3 Signs You Are Not a Kingdom Leader
The potent dangers of ambition, anger, and ego exist for everyone in ministry.

Recently I tweeted these words:

3 signs you're NOT a leader in the Kingdom: you take things TOO personally, you hold onto grudges, and you want leadership TOO much.

I've seen it time and again in my own leadership. Any time I am doing one of these three things I am undercutting the Spirit's work in the midst of a group, I am making it about me, and I am subverting the Kingdom.

As a result, I have come to the conclusion that I must consistently test myself and allow others to test me in these 3 areas. Because when I start to indulge in these behaviors (which is inevitable) and let them linger, I not only will be messing myself up royally, I'll be undercutting the reign of Christ – the work of God in our midst – in and through my mis-motivated leadership. So here's some comments on each of these three.

1) TAKING THINGS TOO PERSONALLY

A sign that leadership has gone bad is when someone's criticism or even comments threaten your sense of security. Of course this is easier said than done. I think of the many times we must navigate criticism and self examine ourselves before the Spirit. We should never callously ignore criticism. Neither should we take all criticism as being true about me. We would be in perpetual self-examine mode. But leadership in the Kingdom is never "about me." We can't lead from a place where this is "about me." Taking things personally gives off the unmistakable, easily detected vibration that what I am doing is about me and if you don't follow me it will hurt me personally. You can't lead from this place in the Kingdom.

Instead, we should be open to criticism and examining it. If it comes from one source, check in with somebody. If we received it from three sources, we begin to trust that this issue has some merits. We intentionally submit this issue for examination to those "with" us, and in so doing we submit it to Christ. We are ready to repent, confess, seek to be faithful, seek to submit, seek to obey, seek to affirm. Each time we grow. WE SHOULD NEVER BE AFRAID OF BEING CALLED ON SOMETHING. WE SHOULD ALWAYS BE READY TO REPENT. If we cannot enter into this process of the community (as is so evident in Eph 4) we cannot grow ourselves, which means we cannot grow with the community, which means we are holding the community back.

If we shut ourselves off from criticism, or we narrow the people we are listening to down to our "fans" – the people already on our side – this is a recipe for eventual breakdown. The Spirit works within a community to reveal the truth. If you cannot participate in that process, you isolate yourself from reality. You shut down people from telling you what they really think. You have no gauge. The dynamic of the Spirit in the community is gone. Leaders therefore must always be able to receive any and all criticism that comes their way in vulnerability and humility. If you can't, I consider this a disqualifier for leadership.

None
January 04, 2013

Displaying 1–10 of 15 comments

Loves God

August 15, 2013  7:56am

I agree with the article, at least 90% of it. He makes some good points. I have witnessed some strange things done by pastors, leaders who should know better. They have said things from the pulpit that were mean spirited, not helpful, and unbiblical. Pastors that "major on the minors" in big ways. They emphasize appearance over substance, try purposely to embarrass thier congregation publicly, never apologize, never try to make things right. If people leave, they have an "oh, well..." attitude, or get so defensive they shun the people who may have had a good reason to leave thier church. There really are some people that see things they wish they didn't see, who may have helpful input to share, only because they really want to see their church turn around and be all it can be. Yet when they try to respectfully share thier concerns with the leadership they are rejected even further. Pastors, in my experience are hard to reach and hard to communicate with. Sometimes the attitude is," if I said something that offended someone in a sermon, then that is too bad, it MUST have been from God if I said it". Oftentimes what was said was not biblical, was not kind, and did no one any good. I actually sat under a pastor that would say things like "I've instructed the ushers not to allow any ugly people in the door"....after a while, we wondered if maybe he really did say those things and mean them. The bible says "Life and death are in the power of the tongue....." Leaders believe that thier position in the church will keep them from consequences when actually they forget the bible says leaders will be judged more strictly. Pastors and potential leaders, please wake up and see your role is to lead people to Christ and make us better christians...we are not put on this earth to follow you,but to follow Jesus Christ alone!!! Make it about HIM, and not yourself.

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joel

May 06, 2013  9:10pm

@ sheerahkahn Late to the party but I have a thought. We all know the silver rule 'love your neighbor as yourself'. The golden rule is love God with all your heart. The Silver Rule can also be stated in the negative 'if you live by the sword you will die by the sword'. sheerakahn felt free to judge David and say that he should not be a pastor because of how he admits to repenting of feeling a 'if they are not with me they are against me' mentality. sheerakahn If you are willing to judge harshly based on your interpretation of David's words are you prepared to be judged harshly? It is pretty harsh to say someone should not be a pastor based on some feelings that they admit. The reason that I'm saying this is that when I see someone spell God as G_d I think to myself 'this is someone who has a Pharisaical mindset, who wants to be holier-than-thou and doesn't really understand what Jesus is all about.' I'm not saying that you are modern day Pharisee or are a self-righteous so-and-so because Jesus clearly instructed me not to judge. But just a gentle reminder, he clearly instructed you not to judge also.

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Shyanne

March 07, 2013  1:38am

After reading these three signs of not being a kingdom leader I felt as though I had a "duh" moment. It made so much sense as to why I was not always being an obedient kingdom leader. Being a leader is having a one hundred percent understanding that it is not about you. Wow, if I could grasp that truth then my leadership would be entirely different. One of the best pieces of advice that I ever learned was from my grandfather, a wise, Godly, experienced, Christian man who served as a pastor for over twenty years. I always told me that being a leader is being a servant. He taught me how to be a servant and how to call upon the Spirit to help guide me to be a better servant. I will be forever grateful.

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Tim

January 10, 2013  3:42pm

Reader "I have not had your experiences, so I cannot presume to know..." If you challenge the system at it's deepest false dependencies (idols), you are very likely to experience grievous disobedience gross anti-reproduction of believers. Here is one to try: the system demands that on average 86% of giving is devoted to buy goodies for the people who do the giving. LJ's own article on Normal Church Budgeting and their surveys of thousands of churches point this out specifically. Giving, even by a pagan's standard, must go beyond the giver to qualify as giving. This is systematized pooling of collections for ourselves. Everything God has designed for building up HIs household of faith can be done for free. (Only serving the poor, orphans, widows, and reaching all nations is expensive.) Paul's economics for church life on refusing the right to be paid, make this possible. Actss 20, 2 Thes. 3, 1 Cor. 9 - the whole chapter, plus others. Can you just imagine what believers could do in kingdom building if this one systemic switch was made?

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Reader

January 10, 2013  8:09am

@Tim, I can respect your response. I have not had your experiences, so I cannot presume to know the level of frustration you must have encountered when the preacher/congregation system trumps faithful obedience and discipleship. As to the comment on modern malady; right, the problems Fitch lays out are not new. On the other hand, they are certainly exacerbated by a greater system which encourages a small number of producers to meet the needs of a large number of consumers. If you haven't read "The Great Giveaway," I would recommend it. You might enjoy it. Cheers!

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Tim

January 09, 2013  5:51pm

Reader "You seem a bit quick to judge Fitch's response before you hear it. You also seem like you haven't heard of David Fitch before." I've read his blog and responded there. I have never received a reply. I'm sure he's a busy man. He has a job that requires a certain amount of loyalty to the clergy system. "He decries the professionalization of the Church as a capitulation to consumer capitalism and other "modern maladies."" This is not a modern malady or one of consumerism and captialism. It is a malady of the human flesh that sprang up immediately even as Jesus was teaching his disciples. Paul was right on target with with his teaching and example - but that is all thrown under the bus. It seems to me David sees some problems but thinks they can be cured with a small tweek here or there, but keep the pulpits and pews, and the rest of the routines. All these routines are a contradiction of Jesus teaching and example for His kindom. Man is the king in this routine, with some twisted proof texts, and mistranslations to support them. "My suggestion would be that if you are going to push back and expect "brotherly mutuality," it would be best to start with the attitude you would like to receive back." I speak from my experience with friends, family, and fellow laborers who are clergy. I have exagerated nothing. If it sounds grievous and synical, it is only because it is a tragic reality. Trying to earn a reply because I put makeup on the problem to make it appear less grievous does not seem honest to me. "But first, I must change. I must address, dump, cancel out, and replace the lie that my value comes from anything other than my standing in Christ. Then I will be able to come to the system with a clear understanding and it will change." Nicely said. That sounds like: "...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." That is why finally, after 15 years of trying to stay in the system and fix it, I finally obeyed God and began to follow an amazing journey so far beyond anything I could have imagined. There are not many who will throw off much of anything. They hold on to "That Same Old Song and Dance". I heard Frank Sinatra sing that today and it so aptly describes the situation, the lure of the flesh to cling to false realities.

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Reader

January 09, 2013  1:50pm

@Sheer- I appreciate the dialogue, and I can understand the frustration at the experience of pastors/church leaders who misconstrue a call to serve as a call to call to tyranny. And if it were easy to simply dump ego, I would give up my left arm (I'm a lefty) to get that process. @Tim- You seem a bit quick to judge Fitch's response before you hear it. You also seem like you haven't heard of David Fitch before. I met his writing through a book called "The Great Giveaway," which holds up the light of Scripture to contemporary church practices. He decries the professionalization of the Church as a capitulation to consumer capitalism and other "modern maladies." It was a very influential book for me as I went through college. My suggestion would be that if you are going to push back and expect "brotherly mutuality," it would be best to start with the attitude you would like to receive back. On another note, it is easy to point the finger at others when looking at the three issues Fitch illuminates. However, all three of them are basic human struggles which all stem from a false sense of identity. Whenever human beings don't find identity in Christ, we typically find it in approval, affirmation, achievement, or any other idolatrous place. These three symptoms are just that: symptoms of a deeper problem. And I would agree that our systems, as currently designed, often encourage these systems. And I would also agree that the systems must change as a result. But first, I must change. I must address, dump, cancel out, and replace the lie that my value comes from anything other than my standing in Christ. Then I will be able to come to the system with a clear understanding and it will change.

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Tim

January 09, 2013  11:49am

Sheer "...So, you are right...Mr. Fitch is dealing with it...my suggestion was and is to do more than just deal with it...dump it. " Thank you for your testimony of the systemic nature of the institutionalized pastorate. Mine is the same as yours. I went on to see how the scriptures themselves call for an opposite dynamic. The system needs to be dumped. Every seminary in the country, every book written from within the system is in denial that they are nullifying the commands of God with their "pastorate". God designed them to "fully train" their students to "be like them", not hold them in perpetual dependency as permanent pew sitters. Currently, their only way out of their "position" or "office" is to resign or get fired, just as Mr. Fitch implied. Reproduce themselves? Absolutely not. It is so amazing that those who professionalize around the Bible are so ignorant or so rejecting of it's clear teaching. Mr. Fitch says, "What do you think? Push back?" Anytime a pastor asks this I know he is not serious about what I think or my Biblical push back. He only wants me to feel like "I've been heard." He wants to "defuse my anxiety." He has no intention of interacting in brotherly mutuality or in receiving "rebuke, correction, and instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect...".

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sheerahkahn

January 09, 2013  3:29am

" It would seem as though he is taking your advice before it was even given." I have had to deal with this...sort of thing before...in not just one or two pastors, but with several...and it is the most frustrating, infuriating, mind-bending discussions/arguments I have ever had...and in one case, I got an oblique invitation to leave the church...and it all stem's with the Pastor being...well, possessing a "I'm in charge because G-d called me, and thus I am answerable to G-d! So, either you are for me, and thus for G-d, or against me, and thus against G-d. Choose!" A little cut and dry there, but it was pretty close to that. So, now, I see just a hint of that...and I will admit...all of those past dealings come home like a flock of rabid ravens...which oddly enough is called "an unkindness." And it's all those very painful memories of trying to reason with men, and one woman who.../sigh...just didn't want to hear any voice but the one in their head. So, you are right...Mr. Fitch is dealing with it...my suggestion was and is to do more than just deal with it...dump it. Take it and throw it as far away from himself as possible...never give it a moments breath...throttle it, choke it, watch it die with glee. My apologies to you and Mr. Fitch.

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Reader

January 08, 2013  7:35am

@Sheerahkahn, It may be a tad bit presumptuous to claim that David Fitch, an author whose words have been very helpful to me, shouldn't be a pastor because of an internal struggle and temptation- particularly when he is struggling against it rather than assuming it as the norm. Your advice to him is to do more than repent and change his mindset. Yet, as I read the New Testament, changing one's mindset is the very definition/translation of the word repent. It would seem as though he is taking your advice before it was even given. Blog posts like this one are helpful to me because they bring to light that which has been in the darkness for so long- the reality of ego and influence. Whether you are a blogger with virtual influence or a simple/house church pastor or the lead pastor of a megachurch, the temptation to believe influence comes from oneself is haunting and crippling. Thank you David Fitch, and thank you Out of Ur- you are consistently my favorite ministry-related blog (or at least in the top 3). And Sheerahkahn, you are consistently one of my favorite posters for your reflection, insight, pushback and Kingdom focus. I especially appreciate your closing about the leader and the toilet- vivid (as a guy whose first job was to clean overused toilets), and effective.

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