wouldn't it be wonderful if they were symptoms of leading, instead of the end goal?

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Steve Martin

November 03, 2012  9:25pm

"He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion..." Believers will be formed into the tools that God needs to accomplish His will in this place. Whether that'd be a leader...or a follower...or a bit of each. It's His Church. Would we think He's not able to take care of it?

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November 03, 2012  3:43pm

The increasing polemics of the culture has infiltrated the church, so that love is no longer the identifying mark of those who follow Jesus. It seems Dr. Mohler is more than willing to drink the "Kool-aid" of this prevalent world view. The book will only increase the feeding frenzy of those who insist on cookie-cutter forms of Christianity. We continue to place traditions ahead of the scripture and refuse to break down walls of separation based on pet doctrine. Perhaps the Protestant ivory towers need to crumble; the seminary system seems broken, the presence of Spirit seems foreign, and academic credulity seems on the wane. Lord help us!

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Andre Delage

November 03, 2012  1:31pm

Pair a Believers with a Leaders you understand now why Jesus sent His disciple in pair?

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