In the past 17 years I have had the opportunity to lead some amazing teams – both within the church as a student pastor and outside of the church in various para-church organizations. While I am certainly no expert with a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership, I have learned quite a bit about leading people and teams over the past decade.
While there’s no magic bullet to leading people well, there are some valuable habits that I have seen, been taught and have used to lead well in the places where God has allowed me to serve.
I want to share some of these “Leadership Lessons” over the next few weeks in the hopes that this series may encourage and equip you. Whether you’re a pastor, ministry team leader, small group facilitator or even if you have leadership opportunities outside the realm of the church – these will still be lessons that you can take and apply right away.
If there’s one place that should be the be the epicenter of leaders, it should be the church. There’s no better picture of servant leadership than the earthly life of Jesus and there’s no important message on the planet than the gospel. If there’s one group that is singularly focused and constantly mobilized it should be the bride of Christ.
However, that’s not always the case. Churches wander and ministries fall flat. The message of gospel can suffocate in an avalanche of peripheral events and opportunities. The moment the gospel isn’t the core of who a church is, will be the moment that turns the hearts of our people to other noble things not solely centered on the mission of God.
When the gospel ceases to be the center of our life, we begin to build our churches, our ministries and our lives on things that were never meant to bear the brunt of life-defining truth. That’s why we must be crystal clear on what the gospel truly is and how God is using His church to be the vehicle of getting the gospel to the unreached corners of the world.
Clarity with respect to the gospel must be the drum beat that drives the church. Our people need to hear the gospel constantly so that they will know it, love it and share it. It is the crimson thread that spans every page of Scripture and it only follows that the message of Christ crucified be the most pronounced message from the church that He bought with His blood and washed in His Word. That’s why Paul came to Corinth with nothing to say to them apart from the victory of the Cross:
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
~ 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Just as Paul did in Corinth, so we as leaders inside the church must be clear and vigilant to keep the gospel as the sole mission of the church. In leading our people, clarity in the gospel is key and here are a few things to keep in mind as we pursue that:
1) Clarity comes with time and constancy
There’s an established term in marketing called the “Rule of 7” which basically states that a person has to interact with a truth 7 times before they’ll act on it. Marketers realize that people have to take a long look at something before they’ll pounce.
Before our people put on the shoes of the gospel of peace and carry everywhere they go, they need to hear the gospel – A LOT. They need to hear it in our pulpits, in our small groups, in our worship songs and in our conversations with them. We may feel like we are beating the message to death, but that’s honestly at the point when our people start to internalize it.
It is incumbent on the leaders of the church to preach the truth daily that it is in the gospel we’re saved but it is also in which we stand. (1 Cor 15:1) Our people have to hear of the soul saving, life altering, value defining truth of the gospel in every aspect of what we do so that they will see it for the good news it truly is.
2) Clarity is what keeps the church in motion
Being on mission is equal parts mindset and game plan. It is vital for our people to know where they are, where the world is and what their role is as an ambassador of Christ. People need an idea of where they are and where they are headed. As leaders, we are charting the map to get our people from the church and out into the world.
We can do that by laying out the needs of the world but also by modeling the means by which we reach them. People will rarely go where they feel others have not gone. That’s why we as leaders gladly carry the beauty of the gospel with us as we go about our ministry lives and our daily lives.
We remove all confusion by walking a path and putting ourselves out there for people to see. Leaders must embrace the weight of the watching world and the curious sheep. We must bid our people to watch and follow, just as Paul accepts that same mantle of leadership in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
3) Give them the “Why” for them to go all in
If you have a toddler, you known that the question, “But why?” is a fundamental human question. My little girl wants to know why we don’t hit other people all the way down to why we don’t eat worms. Even little baby brains want to know the purpose and reason of why they do what they do before they change behavior.
Grown up brains aren’t much different. If people can’t see the “Why” of your ministry, they’re not going to serve – much less stick around. But if we can get them to see the purpose of their lives as image bearers and their role as an everyday disciple-maker the “Why?” will morph into “When and where?”
There is no mistake: the Messiah has sent us out into the world to make disciples. We carry His death in us so that His life is seen through us. It is through Him and to Him and for Him are all things. As we live and lead with that in mind the mission of God is accomplished by His church that is anchored in Him as they pursue a hope starved world.