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4. Foundations for Christian Leadership

My life alongside God's word, volume 3. 'Christian leadership' section.

– by Mufid Farid Nagib

Christian leadership is about influencing people towards God’s purposes for their lives. It starts and ends with the Holy Spirit. Though it finds its origins in God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, one cannot overlook the importance of being exposed to the findings and experiences of both secular and Christian specialists and researchers in this field. One should take into account all factors and variables: the leader, followers and the context, in order to reach a balanced leadership theory and style.

The role of the Holy Spirit in the emergence of a Christian leader

“We can see from the Scripture the importance given to the selection of leaders. It was always a Spirit-led process, something in which God was actively involved”.

Jesus called His disciples individually and He stressed the fact that He chose and appointed them. They were not the ones who did the choosing, John 15:16. The second verb employed (appointed Gk. tithemi) is a strong one and means ordained, purposed and set. It implies directionality; put into a position to achieve a task.

Wrong methods for producing leaders

Much effort can be wasted on training people to be leaders who are not originally called by the Holy Spirit and gifted by Him with the gift of leadership. Training only enhances and improves the leadership capacity and skills of one who is called. Human efforts to produce a leader without the involvement of the Holy Spirit will only result in frustration. The absence of the Holy Spirit from the process of selecting and appointing leaders explains the poor leadership quality and the lack of spiritual productivity in some of our churches. Oswald Sanders observes, “the supernatural nature of the church demands a leadership that rises above the human”.[3] Oswald Sanders continues writing strongly, “Spiritual leaders are not made by election or appointment by men, nor by conferences or synods. Only God can make them”.[4] Kings, prophets, and priests in the Old Testament are clear examples of this principle. The church leadership and the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament give another illustration of the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit in leadership and in building up the church. He distributes the gifts sovereignly and calls individuals for specific tasks. We rely on church procedure alone at our peril.

Paul – one example of an emerging leader

If we take the example of the apostle Paul we see a clear illustration of the sovereign role of God the Holy Spirit and how He is involved in the whole process from preparing the platform himself and his ministry would stand on, then the total life events and situations Paul found himself in, right up to the disclosure of the call of God, empowering the person by the Holy Spirit, and on during the actual exercise of his leadership in the early church. God’s work does not start at the moment of His calling an individual. He has been preparing him/her by the whole life. The fact that Paul enjoyed dual nationality, his deep orientation with both Greek and Roman cultures, and the training in the law he received from Gamaliel, give only a few examples of the work the Holy Spirit did to prepare God’s servant Paul.

The Holy Spirit works through existing leaders

The Holy Spirit works in an indirect way through human media to call a person for leadership. From the case of the apostle Paul one recognises how the Holy Spirit used Ananias to impart spiritual blessing and to open the eyes of Paul, then known as Saul, Acts 9:17. He used Barnabas to introduce Paul to the church in Antioch, Acts 11:25-26. In my understanding there is a divine wisdom in God using other Christians and existing leaders to influence and guide emerging leaders. Through this, God intends to create an interdependency and melt His people to be the earthly Body of His Son. The direct dealing of God with Peter to break his Jewish prejudices towards the Gentiles; the vision of a large sheet carrying all kinds of animals, was not enough to change Peter’s attitude towards the Gentiles, Acts 10. It took a personal confrontation by Paul years later to finish the job, Galatians 2:11-14.

The process of leaders’ emergence

Elliston provides some ways through which the role of the Holy Spirit is noticed in the life of a leader. I follow his main points here.

1. Contextual Preparation

It is asserted that people learn leadership best in a leadership environment where certain qualities are actively present. In our Khartoum trainees over the years I have observed how God works in their lives as we provide the right contexts. What is normally achieved through ministry events, is more than what is achieved in the classroom by far. These achievements can be summarised as:

  • character moulding and self-awareness, through interaction with other team members

  • realisation of other peoples’ needs, both physical and spiritual

  • a vision, or a life-mission, and direction for ministry, all start to be felt.

2. Selection

In selecting our students, we try to search for evidence of a divine calling in the life of the one applying to join our institution. Whatever we do, one has to admit it is a task with casualties. One has to accept some degree of loss of resources and efforts in the process! We work with our students individually, by thinking and praying with them to discover what task God might be calling them to.

3. Gifting and Empowering

We try to help our students see how God has been preparing them through their whole lives. God was behind the type of families, situations, schooling, training and other circumstances they have passed through to equip them. God has made them who they are and where they are. Limiting God’s dealing to the moments of one’s conversion is an inadequate concept and does not reflect the standpoint of the Bible. Elliston comments on the subject by writing “the debate where “natural talents” and “spiritual gifts” begin and end misses the point that God is both the Creator and Re-creator... He is responsible for both”.

4. Equipping

Realising the fundamental role of the word of God in the lives of Christians in general and of leaders in particular, we enforce the daily reading of the Bible. I’m sorry to say that most of our students come from churches that have weak Bible teaching.

5. Leading through others

What we are doing for our students is just an illustration of how God uses people to work in other people’s lives. The pressure we put on them through assignments, exams, ministry placements and personal counselling sessions all helps toward their spiritual lives and their ministries maturing.

6. Growth processing

Through ministering together, the Lord works in our emerging leaders teaching them lessons related to an integrated view of ministry. The Holy Spirit uses a variety of means to prune their characters. Struggles in relationships, accusations and criticism among themselves while in the field ministering, tiredness and sleeplessness, poor transportation and little food, are all ways through which God humbles them and helps them to mature into many genuine Christian discipleship virtues.

7. Superintendence

We must not forget two other important roles, that of the existing leader and of the emerging leader. The Holy Spirit uses existing leaders to make the contextual preparation, give ministry assignments, encouragements and recognition. Bill Hybels writes, “Only leaders can develop other leaders and create leadership culture. Teachers cannot do it. Administrators cannot do it. Mercy gifted folks cannot do it. Only leaders can multiply the leadership impact by raising up additional leaders”. As for the role of the emerging leader, he/she believes it is just beginning to be noticed, as he/she is submitting to and trusting existing leaders while exercising personal faith.

For the leader, developing emerging leaders all around while at the same time self-developing, ensures the continuation of the vision and mission later on, and will probably lead to an expansion beyond present horizons. In developing leaders we all need to pay attention to, and not overlook, the role of the Holy Spirit. I need to be in line with Him, as the leadership of the church at Antioch were, see Acts 13:1-3.

Patterns for the emergence of leaders

1. False patterns

We must be aware of false concepts operating in the world of leadership, which are both misleading and inadequate for Christian leadership. The first two myths are linked to ‘the great man’ and ‘the trait’ theories. Both give us a false impression and bad interpretation of what leadership is. The third myth is the claim that all one needs to be effective leader is to acquire the right information and skills. As principal of a Bible school I am very much aware that training, even leadership training, in itself does not make a person a leader. Other factors are of great importance including the calling and gifting by God, with a growing desire for a deeper and more intimate relationship with Christ. Often one finds today that the church thinks in worldly terms. Realising this, Sanders warns us that the Holy Spirit does not force Himself on the church if she persistently rejects His leadership. He quietly withdraws and leaves men to implement their own policy according to their own standards, but without His aid.

In Sudan and South Sudan for most cases roles are assumed by inheritance, or by tribal ties or by professional qualifications, leaving no room for the role of God the Holy Spirit. The observations by Ellison in this regard are valid ones, “Christian leadership often lacks an understanding of spiritual power … Leadership is nearly always closely tied to local cultural models. … We often mistakenly equate management with leadership”.

2. Right Patterns

Elliston names three stages of leadership development easily realised in true leaders everywhere. These three states are:

  • foundational stage; a calling and commissioning

  • leader competence; character and value formation and skills development

ministry shift from flowing out of one’s competence to one’s character, matching of one’s gifts and roles.

Biblical images of Christian leadership

Several images are used by the different authors of the Scriptures to provide us with an understanding of what Christian leadership is, its nature and functions. The concept of leadership is an abstract, but we all sense it and feel its impact upon our lives. Images help us to form a mental picture of it. We will look at some of these images, first in the Pastoral letters and then elsewhere in the Bible.

The pastoral letters

The second letter to Timothy contains several metaphors Paul utilises to exhort Timothy to rise up to his responsibility as Christian leader. In doing so Paul uses some images from daily life and through them he explains the nature and function of the Christian leadership.

1. The loyal soldier

Christian leaders should see themselves as loyal soldiers expected to be on guard, characterised by the readiness to act in full obedience to authority, be faithful in service, and think of the safety of others even at the risk of their own. For Paul the element of suffering and full commitment is part of the package of leadership. A Christian leader is not expected to do or live any less the life of a soldier,

2 Timothy 2:3-4.

2. The athlete

An athlete only wins if he keeps to the rules. Cheating brings instant disqualification. He must run, jump, throw, cycle, swim, etc. the full distance required, 2 Timothy 2:5.

3. The farmer

Every farmer must till the soil according to the proper rules of agriculture, otherwise they cannot expect to grow a crop. It is significant that the word, “hardworking” is used to describe the farmer. Christian workers must likewise put a lot of effort into their ministries, 2 Timothy 2:6. Leadership is not for the lazy.

The Christian life and ministry has got its own rules. Some of these rules are expressed in the pastoral letters, 1 and 2 Timothy with Titus. Leaders should be sober, generous, have a fear of God, live a holy life and be faithful in everything., 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 2 Timothy 2:1-7; Titus 1:5-9. A Christian leader should seek to serve God on God’s own terms (not on his own terms). Both an athlete and a farmer labour hard to achieve their duties. A soldier may fight for his life. A Christian leader must do the same.

4. The vessels

The emphasis here is on purging oneself to be clean, pure and fit for use by Almighty God. God only uses holy objects. Can He use you? The Old Testament priesthood and the temple regulations illustrate this principle physically. While the other images allude to things to be done, what we might call ‘duties’, this one points to the inner being and the heart condition of the leader, 2 Timothy 2:21-22. The next few verses explain how to nurture a clean heart and life.

Other biblical images for leadership

1. The steward

This picture emphasises managing another person’s property versus personal ownership or profit. Elliston writes, “the commission is seen in terms of a “trust” or a “stewardship”. The leader is seen then as a trustee. Trustees are expected to guard what has been entrusted to them … they are expected to employ the trust to the owner’s advantage and according to His will”. Matthew 25:14-30.

The temptation is always there for leaders to think they are the owners of the organisation and to act accordingly. Leaders in our African context need to work against this mind set in order to free their lives from the love of positions and titles. We must do God’s work out of a sense of calling, obligation, commitment and faithfulness. This is a small phrase with a big meaning: ‘Stewardship is always choosing service over self-interest’.

2. The shepherd

The shepherd is another major metaphor for leadership. It implies a selfless duty of caring for and feeding the flock of God, putting their needs before your own. This metaphor shows us the importance of developing a tender heart for the people and their needs. Jesus was the Good Shepherd. Matthew comments, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”, Matthew 9:36. A shepherd’s concern is to feed his flock and ensure their good health.

Bill Hybels, commenting on what he calls the shepherding leadership style, writes, “…there are also plenty of community starved people who need to be welcomed onto a team where they can be nurtured and loved”. It is a principle many of us leaders only learn later in our ministries. Sadly it is a missing dimension to many a leadership style in Sudan. Those followers who survive, only survive because of the grace of God, their own efforts to grow and due to spiritual food they find outside of their churches, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2.

3. The servant

Perhaps the most essential concept of Christian leadership is centred on servanthood. I once read somewhere, “leadership practiced in a manner consistent with the divine attributes of Jesus’ servant character is effective and influential”. Jesus joyfully assumed the place and the role of a servant. A servant leader is characterised by faith and obedience. It has often been said that a leader first needs to learn how to be a faithful follower. Only then can he lead well. Many a leader fails because of the violation of this principle. There is a bond of unity created among leaders who think of themselves as servants. The result is humility in relating to their followers.

A servant leader is marked by humility. He is always the one at the front leading and volunteering rather than simply delegating tasks to others. Wilkes recognises that in God’s Kingdom achievement is not the goal. But we will never learn that until we have learned humility. A servant leader does not seek special privileges or recognition for what he does. Jesus reflected all these qualities in His earthly ministry. Elliston indicates that Jesus summarised His leadership expectations by saying “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to become first must be your slave”, Matthew 20:27.

Jesus was a servant to His mission, but what I have noticed among church leadership around me is, to a great extent, the opposite. The dominant mindset is that a leader is the boss and so must be respected, served, and honoured. Resistance often meets teaching this ‘servant style’ of leadership. David J. Gyertson writing of his personal journey with servant leadership acknowledges, “Servant leadership demands a personal commitment that goes beyond mere pragmatic application and theoretical construct. Since servant leadership runs contrary to many leadership assumptions and applications, it requires of most who pursue it an intimate exploration”.

I notice these last three Bible models of steward, shepherd and servant are rarely practiced in church or mission. The preferred options in leaders’ mindsets are being the boss or the tribe chief. Sadly in my culture most leaders appear to think of gains and benefits for themselves from their positions as leaders. One is shocked to know of stories where pastors take their denominational headquarters to the Court of Labour Administration. Elliston makes a significant observation in this regard, “It should be noted that none of these images of leaders suggest a high status or high degree of personal or corporate power”.

The ‘what’ of leadership: one’s leadership style and contingency model

The leader/follower relationship is a major variable that influences any organisation. Several researchers have provided different concepts to describe this relationship. Some try to balance the two aspects of management: people and task. Clinton comments on this theory, “It advocates the high concern for people and the high concern for task as the optimum leadership style for effectiveness”.

Another contingency model anticipates effectiveness on the bases of the leader’s basic personality orientation toward the task, the people or the whole leadership situation.

What is described as a situational theory, disagrees with the two theories above by believing that there is not one best way of leadership. It advocates a flexible style guided by the situation one finds oneself in. It is a multi-style leadership model. The six factors analysed below may interactively work together as you prayerfully think about them and your situation. They may help you to give birth to, or to influence your own established contingent leadership style, appropriate to your own context:

1. Change and growth: the essential requirements

In ‘Developing the Leader Within You’, Maxwell, commenting on the importance of change writes, “Change the leader, and change the organisation. Everything rises and falls on leadership! However, I have found it is not easy to change leaders. In fact, I discovered that leaders resist change as much as followers do”.

Covey proposes a paradigm shift in management training by focusing on a new approach that he calls ‘Principle Centred Leadership’.[19] He correctly believes this leads to self-governing and self-supervising from the followers’ side.

As a sign of emotional imbalance, one can be something on the inside but appear to be something else in public. One may have the skills and knowledge but lack emotional strength. When challenged by followers or tough circumstances he tries to cover his character imbalance by appealing to physical sources such as his position. Such behaviour leads to damaging results in relationships. The solution, as seen by Covey, is to make daily efforts to increase one’s capacity to have understanding, patience and courage. There is no short cut, and comparing one’s self with others does not help. One has to start from where he/she is. Self-development means a balanced personality, in this process an internal look is needed and regular introspection, led by the Holy Spirit and Scripture, is worthwhile.

2. The leader’s self-awareness and its benefits

Change is linked to self-awareness as well. For a Christian, the basis for one’s self-assessment is the Scripture. Knowing God helps us to know ourselves. The new reality one has in Christ is directly linked to self-image or better, how we perceive ourselves. The talents and gifts given by the Holy Spirit alter one’s personality by adding new value and worth. Equally true, self-awareness comes as a result of one’s efforts to live for God by an offering of one’s body as a living sacrifice, breaking away from being conformed to the present world around us. Bob Gordon in his book, ‘Master Builders’ writes the following on growth, “When we become a Christian, we do not immediately lose our character and personality. The truth is that we are far from perfect when we first come to know God and our knowledge of Him is very limited. What we need to do is give our lives to Him so that He can begin to teach us and mould us into what He needs us to be”.

Without self-awareness, that is knowing who one is as leader in reality, there are no boundaries to help decide what responsibilities he accepts or rejects, which jobs are assumed and which delegated, where he needs to change and be flexible, or add strength to existing qualities he has. Harris Lee asserts that a leader’s personal characteristics and qualities impact his or her effectiveness, for good or for ill.[21] However, proper self-awareness allows the leader to act in a way that reduces the negative effects of his weaknesses and enhances the positive effects of his strengths. This makes a leader open to using different styles according to the situation he is dealing with, and by so doing, may well reduce conflicts in the organisation. It seems to me that self-awareness is definitely a more effective tool than other skills.

3. Acquaintance with one’s organisation

Sometimes leaders taking new jobs come with the attitude of being the saviour for that specific organisation! Coming with this attitude, and failing to read the history and sense the culture of the joined organisation, they seek to bring change in a way that produces resistance and negative response. Lee writes, “Effective leaders know their organisations as well as themselves. They know the organisation’s culture as well as their own strengths, weaknesses, and goals. … It is essential to know your group; its nature, its mission, its self-understanding – as well as to know how it functions”.

4. Clear channels of communication

Communication plays a major role in effective leadership. It is a preventive medicine to conflicts. Communication is the art of putting one’s thoughts and feelings into words. One needs to be a good listener to be a good communicator. Mistrust weakens communication. Lack of communication breeds darkness, ambiguity and confusion. In an organisation all members should know what the others are doing in order to see how they complement one another. Reports, written or verbal, are forms of communication. They play a vital role in keeping the big picture clear in the minds of the people concerned.

5. People are the main resource of the organisation

Covey believes any structure that does not give priority to people will not be effective. People are the programmers upon whom everything else depends. If one agrees with Covey, then empowerment of other people is a key factor. This naturally leads to high effectiveness and productivity. People are always the most precious resource in church and organisation.

6. Leadership functions

For one to grow his own leadership like a tree grows he needs to know what is expected of him as a leader. “Leadership”, says Lee, “is that which moves persons and organisations toward the fulfilment of their goals”. He states two goals for every church leader, together with their team leadership, (1) evangelism, (2) the maturing of the believers, Ephesians 4:8-16.[24] Sanders explains that this goal is achieved by providing discipline, guidance and being an example of practicing faith in taking risky initiatives for God. To achieve these two divisions of ministry according to Lee, a leader should lead in the following ways:

1. Affirming the values of the church or organisation

A leader needs to highlight such biblical values as love, justice, truth and peace, beside other values that represent the local context and culture of a given church or organisation.

2. Becoming a symbol for the church or organisation

Leaders should resemble and live out what they believe and what they want their organisation to be known for, as far as values, vision and commitments are concerned.

3. Maintaining the organisation or church

Ensuring that the spiritual and physical needs of people, programme and premises are met.

4. Serving the church or organisation

Ensuring on going renewal. Organisations and churches left to their own devices tend to get weary and weak. Renewal is only possible through positive change and regular serious evaluation.

5. Recognising emerging leaders

In his book ‘Developing The Leaders Around You’, Maxwell writes, “There is something much more important and scarce than ability; it is the ability to recognise ability. One of the primary responsibilities of a successful leader is to identify potential leaders”.

The ‘how’ of leadership: influence and structure

In his book ‘Leadership Gold’, Maxwell writes, “True, leadership is not easy to learn, but what worthwhile thing is? Becoming a better leader pays dividends, but it takes great effort. Leadership requires a lot from a person. It is demanding and complex”. Any sincere Christian leader should seek to build his leadership quality and capacity by studying and orienting himself with a variety of leadership styles and models.

Five phases of leadership theory development

Klaus mentions, “a leader should always be a student of the various contingent aspects involved in facilitating a group of people to fulfil the reason for their existence”.[28] Clinton and Elliston in their surveys of leadership theories both similarly define five phases of leadership development from 1841 to the 1980’s and beyond:[29]

1. Great man era, 1841-1904

This has the belief that leaders are born and they play roles during the turning points in human history. Leaders emerge due to the social pressures of the situation.

2. Trait era, 1904-1948

This goes with the belief that certain character-traits determine whether or not a person is a good or a bad leader. Accordingly, by identifying leaders’ traits one could both select effective leaders and train people to be effective leaders.

3. Behaviour era, 1948-1967

This brought into focus two kinds of leadership behaviour (1) task orientation and (2) relationship orientation.

4. Contingency era, 1967-1980

Researchers started to come to a new realisation that in effective leadership a contingent set of relationship exists among the leader(s), followers and the situation.

5. Complexity

This is a step forward in advancing the contingency theory. Researchers became aware of the importance of taking into consideration the local leadership context as well as the broader context.

Elliston evaluates the Great Man, Trait, Behaviour and simple Contingency theories, as inadequate and responsible for our distorted understating of leadership as Christians. He believes they do not address the kind of issues that arise in Christian leadership. Obviously they do not stand the test of the Scriptures. There is no place in them to see leadership as a gift and calling from God or an ability given by the Holy Spirit. Practically, they make everything centred on the leader. They all overlook the followers and the context. Covey believes that a leader's style needs to be holistic, ecological, and developmental, seeing people as proactive rather than inanimate.

Hybels, writing from a pastoral point of view rather than as an academic researcher, acknowledges and distinguishes between ten different leadership styles: the visionary, the directional, strategic, managing, motivational, shepherding, team-building, entrepreneurial, the reengineering and the bridge building styles. They may not qualify to be called styles as such, but are useful in pointing out the strengths or dominant trends in different leaders. However they do show the importance of the participative, collective, complementary leadership approach, where each member of the leadership group complements the others in a culture dominated by team work, transparency and respect.

Leadership paradigms and the contingency style

Awareness of the complexity of leadership led to the paradigms we have looked at in the history of leadership, from ‘the great man’ theory up to the current ‘complex contingency’, with situational and principle-centred leadership styles. Clinton defines the contingency model as the tendency for effective leadership to be contingent upon a good fit between leadership styles, followers and situational variables. He illustrates this conviction using the example of the apostle Paul’s leadership, by distinguishing ten types and styles of leadership that Paul used in different situations as he saw fit. He makes this concluding statement “There is no ideal leader or leadership approach. Rather, leadership is an interactional response between leaders and followers in various and unique situations”.

The complex contingency style of leadership balances achieving the task with developing and maintaining healthy relationships between people. In this regard, and in his explanation of his principle-centred leadership concept, Covey writes, “It recognises that people are the highest value because people are the programmers - they produce everything else at the personal, interpersonal, managerial, and organisational levels”. In his summarising of the assumptions underlying Fiedler's contingency model, Clinton observes that leadership effectiveness is dependent on the interaction of leadership style and situational favourableness. Contingency concepts result in flexibility towards followers and the situation and bringing conflicts down to the minimum.

Influence through corporate structure

In analysing the ‘how’ of leadership our subject is not completed without touching on some practical points related to the ‘doing’ of leadership.

1. Structure

Structure is a foundational element for keeping things running healthily and maintaining relationships within the work environment. Lee advises, “In the church, as in other organisations, it is appropriate to have a structure that will account for varied abilities of its leaders”. He distinguishes between five types of structures

  • traditional, keeps thing as they are

  • classical, bureaucracy, organisation is operated from the top down

  • charismatic, little structure, anti-formalism, institutional leadership

  • human relations, a network of personal relationships

  • systems, many participants act in an interdependent way, so that the whole is greater than the sum of all of its parts.[35] Lee sees this fifth view as the most effective way to run the church.

2. Dealing with chronic problems

In his diagnosis of the chronic problems in organisations and churches Covey names seven forces that work in the background to contribute to the gloomy conditions organisations find themselves in.

2.1 No shared vision and values

My own ministry had to go through this stage and it was painful. Although I had the vision I failed to communicate it well to the good people around me. Covey rightly believes that the lack of shared vision is the seedbed of almost all other problems.

2.2 No strategic path

Without a strategic path organisations tend to be reactive to events and lose control of what they are doing. They should be taking the initiative. The needs, requests and desires of the people we serve used to lead our activities. For us things changed for the better when, as a team, we clearly decided what our mission was, and then we created our strategic path to achieve it under God. This helps making practical choices as issues arise.

2.3 Poor alignment

The symptoms for this problem are that the programmes carried out either do not reflect the group’s mission statement, or the way they are done does not reflect the values of the group. Lack of alignment between the different aspects and departments of the organisation result in confusion, conflict, and superficial control attempts to make things look better.

2.4 Wrong management style

Covey believes that one’s upbringing has a direct impact on how he acts as a leader. The style can be abusive, abrasive, or confrontational. He writes, “… Most people are mentored towards management, not towards leadership. Consequently they think efficiency; they think things. They do not think people”. A leader coming in with a negative style has to force him or herself into conforming to the mission and values of the organisation.

2.5 Poor skills

Poor skills is the easiest of the problems that face any organisation, because through good training and by acquiring focused knowledge it can be overcome in time.

2.6 Staff have low trust

Trust, or the lack of it, determines the quality of the relationships between people and the strength of communication within the organisation or church. Trust is built when leaders are open, transparent and practice an abundance mentality; that there are enough resources for all to succeed. A leadership style either intimidates people or sets them free. The latter is by far the best.

2.7 No integrity: spoken values do not correspond to daily habits

A lack of integrity destroys trust on all levels. Team members lack trust in their interpersonal relationships. Customers lose their trust the company. A congregation does not trust its pastors. Those they seek to lead see the church eldership as hypocrites. Failing to live by the values one says one believes in, opens this door for him to be justly described as hypocritical.

3. Resolving conflicts

Wherever there are people living and working together conflicts are inevitable. Conflicts can be reduced. They can be solved in constructive ways. But they cannot be eliminated completely. Lee writes, “Conflicts are accepted as normal by a well–functioning team, and members are encouraged to see them as providing opportunity for growth and learning”.

From my experience I have learned that conflict has a lot to do with personality and personal interest or orientation. A leader should bring these personality differences to the surface so that everyone is aware of the potential risks. Role confusion has been a major source for conflict in our team. It took effort, skills and planning to avoid job interference while maintaining team spirit. Lack of communication has a great potential for conflict. Therefore communication should follow a structured system rather than be left to chance. Doing things or making decisions by the main leader alone, or with other team members behind the back of more, will lead to endless conflicts. Good leadership encourages participative decision-making and sets down easy to follow procedures.

When conflict arises much wisdom needs to be exercised. One should be open and transparent. Serious and effective conflict resolution requires courage, not least for one to accept responsibility of his part of the problem. One needs to show commitment in working to change personal attitudes, behaviour and the ways of doing things that led to the conflict in the first place. Forgiveness and the readiness to reconcile, with proper affirmation of the other person(s) are keys in bringing any conflict to an end.

4. The dream and vision of the organisation

Vision is the force that keeps things going and growing. Hybels, considering vision as the leader’s most potent weapon, makes this comment, “Take a vision away from a leader and you cut out his or her heart. Vision is the fuel that leaders run on. It is the energy that creates action”.

Vision is the passion that God gives to His servants in regard to a specific need, with anticipation of how things will be as a result of the fulfilment of that vision. When God gives someone a vision he simply has a vision. Lee tends to think the same when he quotes others, “Visions cannot be concocted!” Nor is there any set formula, except that, “It must come from the market and the soul simultaneously”. I am inclined to suggest the following for how a vision may come to someone who is passionate for God.

  • have an intimate relationship with Christ

  • be under spiritual and visionary leadership

  • read the biographies of great missionaries

  • take the chance to have first hand experience of ministering in a desperate crisis-like situation

  • have the opportunity to be outside your comfort zone at some point.

Hybels stresses the practical side of vision in this way, “There is a huge difference between ‘visionary’ leadership and ‘getting it done’ leadership. Did I say huge?”. For the vision to happen there needs to be careful and prayerful planning. Planning will formulate an idea on how to get from this point to the next one. Part of the action plan process is to set goals and objectives. The action plan sets the steps to be taken to see the objectives (the breakdown of the goals) realised, and thereafter the goals are achieved step by step. In my experience these concepts are extremely foreign. Many church or mission leaders are simply elected into a position without any vision and without a specific mission to achieve. If you aim at nothing, what are you most likely to achieve?

5. Followers empowerment

Covey writes, “To affirm a person’s worth or potential, you may have to look at him with the eyes of faith and treat him in terms of his potential, not his behaviour”.

Comparing ‘followers empowerment’ with ‘control and direct supervision’ we see that empowerment frees people to be creative, active and productive, by being accountable, self-supervising and self-motivated. Covey gives six conditions for empowerment to be successful:

  • win-win agreement

  • self-supervision

  • helpful structures and systems

  • accountability

  • character

  • skill.

The win-win agreement is foundational to everything else in Covey’s concept of management as guided by principle-centred leadership. There are five aspects involved in the win-win agreement that takes place between the manager and the employee. They are:

  • specify the desired results

  • set some guide lines

  • identify available resources

  • define accountability

  • determine the consequences

Within this agreement people can supervise themselves and judge themselves, seeing where they went right and wrong. In this way there is a wider flexible control as all people in the team have a sense of responsibility. Basic to the successful implementation of the win-win agreement are character and skills. Character embraces integrity, maturity and the abundance mentality (mentioned above). There are three skills needed in the win-win agreement; communication, planning, and then organisation with problem solving.

I started my own leadership by having too much control over my staff. This created a negative environment and some intimidation within our team. What made things even worse was that I was almost one hundred per cent task oriented, thinking of things but not thinking of people. Maxwell, in his book,‘Becoming a Person of Influence’, gives four ways in which followers can be empowered; being given a position, developing of relationships, offered respect and shown a real commitment.

6. The dynamic of motivation

Covey rightly believes that the highest level of human motivation is a sense of personal significant contribution. Maxwell gives several factors for motivation in his book, ‘Developing the Leader Within You’:

  • goal participation. People support what they create

  • positive dissatisfaction. Zeal to change things for the better, or to meet a need, makes people highly motivated

  • recognition. Achievements gone unnoticed by the leadership become destructive and demotivating for followers

  • clear expectations. When the goals are clearly understood and followers have the confidence that they can do the work, they become motivated.

I have gradually learned that a leader who lacks confidence in his team, and consistently holds negative attitudes and assumptions against his followers, cannot be a good motivator. Hybels acknowledges the need for motivation and encouragement when he writes, “Motivational leaders realise that even our best teammates get tired out and lose focus. Sometimes our most dependable colleagues experience mission drift or start to wonder if what they are doing really matters to God or anybody else”.

The ‘why’ of leadership: motivations for and values of effective Christian leadership

This concluding section of the chapter is devoted to the issue of the values that serve as the foundations and motivations for effective Christian leadership. It includes a guide for a leader’s use of power.

1. Biblical based values

Values provide both the guidelines and constraints for making judgements at every point of ministry. One cannot mature or grow without building life and ministry on a fixed set of values and principles. A Christian leader should make the word of God his main source to drive his values and principles. Often by upbringing and broader culture, one subconsciously catches values that clash with the Scriptures. It is the leader’s responsibility to discriminate which family or cultural values are in agreement with the Bible and which are not. The values accepted will have direct impact on one’s leadership style.

Our information from the Bible concerning these values is derived from some words used that describe the way, or the process, by which a leader is chosen. Elliston’s extensive word study gives a clear picture of the process of selecting leaders. He mentions that the Hebrew word bahar in the Old Testament has the meaning, “choose after testing”. Leaders should be chosen on the basis of proven competency, see Exodus 18:21; Joshua 3:12; etc..

In the New Testament the Greek word prokaleo has the sense of “call to or call towards”. This points to the purpose, why a person is chosen for a task and a mission. Other words reflect commitment and the loyalty to finish the started task. Paul urges those who lead to govern[49] with diligence, Romans 12:8. Other words reflect power and authority. This may be called legitimisation, as in the case of when Timothy was authorised by Paul to lead and serve the church and community in Ephesus, 1 Timothy 1:3-5. Paul emphasises the education of the leader because no one can lead while ignorant. Timothy must be able to cause others to understand. The Greek word gumnazo suggests disciplined training for godliness, exercising itself in Christian living, 1 Timothy 4:7-8; 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

The pastoral letters use words that reflect important values and ethics. Paul commands that a person considered for leadership should be in a good harmony with himself. He must not derive his self-value from physical gain. He should be family focused, making every effort to bring up his family in the way of the Lord. It is right to insist with Paul that a leader’s life in the work place cannot be separated from his family life. He must practice what he teaches. He must be sober, generous and self-disciplined, 1 Timothy 2:8-3:13; 6:3-6; Titus 1:5-2:10.

2. Servanthood: Jesus’ style for leadership

The greatest value for Christian leadership is found in the word ‘servant’. Servanthood makes the Christian leadership concept unique. Jesus reversed everything the world knew. He announced Himself as a servant for all. He described a different path to being first and being the greatest. He said it was by being a servant. He was a servant for His mission and for those who were serving with Him. Christian leaders must be like Him not like the world. Wilkes writes on Jesus’ model of leadership, “Here we touch the most important quality of Christian leadership ... It is not a leadership of power and control, but a leadership of powerlessness and humility, in which the suffering Servant of God, Jesus Christ, is made manifest”. Paul calls upon us to follow the example of Christ, Philippians 2:5-8.

Sadly in many cases in my context the motive for desiring leadership positions is seeking after social or financial prestige. The values of Christian leadership are so badly distorted. When better opportunities come their way such ‘leaders’ leave the Christian ministry to join better paid secular jobs. We need to stick to the Bible’s teaching about selecting and appointing those who are first called by God.

3. Covey’s core leadership principles

Covey provides us with inspiring and very practical teaching on how to build leadership on the right foundation principles, in order to experience real change and become effective leaders. Tragically many Christian people avoid these principles because they are not ready to pay the price change demands.

Covey, as the Bible teaches, strongly believes what is needed is not learning external skills, but rather a transformation, or paradigm shift, from the inside out. He writes, “To value oneself and, at the same time, subordinate oneself to higher purposes and principles, is the paradoxical essence of highest humanity and the foundation of effective leadership”. He names four basic areas where the need for applying and practicing these principles is crucial for effectiveness:

  • Personal. One’s relationship to oneself. Key word: trustworthiness

  • Interpersonal relationships. Trust in myself leads to others viewing me as trustworthy

  • Managerial. Key concept: empowering followers. Leaders who have the abundance mentality are not afraid to train, equip and empower others

  • Organisational. Key concept: alignment of the different aspects of the organisation.

Covey summarises his own value system as follows, “We do much work on character and competence to solve structural and systemic problems. Remember, work first on the programmer (person) if you want to improve the programme. People produce the strategy, structure, systems, and styles of the organisation”.

4. The call and spirituality as a motivation for leadership

Those who are in a mature and intimate relationship with God can sense His voice. God chooses from those committed Christians who have faithfully proven themselves by using their gifts and serving Him beside their normal duties and jobs in life. I have seen this is a principle often overlooked and sacrificed where I minister. Persons without any degree of fruitfulness in ministry, without the slightest evidence of giftedness or competency, are elected to occupy leadership positions in our churches.

The call by God provides the spiritual authority to exercise leadership in a spirit of humility, love and service. It is a fountain of encouragement in the face of criticism and false accusations. It is fuel for the ministry when the going is really tough. It inspires new creative ideas for ministry and demands excellence in carrying out the mission. In short, there is no real passion, communication, or authenticity, without a real call from God.

The call can grow ineffective or not reach its highest destination as intended by God. One can limit one’s own scope of influence and degree of fruitfulness by living in disobedience to God, or showing lack of faith and dedication. Therefore, spiritual maturity is one of the factors for guarding against loss of direction in any leader’s life. Spirituality is linked to practical issues involved in leadership. For example, to overcome conflict in relationships, one needs the fruits of the Holy Spirit and the grace to forgive and the ability to apologise, Galatians 5:22-26; Ephesians 4:29-32; Colossians 3:12-17. These qualities intermingled with prayer have a direct impact on the administrational aspect of the church or organisation. They affect the processes of problem solving, decision making and planning.

5. The Christian leadership value

Systems and the use of power

Wilkes, commenting on Peter’s response to Jesus washing his feet, writes, “Peter’s Messiah was not to do the work of a slave! The lead disciple refused to accept anything that was less than his personal perception of the mission. His leader would never wash his feet because that was below the leader’s dignity and position. Peter held to the misconception that leaders never do small things”.

1. The Misuse of Power

Jesus derived His power and authority from His willingness to serve others. Nothing can be achieved without power; it is simply a matter of fact and life. However, everywhere and throughout the centuries, power has been misused by people. Lee acknowledges that the misuse of power is an expression of our sinfulness and the fact that we live in an imperfect and an incomplete world. Senior leaders in churches and Christian organisations mishandling ministry funds and properties, typically illustrate this misuse principle in my context.

2. Types of power

Clinton defines power as the capacity of leaders to produce intended and foreseen effects on others. Elliston distinguishes three types of power, which are all available for the leader to use. They are:

  • physical power

  • social power

  • spiritual power, and its source is God.

Lee distinguishes between power and authority. For him the use of power requires the use of force, while the use of authority requires the consent of those over whom it is exercised. Accordingly for him, authority is what is suitable for use in the church. It is a legalised use of power, used in a safe way.

Covey distinguishes three types of power. His first type of power is coercive power, which leads through the fear of being punished (for getting it wrong or being late, etc.). It results in false conformity, lip service and a superficiality of ministry. The second type of power is utility power. It is built on a benefits and rewards system. The third type of power is principle-centred power. This type of power springs out of the trust and faith followers have in their leaders. Leaders whose followers merely acquiesce to the power structure are not really leading.

3. Motives to hold power

Lee refers to David C. McClelland and David Burnham who identify three important motives that stand behind people seeking leadership positions:

  • the desire to affiliate. To be liked by people

  • the desire to achieve

  • the desire for power.

The last reason is the most common motive for people seeking leadership in my experience, while the middle reason is the least common in folk assuming leadership positions.

4. The restraints of power

The servanthood model of leadership, the principle-centred leadership, plus accountability and spiritual maturity, are guards against the misuse of power. Elliston borrows the American Quaker Richard Foster’s seven marks of spiritual power, which set good boundaries for the use of power:

  1. love – it seeks the wellbeing of others

  2. humility – is power under control

  3. self-limitation – it limits the use of power to God’s purposes

  4. joy – it produces real joy in the heart of the leader for the assurance of the end outcomes

  5. vulnerability – it influences from a position of apparent weakness

  6. submission – is the means by which God’s power flows

  7. freedom – is responding to God with unconditional commitment.

Covey, writing to the secular world, sees that the source of power lies in an honourable Christian character and grows from the exercises of sound universal principles. It is not a difficult task to find biblical support for Covey’s assumption. Holy and righteous living contributes to our spiritual power and authority and limits their use for the things of the Kingdom.


I firmly believe that Christian leadership is a process that starts and finishes with the Holy Spirit, and everything else rises and falls on good leadership. I hope it is clear from this chapter that Christian leadership is a complex matter, but that God the Holy Spirit will lead us if we will let Him do so. It involves how wisely a leadership team adopts and uses a wide range of leadership styles to meet varying situations. It also involves an organisational structure and coordination that empowers others and does not restrict, or worse, extinguish the initiatives and creativity of all staff members. Good leadership is principle centred and built on trust with accountability. Before all of that, spiritual discernment is needed to sense the leading of the Holy Spirit in raising up His appointed leaders for God’s work.

Our concepts and values of Christian leadership must be based on the word of God. Right understanding leads to correct practice and application, with the structure and management of leadership, and the servant-power that goes along with it. Correct understanding also determines the leadership’s responsibilities, and functions, and how all are carried out. Any true understanding of Christian leadership must include the recognition of, and giving attention to, emerging new leaders.

In the process of leading and managing people, power and authority are major challenges. Risk surrounds the use of power. Therefore great care needs to be exercised. A genuine Christian leader has to seek a daily intimate relationship with God to remain spiritually sharp and focused. I firmly believe leadership in my culture, and everywhere else the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has spread, has to consistently move towards the concepts of effective leadership as presented here.

Like a farmer ploughs over the ground to get rid of the traditionally strong weeds before he sows his new crop, so we must prayerfully uproot the common false belief in the ‘one indispensable man’, which is an echo of the great man theory of leadership, and firmly plant then cultivate a biblical pattern of Christian leadership in it place.


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